Rosie Feeling at Cherry Hills

By Mercer BaggsJune 22, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenThis is it, she says.
 
After 24 years of playing professionally on the LPGA Tour, Rosie Jones says shes hanging up her competitive spikes at the conclusion of the 2005 season.
 
Rosie Jones
Rosie Jones has her sights set on her first major victory in 87 tries.
In the pantheon of sports retirements, Jones farewell tour doesnt exactly rank up there with Dr. Js or Kareem Abdul-Jabbars. Shes not receiving gifts at every tour stop. There are no rattlesnake belts or surfboards or elephant statues or commemorative Harley Davidson motorcycles.
 
But there is one thing Jones would like before she calls it quits.
 
I want to win a major still, she said. Im running out of chances.
 
There are two chances left, to be exact. Her penultimate opportunity will come this week in the U.S. Womens Open at Cherry Hills Country Club.
 
This is Jones favorite event. She loves it so much that she said she may even step out of retirement for one week next year just to play it again.
 
This will mark her 24th Open appearance. She has four top-5 finishes and was runner-up in 1984.
 
Jones is 45 years old. Shes been a member of the tour for over half her life. Shes won 13 times. Shes a likely candidate for her seventh Solheim Cup team. Shes earned nearly $8 million officially.
 
But there is that one glaring omission.
 
While mens golf has the never-ending debate as to who is the best player without a major victory, one modern name really stands out on the women's side.
 
Jones isnt the best female player never to have won a major ' that distinction would have to go to Jane Blalock or Judy Rankin, who won 27 and 26 times, respectively. But few, if any, in todays game have all of Jones qualifications and none of the major victories.
 
I havent let go of my dream of winning a major, she said. I came close at the Nabisco this year finishing second, but I think Im going to have to play a lot better to get past The Big Girl when it comes down to it.
 
The Big Girl, of course, is Annika Sorenstam, who won the Kraft Nabisco Championship by eight shots over Jones, and the McDonald's LPGA Championship, where Jones tied for 31st.
 
This week Sorenstam will be trying to make it 3-for-3 in majors this season. By comparison, Jones is 0-for-86 for her career in the four biggest events.
 
Jones would dearly love to deny Annika the third leg of the Grand Slam. But if it doesnt happen this week, or five weeks later when the final major of the season ' and perhaps the final major of Jones career ' is contested at the Weetabix Womens British Open, then so be it.
 
Im totally satisfied with the way my career has gone and the things that I have accomplished and the goals that I set, she said. I feel blessed with the career Ive had.
 
In many ways, Jones is retiring on her own terms. In some ways, shes being forced out.
 
Jones is still a top-level competitor. Shes played nine events this season and has six top-10s, including a third-place finish last week at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA. Shes also third on the U.S. Solheim Cup points list.
 
So why give it all up now?
 
I hurt, she said. Ive been having some problems with my neck its not allowing me to play and compete as hard as I want and to practice as much as and as hard as I would need to. Its not as much fun when youre playing in pain, and Ive been dealing with it and playing with it ' well, for 10 years, but really bad for the last three years.
 
Jones considered bowing out last year. But she didnt want her career to end on a sour note.
 
Jones had only three top-10 finishes a year ago ' tying her lowest total ever in that department, and was 25th on the money list ' her first finish outside the top 20 in a decade.
 
Last year I was playing hurt quite a bit, and I was struggling a lot, she said. I didnt want to go out feeling bad and looking bad. This year has been great so far.
 
When Im playing well and Im having fun, thats the way I want to go out. I want to walk away from it knowing I gave it my best shot.
 
Not that this year has been without its ailments. She still has a herniated disk in her neck and bulging disks above and below it. But shes playing through it all, and playing quite well.
 
So, would another win change her mind? Or perhaps a maiden major?
 
No, she said. A lot of people look at me and say, Why do you want to quit then? Youre on top of your game. It takes a lot of hard work to be there ' on your body and mentally and time-wise to play golf and to play as a professional. I dont want to do that anymore. Ive been doing it for 24 or 25 years and Im tired, Im hurt.
 
I love golf. I love being out here. I love the tour and Im going to miss it dearly, but there are other parts of my life that I want to explore and have time to do. This is a great time. I think my body is telling me, Stop, cut it out; leave me alone!
 
Jones, one of the few openly gay athletes in any sport, said that she hopes to continue working with her sponsor, Olivia, a travel agency that caters to a gay clientele. She also said that television commentating might be an option; though, she added, You need to be quick-witted. I dont know if I have that good TV voice.
 
If she did enter the television booth, she could certainly add plenty of insight and perspective. In a quarter of a century, shes played alongside everyone from Kathy Whitworth to Michelle Wie.
 
Jones is proud of her past ' to have played alongside so many great players and to have lasted as long as she has. And shes excited about the future ' for both herself and the tour.
 
Ive played with some great players throughout the years, she said, and I think with the younger players coming up, theyre just getting bigger and better and bolder. Its going to be great. I think its going to be some great golf.
 
Im just glad Im leaving, she added with a laugh. Its a good time to retire.
 
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