Having recovered from debilitating back problems that once made him wonder if he could ever swing a golf club again, St. George’s Jay Don Blake appreciates every opportunity to compete.
But it still hurts to lose.
For the fourth time in his Champions Tour career, Blake finished second Sunday. He briefly held the lead in the final round of the ACE Group Classic, only to have Bernhard Langer overtake him for a one-stroke victory at Naples, Fla.
Blake missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 16 and his birdie attempt on No. 18 skimmed the hole, among other makeable putts that left him disappointed.
So Blake, the former Utah State star, remains stuck on three Champions Tour victories — the same number as fellow Utahns Bruce Summerhays and Dan Forsman. At age 54, he’s still in that window that allows him to frequently contend on the 50-and-over circuit, and he’s likely to win again.
Even more the average Champions Tour player, Blake knows this phase of his career represents a bonus opportunity. He’s approaching $4 million in earnings in his fifth season on the tour, after rehabilitating his back and playing his way into full access to tournaments.
“It’s been very gratifying,” Blake recently told me. “I respect the game more and I appreciate all the stuff that goes into it.”
That’s reflected in Blake’s commitment to the Utah Junior Golf Association. In addition to donating $50,000 to the organization, he intends to be involved in UJGA events in southern Utah, greeting the golfers and offering advice.
“I want to be there,” he said.