Ever since Rich Jones joined the Met Section of the PGA 17 years ago, he has focused on developing the game of golf across all strata of society, and particularly with juniors.
The director of instruction at the Pine Ridge Golf Club in Coram and at Golf Galaxy in Bay Shore, Jones figures that more than 3,000 juniors have come through his programs over the years and that golf has made them the better for it.
For all the work he has put in to growing the game, Jones has been honored with the 2020 PGA Player Development Award from the PGA of America.
"I always try to relate golf and life skills," said Jones of his work with junior players. "Perseverance, good sportsmanship, judgment, these are things that are life lessons that will really help the juniors on a regular basis. Perseverance, you aren’t always going to get it right on the golf course, so perseverance, to keep trying, that helps them in life when things go wrong. Always try to relate golf lessons with life lessens and perseverance is one of those big ones.
"Integrity is a pretty big one. When no one is around, golf is one of those sports that you police yourself and you make decisions when no one is policing you. There’s a lot of lessons there. Perseverance and integrity are the main things that really help the juniors."
Jones operates the Jones Golf Academy at various sites around Long Island, conducting his Little Linksters program at Pine Ridge and Gull Haven, a Town of Islip nine-hole course. Children as young as five can be introduced to the game.
Through the Town of Islip, and based on the idea of friend Alex Lopez, Jones conducts the golf instruction portion of the Par Fore program which specifically targets combating youth gang activity.
"Most of the kids come from the Central Islip area, the Brentwood area," Jones said. "The cool thing about the Par Fore program is that each participant is partnered up with a student at Stony Brook and will be mentored by one of these students. Myself and the Jones Golf Academy would provide instruction."
Jones has been heavily involved in the Met Section, and is on the board of directors.
"At the moment Rich’s feet hit the ground he was involved on the junior golf front," said Kelli Clayton, the Met Section Foundation director.
He was really heavily involved in the First Tee at Eisenhower Park and I think that’s where he got the development bug. He’s done so much. He’s a Top 50 U.S. Kids teacher, he served as a leader in our section, has served on our board of directors and recently was appointed as our Foundation Committee Chairman. He’s been a junior league captain in our section, he’s worked in our Golf in Schools program."
Jones’ teaching crosses all spectra.
"When I initially started out in the business my focus was junior golf because there was a need to provide access for junior golf," said Jones who added that his broad reach is made possible by a dedicated staff. "So I dedicated most of my teaching toward juniors. Then it elevated to adult golfers and also golfers with disabilities. And some really strong players, juniors who are now young adults who evolved into some really good players, playing collegiate golf."
Jones, 50, and a pro since 1998, says he’s a product of three islands.
"I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, went to college on Staten Island and moved to Long Island in 1993," said Jones, whose presence here has been felt ever since.