ST. GEORGE – Though St. George native Jay Don Blake isn’t playing in this year’s U.S. Open, the tour veteran has had some close and exciting calls in golf’s national championship.
Blake has played in the U.S. Open 12 times, including his first time in 1982 as an amateur. In that first experience, Blake went through the 36-hole qualifier to get into the US Open but missed the cut in his first try. Since then, he has made the cut five times. His best finish was a tie for sixth in the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach.
The decade in between those two Open appearances saw the Utahn really start to hone his craft. He first made the cut at the U.S. Open in 1987 at Olympic Club in California, the same place the U.S. Open is being held this week. Blake finished the week in a tie for 24th.
In 1989 Blake once again made the cut, this time in New York at Oak Hill Country Club. Blake bettered his top 25 performances from two years earlier by finishing in a tie for 18th. He opened that year’s on fire, shooting a first-round 66 and leaving him atop the leaderboard after day one. Blake stayed right with the leaders all weekend, but a final round 75 ended his championship hopes.
Blake’s best year on tour was 1991. Blake won and was exempt to play in all four majors that year, but while leading at the Bay Hill Invitational a few weeks prior to the U.S. Open, he had to be taken to the hospital because of an appendicitis. He ended up missing ’91 US Open while he recovered.
The 1992 U.S. Open was his best, finishing in a tie for sixth place. Blake went out early and played great in the windy conditions. He shot a final round 73,which was the fifth best of the day under the extreme weather conditions.
In 1993, Blake made the cut for the second straight time, though he had to settle for a tie for 64th at Bellerive Country Club in Missouri.
He made his final cut (to date) in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois. Blake went out in the morning in round one and shot a four-under-par 66 and was the leader for much of the day. Later in the day legendary golfer Tom Watson stole the show, shooting a 65 to take a one stroke lead over Blake going into round two.
The second day of the ’03 Open was a testament to the courage and heart of Jay Don Blake. He woke up that morning with a baseball size kink in his neck and could not even take a full swing. He spent the whole morning in the fitness trailer getting his neck worked on. He then tried to loosen it up a little more on the driving range, but the kink would not subside. With television cameras following his every shot and the tour doctor walking alongside, Blake gutted the round out.
“I remember the tour doctor having him lay down in the fairway and the doctor tried to stretch his neck,” said Marci Blake, Jay Don’s wife. “He did play and he did make the cut, but the second round 77 took him right out of the championship.” Blake went on to finish in a tie for 64th.
Though Blake has never ruled the U.S. Open, the pride of Washington County has found renewed vigor in the Champions Tour and is once again a factor every time he picks up his clubs. He is currently 23rd on the Champions money list, where he competes on a semiweekly basis with the likes of Freddy Couples and Fuzzy Zoeller.
Blake will be teeing it up in his first Champions Tour U.S. Open in a few weeks at Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.
For more GOLF TALK, tune into Blake’s Take weekdays from 5-6 p.m. on KZNU Sports Radio – 93.1 FM 1450 AM – or online streaming live on the brand new KZNU Sports website: www.kznusports.com
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.