It wasn’t the answer I anticipated, yet after careful consideration, it made sense and I could actually visualize the image conjured up by Dawn Coe-Jones’ reply to my query as her LPGA Tour career came to an end just over eight years ago.
“I do really want to learn how to drive a Zamboni,” she said when I asked her what was next for this GNN story, which also offers highlights of a career that landed her in the B.C. and Canadian Golf Halls of Fame.
Scraping the ice between periods is admittedly an unlikely second career for a three-time LPGA Tour winner, but those who were closest to her understood that she was never dull, with a knack for the unexpected, a well-timed zinger or a one-liner, usually dished out with a velvet glove and accepted with a smile by the family and friends she so cherished.
That close circle of those who similarly cherished Dawn for her grace, dignity, sense of humour and caring nature is missing a big piece of its nucleus, as are her fans who watched her throughout her golf career, after Dawn died Saturday morning at the age of 56, after a battle with sarcoma, a type of cancer.
A celebration of Dawn’s life will be held next Saturday in Tampa, but details have yet to be announced.
That vision of Dawn aboard a Zamboni continues to roll through my mind as I write this, for a smile is surely needed after word came of her passing and that image isn’t so strange, given her passion for the Montreal Canadiens that began burning years ago in her home town of Lake Cowichan, B.C., although she warmed up to the Lightning in her adopted home in Tampa.
A hapless Toronto Maple Leafs fan was often tempted to put her in a headlock and inflict some good-natured noogies for the occasional jab she treated herself to at the expense of a long-suffering Leaf fan.
Of course, she talked golf too, still following developing Canadians through social media and keeping an eye on those on tour, often asking me to send along encouraging messages to rising star Brooke Henderson. Even with her career over, she was still hosting an annual junior tournament at March Meadows Golf Club in Honeymoon Bay, B.C.
Yet, while giggles, golf and hockey were definite aspects of Dawn Coe-Jones, they didn’t define her.
Her transition from professional golfer into retirement wasn’t about circling a rink in a Zamboni. The competitive fire she had on the golf course was replaced by a warm glow in her full-time role as a mom and wife, a role she cherished even even when she was playing.
Tales of “Big” and “Little” were told frequently. Both became familiar faces during her tour career, but even when either or both weren’t present, she brought you up to speed on what husband and son were up to, usually with a serving of her trademark sense of humour.
“Big” Jimmy Jones worked in the golf industry with several companies, mostly notably as president of Lady Fairway shoes, which Dawn wore throughout their career. “Little” Jimmy is currently putting together some solid collegiate golf finishes of his own at South Florida. Last year, he won the state amateur championship.
Just as “Little” Jimmy, who turned 21 in October, a day after his mom’s birthday, was a familiar face at Dawn’s tournaments, so too were his parents at his hockey and golf events.
“Big” and “Little” were the core of a already tightly-knit group that unsurprisingly became even tighter as it rallied around Dawn after sarcoma was discovered earlier that year, including her longtime pal from B.C., Kelly Feltrin.
Lisa Walters of Prince Rupert and Gail Graham from Kelowna, both B.C. players who played on tour and now live in Florida, were tight with Dawn, as were pals she gained throughout her career such as Nancy Scranton, an American often dubbed the honourary Canadian because she apparently liked hanging with B.C. crowd.
They were with the Jones family to pitch in and they all joined her at Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club in October for the inaugural Dawn Coe-Jones Golf Classic benefitting the Amandalee Fund at Moffitt Cancer Center, joined by the LPGA and Legends Tour players Jan Stephenson, Michelle McGann, Rosie Jones, and Canadian Barb Scherbak, to name just a few.
Through distance, I’ve probably missed a lot of names that rallied around Dawn in Tampa, but the countless admirers she had north of the border became obvious when Alena Sharp mentioned on a televised interview following the CP Women’s Open in Calgary that players were thinking about and inspired by Dawn.
Sharp also had the intials “DCJ” on her golf ball during the tournament.
Within an hour of that televised interview, thousands had clicked on to this voice interview that I’d done with Dawn following her initial knee/leg surgery in March. As the numbers grew, I texted Dawn, letting her know it illustrated the army of supporters behind her in her home and native land.
Dawn touched people from Vancouver Island to Florida, which is about as far as it gets when it comes to North America, and all points in between and likely quite a few beyond this continent, be it through her playing career, her gentle nature with fans or her love for family and friends.
She’ll also be missed by her in-laws Sandy and General James Jones, brothers Mark and John Coe and her extended family.
There are understandably few smiles this day as her family, friends and fans of Canadian golf grieve the loss of somebody who had such impact, but as time goes on, those grins will return as we remember the reasons she meant so much to us.
When that happens, you’ll know you’re remembering Dawn Coe-Jones the way she should be remembered.