Puyallup: News

Spinal surgery left him paralyzed. That wasn’t going to stop him from volunteering at the 2017 US Open

Puyallup residents Greg and Jane Jones served as volunteers last week for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin. Despite Greg suffering complications from a quintuple bypass surgery in January, he willed himself to heal enough in time to attend the tournament.
Puyallup residents Greg and Jane Jones served as volunteers last week for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin. Despite Greg suffering complications from a quintuple bypass surgery in January, he willed himself to heal enough in time to attend the tournament. Courtesy

There wasn’t much that would keep Greg Jones from going to the U.S. Open last week as a volunteer.

Not even a heart surgery, which he had in January.

Not even when complications from that quintuple bypass led Jones to undergo emergency spinal surgery to get four disks replaced.

And not even when Jones, 64, came out of that surgery paralyzed.

At first, “we weren’t really sure whether or not we’d be able to make it (to the U.S. Open),” said Jones.

We weren’t really sure whether or not we'd be able to make it (to the U.S. Open).

Greg Jones

Jones and his wife, Jane, were chosen as volunteers for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin more than two years ago. Even though they were all the way in Puyallup, it worked out, since Jane’s sister lived in Wisconsin, about 30 minutes from the course.

“It was a custom fit,” Greg said. “We looked forward to it, and we had a place to stay.”

Greg and Jane both volunteered for the United States Golf Association (USGA) before, including during the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place.

Greg started playing golf at 13, and continued throughout his life. He’s been a member of the Linden Golf and Country Club in Puyallup since 2007.

When Greg and Jane married in 2012, Jane became a member, too. They’ve both worked in Puyallup since the 1980s — Greg as a banker and Jane as a mortgage sales rep — and currently live in Puyallup.

When the couple found out Greg had been paralyzed, they immediately looked ahead to treatment. He stayed in the hospital for four months for recovery and physical therapy. He had to learn how to use a wheelchair.

Through it all, knowing they had a trip planned to the U.S. Open encouraged Greg. In every room, Jane hung up a golf towel to remind them.

“It was just sort of a reminder that we were gonna go come hell or high water,” Greg said.

I just thought this might be a good thing to look at every day — that we had this (trip) to look forward to.

Jane Jones

“I just thought this might be a good thing to look at every day — that we had this (trip) to look forward to,” said Jane, 64.

When Greg returned home from the hospital, he’d made significant improvements.

“By the time I left the hospital on April 25, I was able to transfer in and out of a car,” Greg said.

When it came to traveling to Wisconsin, Greg said it was a smooth trip. The couple flew, then drove to the tournament, which ended Sunday. They worked mostly as cashiers.

“The USGA has done a fantastic job of making their venue disabled-accessible,” Greg said. “We were able to park in a special lot and had a van that was made for transporting wheelchairs … It was just the greatest thing.”

The USGA has done a fantastic job of making their venue disabled-accessible. We were able to park in a special lot and had a van that was made for transporting wheelchairs … It was just the greatest thing.

Greg Jones

There were also scooters for loan at the gate entrance and bleachers that were wheelchair-accessible.

“It was enough just to be able to get in front on the bleachers and see them on the green,” Greg said.

Greg said it’s unknown whether or not he’ll be able to regain full control of his body again, but that he continues to improve every day.

“I work on short-term goals — being able to stand up on my own, which I can do,” he said. “I miss (golfing) and I hope to be able to do it again. The big thing is to show continued improvement and be patient.”

“You’ve just got to choose how to handle it and we’ve chosen to be positive,” Jane said.

Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison

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