GOLF: CHESHIRE'S young star Michael Jones has made his debut in the professional ranks with the rediscovery of the energy, discipline and enthusiasm that has brought him championship honours and that he admits he lost in the final stages of his amateur career.
"I just got lazy," he says in a frank assessment of his golf towards the end of a distinguished career with his county.
"Being honest with myself, after a few years in county golf I lost a bit of desire. I needed a new challenge, to recharge the batteries."
He is now planning an assault on the tournament circuit and he is also starting his PGA qualifications, which will allow him to coach.
If he does not succeed in the first ambition then the second is part of a fall-back plan. Either way, he is determined to make a living from golf.
"It has been my ambition since I was a boy at Upton," he says.
The 21 years-old, the 2005 Cheshire Matchplay champion, began playing at Upton with friends when he was 11 and graduated to represent Cheshire at boys and senior level, winning a range of championships as a junior.
They included the Cheshire Under-15 Boys, the U18 North of England Boys, the North Wales U18 title and in a national event he won a place for coaching with David Leadbetter, a valuable experience he would like to repeat.
He also won the Weetabix GB&I U16 championship, which he thought would bring a call from the England squad selectors. It did not happen. Also he never received a call when he moved into the senior levels, playing regularly for Cheshire.
It is a disappointment. He thinks it might have been different if he had worked harder when playing for Cheshire, if he has been winning every week. As it was, success at the higher level was limited and he has no complaints that he was never part of an England squad.
The decision to quit the amateur game, rather than trying to win bigger tournaments and perhaps the ultimate honour, a place in the Walker Cup, was not difficult.
He knows he is not part of England's plans for the future and says: "The Walker Cup is too far out of range for me. Paul Waring (from Bromborough, winner of the English Amateur in 2005) is a very good player and he will do well. But he is in that mould of things. If you win big competitions you get picked up, like Paul. I do not think about England selection now."
But he played more than 40 times for Cheshire and even in his debut year he did not lose one singles match. Finally he decided that he had reached the stage when it was time to leave the amateur game.
He says: "I am very grateful to Ray Hughes (Cheshire captain) who kept giving me the chance of playing for the county. He has been superb to me. But I did become very complacent. I knew I could play at that level and it was well easy-peasy and I got a bit lazy.
"I enjoyed playing for the county but I did not have the discipline that I had when playing in junior golf and I just did not work as hard as I should.
"Perhaps I thought I had reached the limit. I might have won the Cheshire Matchplay a few more times but as an amateur I never had the ambitions and drive for a big step forward. I needed a change of direction, a new challenge."
Jones continued: "I have learned a lot in the last few months. My attitude has changed. I have turned over a new leaf.
"You do learn by your mistakes, for me, like not having enough self-discipline.
"Now I have more ambition, more desire, like I had when I started in county golf. I have got the discipline back.
"You need to be more determined as a professional, too. If you are playing for the county someone else is picking you.
"It is not like that as a professional. I am not getting picked. It is up to me."
He has been working hard on his golf and fitness and goes to the gym most days. He has the help of others in the game, including Adrian Hill of Portal and, he says, Alan Thompson, the Heswall professional, has been a great help.
"Things have taken a turn for the better in the last few months, since I decided to become a professional," he says. "I am feeling more relaxed, training harder and I am playing better."
In only his second start as a professional, he won the Liverpool Alliance pro-am at Prenton, in partnership with Upton's Iwan Jones, and finished second in the individual section, only one point behind the winner, Caldy's Matt Swede.
He seems unconcerned about the new pressures of playing for money, to earn a living and believes the antidote to pressure is to prepare well and train hard.
He has the outlook that if he does not win at one tournament there will soon be another tournament, another chance.
"It is a learning curve for me, a new challenge. I will see how it goes," he added.
He will play more Alliance events and also those on the Tamsel Tour. He will go to Euro Pro Tour qualifying school and the European Tour school later in the year. He hopes to play in the Open at Royal Liverpool on the links he knows well. He was a member there, too.
He believes that he has rediscovered the ambition, determination and discipline to succeed, the qualities that marked his golf as a junior and for most of his years with Cheshire.
"I have the ability to play well and I have to explore that talent," he says. "I want to win, be successful."
But linked to that dream, he is looking for a base for his work towards PGA examinations so that he can become a qualified coach.
He wants to fulfil his dream of playing the European Tour. But he has another career idea too. "You can make a nice living out of coaching," he says.
So he thinks of, perhaps, playing some years on the European Tour, becoming successful and then of returning to his roots, the Cheshire county scene to offer his help and experience to others.
"I did learn a lot with Cheshire," he says. "It would be nice some day to put something back."