Jay Don Blake: His Ship Has Come In

There was a heartwarming victory at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Jay Don Blake started the day with a two-shot lead and in an up-and-down round on a blustery day, finished with a two-shot lead.

This is his second victory in five tournaments. His first was in Korea and came twenty years after his one and only victory on the PGA Tour, the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open in San Diego. Korea proved to him that he could win again after all these years. But winning this Tour championship was so big he’ll never be able to argue that his success was a fluke. And given all of the health trouble he had over the years, some of it self-inflicted, he might have been tempted to think that way. It’s quite a story:

It took me seven years after college to finally get my Tour card. So I didn’t go right out on the PGA Tour right out of college. And I got out there and I felt like I was ready, I felt like I could compete and play and was ready to perform as best I could. And I got the one win in San Diego, what was it, two, three years later after qualifying.

And then it was later that year I had that appendix situation that occurred where they wanted me to take six to eight weeks off. That’s when I played seven days later and competed in competition ten days later and played eight weeks straight in a row and kind of damaged the area where the appendix was, and the muscles kind of tweaked my pelvic area out of alignment.

And I fought it for years and years after that and never really went and had it taken care of. And so I just kept plugging along and my game just, probably the last eight years on the PGA Tour just slowly got worse and worse.

I wasn’t able to practice and rotate and turn and hit the shots I wanted to hit. So it made it tough. That’s why I just kind of – I didn’t really give up. I just felt like it was better for me to try to get healthy.

How can you pass up having a chance to play in the Champions Tour when you’re 50 and I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could and play out here and perform like I was able to play.

And I’ve matured a lot. I mean, I’ve learned a lot. And having those times, the five years or so off, I mean to dwell on my career and dwell on everything that’s been going on and I mean I’ve definitely matured and learned a lot and learned a lot about my golf game, my swing.

I worked a little bit with a buddy of mine back home, Gary White, he’s a good eye that helped me out. We keep in touch and he’s actually here this week. I’ve learned a lot throughout the years and the offseason, the five years I had, I really worked hard and tried to get my game in shape to be out here.

So the media guys asked him why he tried to play so soon after his surgery. Was it financial pressure because of his young family?

Stubborn, probably. Our whole family is pretty stubborn. So I just felt like that I still had the ability. I mean, your mind tells you that you can go out there and still play and perform and hit the shots. And for a while there I was still able to do it for a little bit, but as the years went on, I started having the pain worse and worse and then I started altering my golf swing to not have as much pain and my swing changed.

I lost a lot of power. And even when I tried to kind of stretch, work it out and try to strengthen it, it actually flared it up to where I had more pain. I’d be down for four or five days, couldn’t do anything.

So I just, I kept plugging along. I felt like I needed to and had to. Every year you’ve got to try to be in the top 125 to keep your card. And being stubborn, you just keep plugging along and felt like I could pull through the pain and injury and continue to go. That’s where I learned it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that.

Ah, the beauty of hindsight, the wisdom of the years.

So all this time, he exuded all the characteristics of a classic journeyman on the Tour. And by results, he was. But underneath those results was a guy trying make a living with one hand tied behind his back. Until he couldn’t anymore. And he lost five years. But he never lost sight of the dream. And he never gave up on the dream.

So after Sunday, no one can say it was a pipe dream or even that it was any kind of lesser accomplishment. He had Mark Calcavecchia, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas all tied for second and just two strokes back. And right behind them, David Frost and Fred Couples. It was intense and he held up.

So when you find yourself waiting for your ship to come in and you begin to doubt if it ever will, think of Jay Don Blake and the fact that he never gave up…on the dream…or on himself.

P.S. Almost lost in Blake’s accomplishment was the fact that Tom Lehman won the season-long Charles Schwab Cup competition and the $1.0 million annuity that went with it. He led the points totals for most of the year and got help from the four-way finish for 2nd that allowed him to finish down the leaderboard just T18. As the old saying goes, “An inch is as good as a mile.” He won by just 74 points.

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