Jones returns to Fischer decade after winning
JANESVILLE--It’s been 10 years since Garrett Jones set the 72-hole scoring record at the WPLA Ray Fischer State Amateur Championship.
The Madison resident will celebrate the anniversary by returning to play the event at Riverside for the first time since he won it in 2007.
Jones, who recently regained his amateur status after years of playing professionally, will tee it up today with many of the state’s top amateurs. The full field will play 18 holes today and 18 on Saturday before a cut is made, and those making the cut will play 36 on Sunday.
Jones said the Fischer was one of the first tournaments he marked on his calendar when setting up his summer schedule.
“This is one of the ones that I definitely had a star next to that I wanted to play,” Jones said. “It’s always been a fun tournament to play in, they run it well and I like the golf course. It’s one, obviously, that you have to make a lot of birdies at.”
Jones certainly proved he could pile up birdies at Riverside in 2007.
He made a charge over the final nine holes Sunday on his way to shooting 22-under 266, a score that still holds up as the record. Janesville’s Matt Behm was 22-under in 2006 when he won an event that was shortened to 54 holes. Josh Udelhofen shot 268 to win the tournament in 2015, and Brandon Cloete won in a playoff last year after firing 269.
“I remember it because I was playing with my roommate at the time in that final round,” said Jones, who was attending University of Wisconsin at the time. “I remember talking to my college assistant coach the night before the 36-hole day, and telling him I still thought I could win.
“I believe I entered the back nine four or five shots back, still a pretty healthy margin. I shot 29 in that final nine in the final round.”
The road back to the Fischer has been a winding one.
Jones went on to have further success across the state of Wisconsin in that summer of 2007 and, with some sponsors and financial backing secured, decided to turn pro.
He spent seven years grinding on the road, playing around the country and even internationally, playing mini tours and qualifiers trying to make a living playing golf.
“A lot of hours on the road and nights in motels,” Jones said. “It’s a little different lifestyle than private jets and courtesy cars and Ritz Carlton’s that some of the guys have (on the PGA Tour). But a number of guys out there did go through that time in their career where they were driving city-to-city and trying to find a place to play.
“It didn’t work out for me, but it’s still working out for a number of guys I know that play Hooters Tour and Web.com qualifiers and mini-tour events in Florida in the winter. It’s a fine line between making it and not.”
Eventually, Jones had to make the tough decision that playing golf as a career was not going to pan out.
“I felt like I plateaued, and I didn’t have status at a point that I was hoping I’d have at that point in my career,” Jones said.
He’s now working for a wealth management firm in Madison, a field that he believes helps keep his competitive spirit flowing. He’s also thankful to be part of a team that is flexible enough to allow him to play in events like the Fischer.
But in order to play in such tournaments, Jones needed to regain his amateur status. He submitted an application for amateur reinstatement to the USGA, filing documents that showed which tournaments and tours he played on and how much money he earned, among other things. A committee then determined he would have to wait two and a half years before he’d regain his amateur status. Jones said the typical wait time for most players going through the process is two years.
“They must have figured that I had a little bit more success than I thought I did,” Jones said with a chuckle. “So my last professional activity was October of 2014, and April of this year is when I got the letter from the USGA saying I’m an amateur golfer again.”
Jones has quickly found success back in amateur events in the state. He won the Badgerland Invitational in Green Bay and has been in the mix in a couple other tournaments.
“I’ve been feeling good about my game,” Jones said. “I’m competing in these tournaments, which is the most important thing for me. I would not enjoy it if I was not competing to win. So that’s where it’s been really, really fun. So far, I’ve been at or near that top, and to get in that situation again, I’ve been looking forward to it a lot.”
Because he turned pro, Jones never had a chance to defend his 2007 Fischer title.
He’d love nothing more than to be in the mix to become a two-time champ over the next few days at Riverside.
Other former champs in field
Two other former champs join Garrett Jones in the Fischer Field.
Matt Behm, a five-time Janesville city men’s champion whose official Fischer entry address was Valders, will tee off at 8:10 a.m. today.
Greendale’s Pat Boyle, who won the tournament in 2000, is the only other former champ in the field.
Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback now bound for the broadcast booth, is in the Fischer field for the first time since 2012.
He was a fixture in the event for a few years before back injuries kept him from playing in the offseason.
Romo, a Burlington native, is in the field with his father, Ramiro.