Kragthorpe: Ex-Aggie Jay Don Blake completes great golf season
Published: November 5, 2012 10:26AM
Updated: November 8, 2012 04:55PM
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Jay Don Blake hits from the rough on the 18th hole on his way to a bogey in the final round of the SAS PGA Champions Tour golf tournament at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

Jay Don Blake fell short in his title defense of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, but he completed the best year ever for a Utah resident on the Champions Tour.

A former Utah State golfer and lifelong St. George resident, Blake finished fifth on the season’s money list with $1,378,180. That showing was mostly a product of a late run, as Blake won the Boeing Classic in August, then posted top-10 finishes in each of his last four events, including a second and a third.

He led the final tournament after the first round, then fell back before rallying to finish third at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Blake, who turned 54 last week, has exceeded just about everyone’s expectations in his senior golf career. He claims three victories and $3.6 million in earnings, signs of a surge that stems from one simple factor: He’s healthy.

And that makes Blake’s career renaissance a great story. A back injury limited his PGA Tour opportunities in his late 40s and nearly made him quit the game. But he devoted himself to rehabilitation for nearly two years and was ready to play again when he turned 50 — although he lacked complete access to the Champions Tour, based on lifetime earnings.

But he played his way into full status and has become a consistent performer. He’s matched the three Champions Tour victories of fellow Utah residents Bruce Summerhays and Dan Forsman, while topping their best single-season showings. Forsman was seventh on the money list in 2010 and Summerhays was eighth in 1998.

Among native Utahns, Blake is by far the most successful pro golfer. He won only one tournament on the PGA Tour, a 1991 event in San Diego, but managed to retain exempt status for nearly 20 years. He’s positioned to keep playing the Champions Tour for at least a few more years, having reached the top 70 on the all-time money list.

Blake has earned a total of $9.2 million on the two tours. He was inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt