Cal Jones has many monikers, among them mayor of Kickingbird, a name given to him by the golfers at Kickingbird Golf Course where he spends most of his days playing golf and mentoring the younger golfers.
But for most of the golfers at Kickingbird, young and old alike, he is known as one of the family. Depending on the age of the golfer, Cal is like a brother, dad or grandfather.
Thursday more than 35 of his family and golfing buddies gave Jones a surprise 80th birthday party. They lined the 18th hole holding signs as the foursome Jones was playing with approached the last hole.
“I thought they were there to encourage the high school boys following us who were trying out for the golf team,” Jones said. “I couldn’t believe it when I got closer and the signs were for me.”
Jones, the third eldest of a family of 11 girls and seven boys, grew up in Clinton.
“Mom had 18 children in 13 years,” said his older brother Ron, who is 81. “Four of them have passed, but 14 are still living. As for Cal, he was one of the best athletes you have ever seen. He could do just about anything and he was good at it.”
Among his athletic endeavors, Jones started out playing pool when he was eight and golf when he was 14.
Of his family, Jones said the bigger the family, the more there is to love. “More love means more joy. Of course, there is sadness when a sibling passes on, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s life. To have lived through the 40s, 50s and half of the 60s was great.”
He has had a life of action whether it was playing sports or flying a courier plane carrying classified information from Japan to Korea during the Korean War. He earned the title of Air Force Skeet Shooting Champion.
“I crash landed once and bailed out once,” Jones said of his service endeavors.
While he was in the service Minnesota Fats showed up with a USO troupe at Tinker Field Air Force Base.
“It was 1954,” Jones recalled, “They needed someone to put up half a decent showing against the pool player Minnesota Fats. Sgt. Major Duke Shields, who was also from Clinton, knew I could play and he called me up and said, ‘Sgt. Jones, report to headquarters.’”
As it turned out, Jones won five out of six matches against the celebrity.
“After it was over Minnesota Fats turned red in the face,” Jones said. “He sure didn’t like it too much.”
Jones owned the Old Dodge City Restaurant and Long Branch Saloon, a steak house frequented by celebrities when they came through town, on Second Street and Santa Fe from 1974-86.
Jones is in the University of Central Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame and he said the most holes he had played in a day were 52. Last week he hit two under his age, a 77, which golfers consider a pretty good game.
“If it weren’t for the camaraderie and fellowship I get while playing golf I would have quit long ago,” Cal said. “I have met some wonderful people through life and many on the golf course. You know, you are lucky to have friends you can count on one hand. I am even more lucky. I don’t have enough hands to count all of the people I count as friends.”
Kickingbird Golf Professional Brian Soerensen said, “Cal is like family. That is what we try to encourage here. He has great character, always developing relationships with the younger golfers. I have enjoyed getting to know him more as the man he is as well as a golfer.”
If Jones is not on the golf links, he can always be found on the driving range or the putting green mentoring some young golfer.
“I try to instill a positive attitude in young golfers like Clay, who is a senior in high school. I tell them, ‘You can do anything you want to do.
“God gave you a talent, so use it.’”
Clay Dobbins, a senior at Christian Heritage Academy, said, “I enjoy practice putting around with Cal. I think of him as a granddad and love him like a granddad. He is always giving me positive feedback and encouragement.”
Naturally, it takes a lot of practice to be a good golfer, Jones said.
“I tell them work hard, have faith in what you are doing, be positive and you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough at it,” Jones said.