HARLEM - For David Jones, the first week of November was a good one: It marked three years for his golf course and two years for his new life.
Mr. Jones opened Three Oaks Golf Course near Harlem on Nov. 3, 1997. A year and two days later, the course nearly killed him.
"When the accident happened, there's no doubt the good Lord was with me - and a bunch of friends," Mr. Jones said.
He still remembers the International tractor sliding along the bank of a pond near the fifth hole Nov. 5, 1998. And he remembers the eight men it took to pull the tractor off him at the bottom of the pond.
He awoke in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It took him several weeks to recover from bruises from head to toe, water in his lungs and mud in his eyes. Mainly, he was just sore.
"When I think about it now, I hurt," he said, adding that he spent more than two months out of work after the accident.
"(Now) I have a better outlook on life," he said. "You appreciate every day and you appreciate every friend and everybody you meet. It really has made a difference."
The golf course now has more than 150 members, and many of them recently joined Mr. Jones in the club championship tournament, which became an anniversary celebration of sorts.
"Most of the members were here, and we just sat back and had a good time," he said.
Six years ago, the 113 acres off Wrightsboro Road was earmarked for a retirement home for Mr. Jones and his wife, Ruby. But a business partner and a lifelong love of golf put the retirement home on hold and led to the creation of Three Oaks on the same site.
"(Building the golf course) was like a dream," said Mr. Jones, who sold his home-security business in 1991. "Of course, right after the accident, I thought it was a nightmare, but things settled back down."
And, he said, the land still may become the site of the Joneses' retirement home.
"We just don't have the land to do it right now," he said. "Let the course grow in some more and we'll see."
For now, he watches the course improve each year, with the grass on the greens and fairways growing hardier.
"We continue to work on it, and it is just improving," he said. "And there's so much satisfaction in seeing it do that."
He's also happy to provide residents south of Interstate 20 an accessible place to play golf - the county's other semiprivate course is Jones Creek in Evans.
"It's great that they have somewhere they can play golf without having to travel so far," he said.
But it takes a lot of work to keep up the course - much more than Mr. Jones ever imagined.
"It's from sunup to sundown, nearly every day," he said. "There's always grass to cut and things to be done. It keeps us all busy - the whole crew of us."
When it comes time to take care of the grass, Mr. Jones doesn't shy away from that pond near the fifth hole.
"I still cut around the pond, but I'm careful," he said. "For about a year, I stayed way away. But I've got where I can go on up and go across the dam with the tractor, so it's come a long way."
Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.
Occupation: Golf course co-owner
Family: Wife, Ruby; four children; 12 grandchildren
Quote: "You appreciate every day and you appreciate every friend and everybody you meet. It really has made a difference."
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