In the early 1990s, Lance Jones was pushing age 40. He was an above-average golfer, one of the best at North Augusta Country Club.
That wasn't enough for Jones, a self-improvement disciple.
"As a personal achievement, I wanted to win the club championship at my own golf club," Jones said. "That's the mark of a good golfer."
After hundreds of hours of lessons and practice, Jones has that club championship. Jones, now 46, won the 2001 title at North Augusta Country Club, shooting 70-74-144.
"I'm a very competitive person with myself," Jones said. "That's why golf is good for me. I like to set personal goals and achieve them."
Jones is one of 24 men's club champions at area courses, which have held their club championships throughout the year.
Jones was born and lived in North Augusta until business concerns in 1981 took him to stops in Delaware, Atlanta and New York. When he returned to North Augusta 10 years later, he was a five-handicapper.
"That was best I'd ever been," Jones said. "I decided I wanted to get better, so I started taking lessons and working on my game."
He intensified that work after losing the 1994 club championship to Gregg Gadapee in a sudden-death playoff.
"I'd never been in contention before," Jones said. "It made me even more determined to get a better golf game."
So, at an age when most golfers are accepting their faults with a shrug of the shoulders, Jones tried to get rid of his. He took lessons from such teachers as Mike Chitty, Jackie Seawell, Kevin Ratcliffe and Jamie Felder.
"I keep making improvements because I'm willing to take lessons at my age," Jones said. "I still take lessons from Jamie. You just need someone to look at your golf swing. It can change over time, and you can start picking up bad habits."
A golfer can have all the correct fundamentals in the world, but if he can't execute them under pressure, he'll never be competitive.
To that end, Jones took what he was learning from his instructors and put it to the test by playing in the Regions Cup tournament series, starting in 1992.
"I played on the North Augusta High golf team in high school, but I'd never played competitively since then," Jones said. "When I started back, you learn what you do when you start getting nervous. I start duck-hooking it because my swing gets quick. I had to learn how not to do that under pressure. That takes time."
Jones has yet to win a Regions Cup tournament, but he's one of the best players on the circuit. He has the longest running active streak of making the season-ending Regions Cup Matches, which brings together the top eight point-getters during the season from South Carolina and Georgia each year. Jones has played every year since 1993.
In Regions Cup tournaments, Jones has finished as a runner-up twice, been third on four occasions and has 14 top-10 finishes.
Winning on the Regions Cup circuit was not among his top goals when Jones start reshaping his game in the early 1990s.
"There are two things I wanted to do in golf in my lifetime," Jones said. "I wanted to get a hole-in-one, and I wanted to win my club championship."
Jones has three aces, all at North Augusta Country Club. They've come in 1992 (on No. 2), 1997 (No. 17) and this year (No. 6). All that was missing was the club championship.
"It's just a silly game, but it (winning the club championship) meant a lot to me," Jones said. "I'm 46, and I'd tried for nine or 10 years. Every year that I'd come close, it would depress me because I knew I was getting older, and my chances were going to be less and less. It was a relief because I'd waited so late in my life to be competitive. It made it really sweet.
"I thought time was running out," Jones said. "When you get really close and don't win, it's hard to believe you're ever going to win. It's the Greg Norman-at-the-Masters syndrome. You start thinking about it."
In the club championship, Jones eagled the par-5 10th hole in the final round to open up a lead he never lost. Jones parred the final eight holes to secure a three-shot victory.
A repeat victory in the club championship in 2002 would be nice, but Jones knows "it would be nothing like the first time.
"It's like my first hole-in-one. That was something I'd longed for and dreamed about my whole life," Jones said. "It's something you can't buy. You just have to work hard for it, and it still may not happen for you. Some people never get a hole-in-one, and some never get that victory."
Here is a list of the 2001 club champions from area courses. All the courses, with the exception of Forest Hills Golf Club, hold men's club championships. Some do not hold club champions for women, seniors or juniors.
Aiken Golf Club: Chad Meldrum
Applewood: Chet Dye
Augusta Country Club: Henry Claussen
Augusta Golf Course: Chip Whitaker
Belle Meade: Wren Fowler
Cedar Creek: Mike McCarthy
Green Meadows: Mark Sapp
Gordon Lakes: Joe Shiver
Goshen Plantation: Fred Ogden
Houndslake: Mike Wiland
Jones Creek: Jake Headrick
Midland Valley: Rusty Flanders
Mount Vintage: Craig Godwin
North Augusta: Lance Jones
Palmetto: Dale Haas
Persimmon Hill: Brian Webb
Pine Ridge: Jason Gabriel
Pointe South: Rick Hamilton
River Golf Club: Jeff Pope
Rocky Branch: Ryan Smith
Savannah Lakes: Ronnie Kidd
Three Oaks: Mark Whitaker
West Lake: Mike Kerbelis III
Woodside Plantation: Ron Schroder
Augusta Country Club: Jan Cross
Augusta Golf Course: Diane Shuler
Belle Meade: Anita Young
Cedar Creek: Pat Sullivan
Gordon Lakes: Paulette Keener
Goshen: Sandra Moody
Houndslake: Dawn Sunvvall
Midland Valley: Liz Scheuer
North Augusta: Judy Phillips
Persimmon Hill: Mary Helen Duffie
Pine Ridge: Carol Salowitz
Pointe South: Margie Hamilton
Rocky Branch: G.G. Magoulas
Savannah Lakes: Cecelia Hellen
West Lake: Jan Cross
Woodside Plantation: Bonnie McCormick
Belle Meade: Bob Ballard
Cedar Creek: Jerry Sullivan
Gordon Lakes: Chuck Withers
Houndslake: Charles Hartline
Jones Creek: Steve Nelson
Mount Vintage: James Kile
Palmetto: Bill Townsend
Persimmon Hill: Charles Price
Pine Ridge: Wayne Marchant
Pointe South: Rick Hamilton
Rocky Branch: Randall Edmunds
Savannah Lakes: Ronnie Kidd
Three Oaks: Jimmy Veal
West Lake: Charles Durand
Woodside Plantation: Bob Boeke
North Augusta: Casey Thompson
Pine Ridge: Dan Booth Jr.
Rocky Branch: Ben Johnson
Three Oaks: Todd Greene, Scott Lord
West Lake: Matt Bielewicz
Woodside Plantation: Jason Hinkson
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.
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