Dawn Coe-Jones, the professional golfer from Lake Cowichan whose warmth and infectious smile were almost as renowned as her prowess on the greens, has died after a months-long battle with cancer. She was 56-years-old.
Born in Campbell River but raised at the lake, Coe-Jones started golfing at the March Meadows Golf Club in Honeymoon Bay while she was still very young. Her first coach, Norman Boden, who died earlier this year, said teaching her and watching her ascent within the world of professional golf was one of the biggest thrills of his career.
Coe-Jones played college league golf as a student at Lamar University in Texas before moving on to the LPGA Tour, on which she won three times: in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
Her close friend and fellow professional golfer Gail Graham had heard about Coe-Jones before they ever met, while the former was still a junior golfer in Manitoba. Graham was also recruited to Lamar University just three years after Coe-Jones, and moved on to the LPGA Tour after school as well.
“She was so caring for other people,” said Graham. “When I came out on tour, she was one of the first to say, ‘Hey do you need any help figuring out where you’re going or what you’re doing? Or do you want to play a practice round? Let’s do it.'”
Coe-Jones was in the prime of her career when she had son Jimmy Jones, and Graham recalls daycare was still new on the LPGA Tour time. She said Kellly Feltrin, Coe-Jones’ childhood best friend, came and joined them on tour to help take care of Jimmy.
She golfed in the LPGA Tour from 1986 until 2006, when she retired. Before that, in 2003, she was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
In retirement, she continued to golf competitively, including multiple times on The Legends Tour. By now Jimmy was a teenager, and when his athletic interests shifted from hockey to golf, Coe-Jones was right there to encourage him and share her many insights.
“She was so excited he chose to focus on golf. So she spent a lot of time toting him about to different golf events,” said Graham, laughing at the time Coe-Jones decided to drive Jimmy from Lake Cowichan to the B.C. junior boys tournament in Trail, not realizing how long that would take.
“I think her legacy is raising that wonderful young man,” she said. “Obviously she as an athlete her record stands for itself … But to leave behind that wonderful young man is pretty awesome. I’m heart broken for him and her husband Jimmy. He will make her proud every day for the rest of his life.”
She also leaves behind a house in Honeymoon Bay, which she always kept even though Tampa, Florida, has been her home for 25 years. Graham said she always described the lake as her “happy place,” and that she was extremely proud to sponsor the annual junior golf tournament at March Meadows Golf Club.
Lake Cowichan mayor Ross Forrest grew up with Coe-Jones. He expressed his condolences to the Coe-Jones family and said it was an extremely sad day.
“When Dawn grew up in Lake Cowichan, and there are a lot of those people still left here, everybody knew everybody,” he said, adding that whenever she comes back for a visit, she goes out of her way to see old family friends. “She has a really strong, strong network.”
Forrest also described Coe-Jones as being a “huge, huge ambassador” for Lake Cowichan, noting that she would often mention the town by name in interviews and during live television broadcasts. In 2011, the town installed a sign at the entryway to town acknowledging her connection to the community and her induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
She was also one of the first inductees into the local sports hall of fame at the arena.
In March, Coe-Jones was diagnosed with sarcoma, a relatively rare form of cancer affecting connective or other non-epithelial tissue.
“I knew she was quite sick so we already started a process of naming a road after her,” said Forrest. “There’s a street that’s being built in the slopes that’s going to be called Dawn Coe Way or something similar.”
Coe-Jones died Nov. 12. A celebration of life ceremony has been planned in Florida for Nov. 19.