Nick Jones remembers trailblazing father after qualifying for Bermuda Championship
Nick Jones struggled to hold back the tears after qualifying for a maiden Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on Wednesday.
Jones finished tied with amateur Jarryd Dillas for second, two shots adrift of defending champion Michael Sims with 14-year-old Oliver Betschart a shot further back.
As the gravity of his accomplishment gradually sank in, Jones’s thoughts turned to his trailblazing father Eardley Jones, who played an integral role in breaking down the colour barriers for the island’s black players.
“We cannot forget dad in this,” Jones said. “He had me out there since I was four years old and if he was still around today, he wouldn’t stop hugging me. He would be all over me and is up there looking down. I am sure he was watching the whole round.
“I am trying not to cry but both my mother Jean and my dad would be very proud if they were around.”
Jones carded the day’s lowest round of 71 to make a late surge on the leaderboard and clinch his spot in the main event.
“It’s amazing. I worked hard all year and this was the end-of-year goal,” he said.
“I’ve been working very hard on my game working two jobs and it’s tough to still find time to practice. But I am really excited to make it through and qualify for this thing and I am really looking forward to playing on the PGA Tour.
“It’s my first time qualifying and I am trying to wrap my head around it. I am ready to tee it up with the big boys. I am ready to show what I got and show the world what I got.
“I am ready to fight even longer and harder. I’ve still got another three weeks to get ready and I’m going to work even harder.”
Fellow professional Sims carded a two-over 73, the day’s second-lowest round, to qualify for a fourth successive Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
“It always feels great to play in a PGA Tour event, especially at home,” he said. “I am super stoked and very grateful.”
Sims was two under through nine holes but lost momentum coming in with successive bogeys at the 10th and 11th holes and a double at the 15th after finding the hazard.
However, he regained his footing while his closest rivals fell off the pace coming down the final stretch.
“It’s always a super special feeling playing in a Tour event,” he added. “It will be even more special playing on the weekend and nice to be competitive.”
Qualifying for a second Butterfield Bermuda Championship and first in three years was highly decorated amateur Dillas, who carded a four-over 75.
“I am really happy to be through and it feels great,” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to qualify for the first event back in 2019 and I think it was something you take for granted.
“You think it’s the first year of five and you’re going to have a lot more cracks at it. You just think you’ll get to do it again and, after sitting on the side the last two years, to say this one means more than the first might not be right, but it feels really, really good.
“My wife [Alex] and I are expecting our first child in December so it’s been a very good year.”
Just missing out on qualifying were promising teenagers fourteen-year-old Oliver Betschart and Christian Collins, who finished a shot adrift of Jones and Dillas.
Betschart was tied for second at six over with three holes to play but missed his par putt from six feet at 16, which ultimately put paid to his qualifying hopes.
“I read break and it just didn’t break,” he said.
“I definitely left some out there. I Missed some birdies and a couple too many bogeys. But I was pretty happy with my round.”
Betschart carded a three-over 74 to improve on his opening round score by a shot.
“It wasn’t the perfect first round and, as always, you improve on your second,” he added.
“That was my mindset going into the second round and I accomplished that goal of shooting better.”
Betschart and fellow amateur Collins and Damian Palanyandi and professional Camiko Smith all secured a spot into the APGA Championship, which will also be held at Port Royal next Tuesday.
The foursome will also be reserve alternatives for the Bermuda Championship field.
Professionals Cory DeSilva, Dwayne Pearman and Chaka DeSilva claimed the reserve alternate spots for the APGA Championship.