Stay calm and grind it out.
That’s the approach golfer Lucas Jones took when he was diagnosed with bone cancer as an 11-year-old, and last Friday it was that same approach that helped him win his first major tournament title.
In a 36-hole match-play final that saw seven lead changes, Jones, an upcoming senior at St. Xavier, pulled away from Josh Frederick late to win the 68th annual Junior Falls Cities tournament at Iroquois Golf Course.
“Over the past few years (I’ve been) really working at my game and seeing it all pay off is what I like to see,” said Jones, who claimed a 3 and 1 victory.
It was an unlikely feat considering Jones once faced the very real possibility that he’d never walk again.
While on vacation in Florida six years ago, Jones began feeling a pain in his right leg. After returning to Louisville and undergoing a CT scan and biopsy, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.
Radiation treatment and surgery to remove a tumor near his hip were successful, but left him with a right leg two inches shorter than his left. It was also the end of contact sports for Jones, whose primary pre-cancer pursuits were basketball and soccer.
It was not, however, the end of his athletic career.
In seventh grade, longtime friend Cooper Musselman introduced Jones to golf and it has been his passion ever since.
“A lot of people think it’s amazing, but I just adapted to it.” said Jones, who wears an elevated right shoe and walks with a slight limp. “You kind of get used to it.”
After firing a 1-over 72 in qualifying, Jones took down Breck Stodghill (5 and 4), Jack Oakley (3 and 2), Mack Van Lenten (1-up) and Dustin Fowler (1-up) to reach the final.
Frederick, an upcoming senior at Ballard, carded a 1-under 70 in qualifying before topping Jacob Davis (7 and 6), Brett Geiger (5 and 4), Eric Geiger (7 and 6) and qualifying medalist Michael Sass (2 and 1).
In the final, neither player mounted more than a one-hole lead through the first 18. Jones won the 30th hole to level the match, and birdied the next two to go 2-up with four to play.
Frederick would not go away, though, and came up with a huge birdie on the 33rd hole – a 509-yard par-5. After a wayward drive landed in the right rough under tree branches, Frederick blasted his second shot pin high to the left of the green and got up and down to win the hole.
Jones answered with a par on the 34th hole, while Frederick bogeyed.
“It seemed like every time I got momentum I would give it right back and vice versa,” said Frederick, who was a quarterfinalist the past two years.
On the 35th hole, Jones reached the green in two with a deadeye five-iron from 165 yards. Frederick chipped on with his third shot. Then, with little chance of a Jones three-putt, Frederick conceded the hole and the match.
After several hugs from family and friends, Jones was quick to downplay his achievement.
“There’s more special people out there that do greater things,” he said. “I just do what I can do and try to persevere.”
Defending champion Emily Tofaute won six of the first seven holes and rolled to a 6-and-5 victory over Michael Ann Humphreys in the 18-hole girls’ final at Iroquois.
Tofaute, a freshman-to-be at Florida Southern and a member of Sacred Heart’s 2011 state title team, said she has struggled to score well this summer but found a groove last week.
“I didn’t play bad or good, I played steady,” she said. “It was nothing really special, I just made a bunch of pars and luckily I won the holes with pars.”
Tofaute received a first-round bye and then nearly saw her hopes for a repeat flounder in a quarterfinal match against Danielle Judd.
“I was 2-down with three to go and finally I had to kick it in gear and won the last three holes to win the match,” Tofaute said. “I was worried, believe me.”
She then dispatched Grace Berger 6 and 4 in semis to reach the final.
Humphreys, upcoming senior at Presentation, advanced to the final after taking down Grace Gupton (2 and 1) and Gabrielle Miller (7 and 6).
Tofaute was 6-up after firing a 1-over 37 on the front, then halved holes 10 and 11 with Humphreys.
Humphreys won the par-four 12th with a par, but her approach shot on 13 landed among trees to the left of the green. Her punch-out flew the green and, facing a double-bogey seven, Humphreys conceded the hole and the match to Tofaute, who had just a tap-in left for par.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.