Amateur Golf Enthusiast Jonson Dies

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SEATTLE -- Ernest A. Jonson, an amateur golf enthusiast who rescued the five-state Pacific Northwest Golf Association from looming insolvency, is dead at 86.
 
Jonson, grew up in Seattle, worked as an FBI agent during World War II, won a number of amateur golf competitions as a young man and spent most of his working life as an accountant. He died on New Year's Day of complications from a fall on Thanksgiving.
 
A native of Quincy, Jonson began working as a caddy for a dime per round after his mother was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.
 
In 1937 he beat his older brother Carl in the match-play final to win the King County Public Links champion. A year later, he won the Seattle Amateur. Over his life he shot nine holes in one.
 
In 1948 Jonson helped establish the Alex Rose Caddie Scholarship Fund, now the Evans Scholarship Program, which has helped provide expenses for more than 700 needy students at the University of Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State.
 
Jonson led in the development of the Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent, persevering after his business partner, Jack Lynch, died halfway through the process.
 
When the regional golf association was in danger of folding in the early 1960s, Jonson moved the operation into his accounting firm, handling the group's business with his own staff at no cost, and served two unpaid terms each as executive director and president.
 
To help bring the group back to financial health, he instituted electronic handicapping at courses, a system later adopted by many other regional golf associations.
 
Today the association has more than 190,000 members in more than 500 clubs in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.
 
``He was a real unique guy, a real quiet man, incredibly intelligent, a behind-the-scenes type person,'' association executive director John Bodenhamer said. ``Without Ernie doing what he did, the PNGA might not exist today.''
 
Survivors include his brother; sister Bernice of Seattle; sons Ernie Jr. of Bellevue, Jon of Seattle, Edward of Bainbridge Island and George of Lake Forest Park, and eight grandchildren.
 
A memorial service is scheduled Tuesday at Bellevue Presbyterian Church.
 

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