Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
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)
Kragthorpe: U.S. Open’s oldest golfer glad to be back
Golf » Jay Don Blake wants to embrace moment, renewed joy of game.
First Published Jun 12 2013 08:44 am • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:33 pm

Jay Don Blake would rather not be known as the oldest contestant in this week’s U.S. Open.

To him, that distinction just means he’s old.

Photos
At a glance

Utahns’ tee times

St. George’s Jay Don Blake and Sandy’s Mike Weir will tee off in consecutive groups Thursday:

6:39 a.m. MT » Blake, Brandt Jobe, Michael Campbell

6:50 a.m. MT » Weir, David Hearn, Jaco Van Zyl

Jay Don Blake U.S. Open history

Year Course Fin.

1980 Baltusrol GC MC

1987 Olympic Club T24

1989 Oak Hill CC T18

1990 Medinah CC MC

1992 Pebble Beach GL T6

1993 Baltusrol GC T62

1994 Oakmont CC MC

1997 Congressional CC MC

2001 Southern Hills CC MC

2002 Bethpage Black MC

2003 Olympia Fields CC T64

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

To everyone else, it is a remarkable achievement for a 54-year-old Champions Tour player to have qualified for another Open. His first appearance in the event came in 1980, in the middle of his Utah State golf career, and his PGA Tour career was winding down in 2003 when he played in his most recent Open.

"I didn’t think it was going to create that much of a stir," Blake said from Merion Golf Club, near Philadelphia, "but the next thing you know, that’s all anyone wants to talk about."

Well, it is a good story, how Utah’s greatest native professional golfer has revived his career and now is getting another shot on a stage he figured to have left behind long ago.

And he’s treating the tournament as a bonus opportunity, while wanting to compete favorably.

"I’m not going to go out there and be lackadaisical," he said. "I want to test myself. … Obviously, this is a different level than I’ve played in quite a while. I’m trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself."

Playing any U.S. Open course is demanding, but the truth is, the toughest part of the St. George resident’s golfing life is behind him. In his late 40s, he went through difficult times physically and emotionally when his back injury was so debilitating that he barely could tie his shoes, much less swing a golf club.

Months of therapy enabled him to resume playing just in time for the Champions Tour when he turned 50, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity with three victories, five runner-up finishes and more than $4 million in earnings.

Blake managed to remain exempt on the PGA Tour with top-125 finishes on the money list for 15 consecutive seasons. Yet there was a sense that his potential was unfulfilled, with only one win. In contrast, Blake is now a dominant player on the Champions Tour.


story continues below
story continues below

"He’s just playing some great golf," said tour veteran Mike Reid. "I’m really happy for him, and I’m not that surprised, honestly."

Gary White, Blake’s swing coach, has witnessed a rewarding progression. "The most important thing is he’s got his health under reasonable control," White said, "and he’s getting better and better."

The physical struggles have made Blake even more thankful for his opportunities than the average over-50 golfer. "I respect the game more and I appreciate all the stuff that goes along with it," he said.

Blake’s first U.S. Open appearance came in 1980, only two weeks after he won the NCAA individual title as a USU junior. He shot 77-74 to miss the cut at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey, launching a series of ups and downs in the tournament.

His best showing was a tie for sixth in 1992 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, where he finished early on Sunday and steadily climbed up the leaderboard as the wind ruled the day. In 2003, he was among the first-round leaders with a 66 at Olympia Fields CC near Chicago, but a neck injury made it difficult for him just to finish the tournament.

That figured to be Blake’s last shot at an Open. But with an exemption through the local stage of qualifying via his top-10 finish on the Champions Tour money list, he played in a 36-hole sectional event in St. Louis and was the medalist, earning one of two spots among 42 contestants.

Still holding limited status on the PGA Tour as a past champion, Blake had thought about teeing it up sometime in one of the younger set’s less glamorous events. Instead, he’s on the big stage this week, trying to remain cool — or, in his words, "not get too rambunctious about it."

That should be just a matter of acting his age.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.