British Columbia Loses A Golf Legend As Dawn Coe-Jones Passes At Age 56

Dawn Coe-Jones Is Shown Here At The 2008 Canadian Women's Open At The Ottawa Hunt Club - Image Courtesy Ian Hutchinson

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Dawn Coe-Jones, a B.C. Junior Girls and Women’s Amateur champion who went on to win three times on the LPGA Tour, died early Saturday after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 56.

Coe-Jones, who grew up in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, died in a hospice near her Tampa, Fla., home. “She is the best friend I will ever have,” said Lisa Walters, her former LPGA Tour colleague and fellow British Columbia native.

“We never, ever had a fight. We have known each other since we were 16 years old and we never argued. We were just compatible in so many ways, even though we were so different in so many ways. She was way nicer than I am, but for whatever reason we were really good friends.”

Coe-Jones had been diagnosed with bone cancer after entering hospital for knee replacement surgery in March. “Dawn was a pioneer for women’s golf in B.C.,” said Kris Jonasson, the executive director of British Columbia Golf. “Her legacy will continue through the success of golfers she inspired over the years. Golf has lost a true friend.”

Walters, a Prince Rupert native, said Coe-Jones was supported by many of her LPGA Tour friends in the weeks leading up to her passing. “There are too many to mention,” said Walters, who noted that a Tampa-area tournament to raise funds for sarcoma research had been renamed in her honour. “Everybody loved her. Everybody.”

Although she resided in Tampa for most of her professional golfing life, Coe-Jones never forgot her British Columbia roots. She returned home every summer and her family purchased a cottage on Lake Cowichan, not far from where Coe-Jones grew up playing March Meadows, the nine-hole course in Honeymoon Bay where she learned to play the game. For many years she sponsored an annual junior tournament at the course. 

Coe-Jones became a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2003. She held her induction ceremony at Point Grey Golf & Country Club in Vancouver, which was playing host to the Canadian Women’s Open. Walters, also now a Tampa resident, was a surprise guest at that ceremony. Coe-Jones was welcomed into the British Columbia Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

She is survived by her husband and son, both named Jimmy. Her son, who attends the University of South Florida, won last summer’s Florida State Amateur Golf Championship. Jimmy Jr. played in a number of B.C. amateur golf tourneys during the family’s visits north during the summer. His mom caddied for him at the 2012 B.C. Amateur at Swaneset Bay in Pitt Meadows.

Coe-Jones won three times and collected $3 million in earnings during a LPGA Tour career that lasted a quarter-century. Her first win, the 1992 Kemper Open in Hawaii, was a particularly emotional one. It came a week after her close friend Walters had won her first title, the Hawaiian Ladies Open. 

“It was funny the way that happened,” Walters said. “We’d talk about it occasionally. I’d like to remind her that I won first.” Coe-Jones’ other LPGA Tour wins came at the 1994 HealthSouth Palm Beach Classic and the 1995 Chrysler-Plymouth Tournament of Champions.

Her amateur accomplishments include two B.C. Junior Girls titles (1978 and 1979), two B.C. Women’s Amateur titles (1982 and 1983) and the 1983 Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship. Coe-Jones played her collegiate golf at Lamar University in Texas. She graduated in 1983 with a degree in elementary education.

Former LPGA Tour winner Jennifer Wyatt of Richmond, a fellow Lamar graduate, said Coe-Jones was an inspiration as she began her golf career. “It’s a cliche, but I tried to follow in her footsteps,” said Wyatt, who now teaches golf in Richmond. “I looked up to her in every way and was just like a sponge trying to soak up anything she had to offer.

“Dawn had a very dry sense of humour. People who didn’t know her would maybe describe her as gruff. But then there would be a joke and laughter. I remember her voice and I can remember her coming back to Lamar and giving us advice and I remember her saying, ‘you have to be able to get it up and down from 100 yards, that is what they do out there.’ She had a heart of gold.”

Penticton’s A.J. Eathorne said she leaned heavily on Coe-Jones and learned so much from her during her early years on the LPGA Tour. “She was like my big sister, my mom to me,” said Eathorne, who is now a teaching pro at Predator Ridge in Vernon.

“She was always trying to help other people. She led by example. She showed me hard work and determination and grit and helped teach me to never give up. I was lucky enough to room with her for a lot of years on Tour. There was always a lot of laughing when you were around Dawn. She always had that great smile and that love of the game. You couldn’t help but to want to be just like her.”

Eathorne, who is expecting her first child early next month, saw Coe-Jones in September on her final visit to British Columbia. “I went over to the Island and saw her for a couple of hours. I got to give her one last hug and got to talk to her for a bit. She said ‘I will be watching from above as you become a Mom.’”