PERRY -- Michelle Jones is one of the best disc golf players in the country, yet she may not even be the best disc golfer in her own family.
This month, Jones, 41, of Macon, was crowned amateur world champion in the masters division at the Professional Disc Golf Associations Amateur Worlds in Emporia, Kan., where she bested a field of 13 other women. The women qualified by getting the most points in official tournaments this year.
But Jones, who has been playing the sport for the past dozen years, said her husband and coach, Clay, is better at disc golf than she is.
Hes way better than me, said Jones, who also won a national title in 2012 in Huntsville, Ala. Hes a professional. Im just starting to play pro.
Disc golf involves players using flying discs of various sizes and attempting to get them in a basket. Bigger discs that travel farther but are less accurate are known as drivers, while smaller discs that travel short distances but are more accurate are called putters.
Clay Jones noted that his wife actually quit the sport a couple of years ago, because she was frustrated by her short game. But she got back into the sport, working specifically on her putting.
That ended up proving the key to his wifes victory, he said.
She was the smallest girl there, Clay Jones said. All of the other girls were outdriving her by 60 feet, but she made all her putts and crushed their wills to live. Her short game is huge for her.
Michelle Jones said much of her training for the recent tournament was almost entirely focused on putting, and even when shes on the course with other local players, shes not really competing as much as she is practicing. She practices every day and plays more than 20 hours a week.
My focus has changed, said Michelle Jones, who works as a sales representative for 3M.
Even the record rain the midstate has experienced this spring and summer hasnt kept the Joneses from the sport: They added a small putting green inside their house.
In addition to playing competitively, the Joneses have been helping to promote disc golf throughout the midstate. The two of them created the Jones Zen 4 Chains disc golf club, which usually meets at Rozar Park in Perry or at Claystone Park at Lake Tobesofkee. The club now has 50 members and continues to grow, she said.
While organizing the weekly competition at Rozar Park last week, Michelle Jones noted that the sport barely had a presence in the midstate a few years ago, but courses now are popping up all over.
Its been tremendous, she said. Five years ago, (the sport) didnt really exist here. Now, there are five courses over the area, and we have new people showing up all the time. A lot of local churches are putting them in, and were meeting with the Warner Robins Chamber of Commerce to see if we can put a course down there.
The Joneses also have been trying to increase female participation in the sport. Michelle Jones said one of the reasons she has been able to make a bigger mark than her husband is because of the relatively low number of women competing in tournaments. Meanwhile, Clay Jones has had to face thousands of players in his competitions.
One of the members of Jones Zen 4 Chains is 20-year-old Amanda Lockaby, of Macon, who has taken up disc golf over the past few months. She met Michelle Jones through a friend of a friend and currently lives with the Joneses.
Lockaby said training with a world champion has allowed her to progress quickly.
I wake up in my training center every day, Lockaby said. (Michelle Jones) helped me with all of it. She demonstrates things and helps me with my form. She tells me what to do. Its worked out pretty well. (Because Michelle is a world champion,) it gives me bragging rights. Shes my mentor.
Michelle Jones said she grew up playing a variety of sports, all of which helped her master disc golf. At one point, she was a nationally ranked racquetball player, and she played tennis, soccer and softball growing up.
Its all about balance, she said. Theyre all very similar. Its all interwoven -- the balance, timing, mental game.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.