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Golf prodigy?
West Knox preschooler Jeremy Jones already turning heads with golf talent


Four-year-old Jeremy Jones of West Knox County just happened to be playing with plastic golf balls back in the day, before his first birthday. That's how a potential golf prodigy would be revealed.

To celebrate Jeremy's first birthday, "He had [plastic golf] balls, and I said, 'how about a golf [club] set,' and he said, 'O-K,' said Betty White, Jeremy's grandmother from Farragut, about the start of this preschoolers golf career that has golf pro heads turning because of his ability.


"So when I got back to the car, he couldn't wait to get those clubs open. I paid [for] a dollar, two-dollar set of [plastic] golf clubs, and from then on it's been golf, golf, golf.

"Then, we went from a plastic set, [eventually] to the Nike," White added.

Hitting a series of straight drives off the tee Sunday, June 11, at the Fox Den Country Club driving range, young Jeremy was among a few hundred children ages 3 through teenager trying their hand with driving during the Food City Golf School for Kids.

With each child receiving specialized instruction, the event kicked off eight days of Knoxville Open festivities ending with the Nationwide Tour Knoxville Open beginning today (Thursday, June 15} through Sunday with a 156-player field ($475,000 purse, $85,500 to the winner).

Those Nationwide Tour professionals are not the only ones looking forward to a big local tournament.

"Jeremy plays in his first tournament [June 23], in Beverly Park," said Jeremy's father, Andy Jones, about the upcoming Tennessee Junior Golf Association event. "This is the first year they're allowing four-year-olds in."

EARLY INTEREST

With plastic clubs in one hand, Jeremy soon had the TV remote in the other hand with the Golf Channel his destination.

"He was about one, one-and-a-half years old, not even putting sentences together, and he was, 'mimi [grandma], remote, golf-ball,' and watch the Golf Channel," White said. "Then one day he told me, 'I think I'll go to the Masters and get a green jacket.'"

As part of a family outing Sunday at Fox Den, Jeremy was joined by his father and mother, Karen Jones, and three of his four siblings Chris, 16, Johnny, 15, and Tim, 10 who came to support the family's youngest member during his 10-minute driving practice session with an instructor.

All participating children lined up with family members to wait a turn for instruction and a handful of practice drives at any of about about seven individual driving stations.

Des Mahoney, a profession golf instructor from Oak Ridge who works with children and adults alike, briefly tutored Jeremy.

"I think he's certainly got some real ability there, there's no doubt about that," said Mahoney, who was named PGA Tennessee Teacher of the Year for 2005, "I believe, when they get a little bit older, say age nine or ten or so, just maybe focus him on perhaps two sports. He's probably going to get a lot of coaches after him, whether it be baseball, basketball."

As for practice, "Every day he's practicing golf, he's putting and chipping at the house, putting, chipping in the yard," Jeremy's father said. "At least once a week we try and go play, and to a driving range several times a week. He absolutely loves playing golf, that's what he wants to do. He plays baseball, football, all that, with his brothers, but likes golf most of all."

Andy Jones said the strength of Jeremy's game "is his putting, his short game altogether." In addition, "he doesn't have distance on his driving, but he can hit it straight down the fairway."

Jeremy's father added that the boy's early success is a combination of "natural ability and starting early."

Ironically, young Jeremy did not pick up golf as a handed-down family tradition. "Every once in a while I play golf, but not as an avid golfer, no," his father said. "She [Karen] was a figure skater, and I played football in high school in Michigan."

Grandma White was quick to add, "I'm not an avid golfer."

Asked who his favorite golfer is, Jeremy answered, "Bobby Jones." Asked "who's the best golfers you know of?" Jeremy answered, "Bobby Jones and my daddy."

With his parents bragging about his knowledge of golf, Jeremy proved he had accurate name recognition. Asked to name some of the top PGA golfers, Jeremy rattled off, "Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els ...."

By, say, 2030, those old pros might be admiring the next Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els.

A West Knox Countian named Jones?

 

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