Featured Golf News
Blake on Cloud Nine after Latest Victory
After going 20 years between victories, Jay Don Blake finds himself on a comparative roll. The 52-year-old got his first Champions Tour win in September at the Songdo IBD Championship in South Korea, and then five weeks later notched his second at the over-50 circuit's season-ending Charles Schwab Championship.
Prior to the South Korean victory, Blake hadn't walked into a winner's circle since prevailing at the Shearson Lehman Brothers Open in February 1991. After carding a par on the final hole in Sunday's Charles Schwab Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, the native of Utah ended up two shots ahead of Mark Calcavecchia, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
Blake admitted that getting that long-awaited first victory in over two decades provided a big confidence boost. "Once you get the one, it does relieve a little bit of stress, a little pressure," he said after accepting the $440,000 winner's check.
"You can relax a little bit but you can't relax enough to be nonchalant out here and think you can win every week. Because there's a lot of talent. And coming here with the top 30 players, it's pretty special to win with this kind of a field here this week. "
In addition to the winner's purse, Blake also earned $200,000 Sunday for finishing fourth in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup points' race. Tom Lehman won the $1 million annuity by finishing first, while Calcavecchia took second and $500,000 and Peter Senior third ($300,000).
So it was a good day all around for Blake, who after his final putt disappeared was immediately surrounded by 20 family members in a joyous celebration. Once all the festivities had calmed down, he met with reporters for the following interview session.
MODERATOR: Jay Don Blake wins the 2011 Charles Schwab Cup championship with an 8-under par, 276 total. Windy, blustery but you got it done. Second win in the last five appearances. Eighth player to win the Schwab Cup championship in his first appearance. First since 2004. And you join Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples as the fourth multiple winner of the 2011season. Few general comments about the round. Did you know where you stood sort of throughout the day and just sort of take us through it.
JAY DON BLAKE: I really didn't look at the board on the front nine at all. I just was out there trying to play my game. And I actually executed the front nine kind of the way I wanted to. Hit a lot of good solid shots. Hit a lot of fairways. Hit a lot of greens. I wasn't trying to be conservative, but I just kept leaving the putts a little short, being a little delicate. Just hit some good shots, and I got a little rattled when I missed a little short putt on No. 8, made bogey there. From then on, hit some good shots and played well all day.
MODERATOR: Want to take us through the holes and tell me how long your putts were and what clubs you hit in.
JAY DON BLAKE: No. 4, the par 5, I probably had about 85 yards and hit a 60-degree sand wedge about two feet away and made my first birdie. And then like I was talking about on No. 8, I hit it just through the green, chipped it maybe about two and a half feet, and hit a horrible putt and made bogey and missed that putt. No. 9, I hit it to the right of the green in two, chipped it about six feet short, and I made that birdie on No. 9. Turned it 1-under. Then I made birdie on 12. I mean, 12's been pretty tough all week. And I must have hit a sprinkler head because I got way down there able to hit 7-iron in and hit it about 12 feet and made that for birdie.
And then hit a good tee shot on 14 and struggling on that tee shot, been in the light rough every time and finally hit the fairway and missed the green. That was probably the only bad shot I really felt like I hit all day was on No. 14. I hit it way left and had a pretty tough chip downwind and rolled maybe about 18 feet by and I missed that and made bogey on 14. And I had a couple of -- had a good chance on 16 and missed. 17 I made bogey. Had a good shot. The wind kind of held it up, just knocked it on the front edge and 3-putted from about 40 feet, missed about another 3-footer there for par.
So probably nerves trying to get me a little bit coming in. That 15's about when I started seeing the leader board that I had a 3-shot lead and looking around and just watching too much instead of playing my game, maybe. And then 18 I made a great up-and-down for par from the right bunker, hit a heavy sand shot from the bunker, came up about 80 yards short, knocked it about six feet, pretty good relief hitting the shot from down there in the rough up there that close and end up making the putt for the win, and very excited.
MODERATOR: Before we go to questions, maybe sort of just summarize your whole year. Obviously with two wins in the last five starts, probably the win in Korea gave you a lot of confidence, right?
JAY DON BLAKE: The win in Korea really helped. Very emotional. Very hard-fought. Four-man playoff. I have 20 years or something since I won again. To have that win, that meant a lot. It was pretty important to get one. And finally the second one so close after it's a big plus to do that, like you said five tournaments later, win another one. And all year long I felt like I played well. I had a lot of good tournaments. I had some chances in contention quite a few times.
I had a lot of the top 10s. Lost to John Cook down in Florida. Won playoff hole down there. Cook beat me. I've had a pretty solid year. I've played pretty good golf all year long. So I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen. And once you get the one, it does relieve a little bit of stress, a little pressure. You can relax a little bit but you can't relax enough to be nonchalant out here and think you can win every week. Because there's a lot of talent. And coming here with the top 30 players, it's pretty special to win with this kind of a field here this week. So enjoyed the whole time here in Harding Park.
Q. When you won in Korea, I wouldn't imagine you had -- was there anybody from your family or were you by yourself? Or I know you had a ton of family here. What does that mean to have so many people that you're close to watch you do this?
JAY DON BLAKE: That means a lot to have my whole family here. In Korea I had my wife. And a really good friend of mine caddied that went over there and played a lot of golf with him. So that's all I had in Korea. But the way the Champions Tour is, being 50, all these guys have played 20 plus years. So sometimes you can call them family also. We've made a lot of good friends out here and had a lot of good support over in Korea. But real family-wise just had my wife. This week I've got my wife and four kids and grandkids and friends and I've got close to 20 people here that's hung around to kind of cheer me on. And sometimes I'm a little worried about it, because you get a little nervous, you're trying to play well and perform for them, also performing for myself. And sometimes I put too much pressure and stress on myself worrying about that. And when you're trying to leave the hotel room get to the golf course for tee time, got 20 people loading in three or four cars, strollers and diapers and everything, it sometimes gets pretty stressful but we handled it. It was pretty good.
Q. I mentioned the other day about your 1980 NCAA, and Lehman was telling us what a great playoff birdie, birdie, birdie, but you hit the Tour. Do you look back and say what I could have done, was it your back that kept you? Was it the fact that you weren't quite ready for the Tour? And now you won twice in a month, month and a half. You say, God, where has it all been?
JAY DON BLAKE: I felt like -- 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 I 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 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 off-season, the five years I had, I really worked hard and tried to get my game in shape to be out here.
Q. Calcavecchia said he saw you earlier in the week with your coach on the range. He said, uhoh, that's a sign when a guy is out with his coach out there, they usually end up playing well. Were you working on anything specific this week, or did you feel pretty much ready to go?
JAY DON BLAKE: No, I felt pretty ready. We didn't really specifically work on any one thing. He was just an eye right there. And I would hit a shot on the driving range and I say, I felt like I got a little underneath that one which caused the hook or got a little ahead of it. And he'd watch a couple and say, yeah, you're doing this, doing that; the club's coming too far out a little bit. So there wasn't a whole lot of conversation. I wasn't going to overhaul my golf swing. I wasn't hitting that bad of shots to really be critical about it. So he was just there, and giving me some support and watching, have a good eye to look and pinpoint some things that were happening. And I felt like I was hitting it well enough that there wasn't much said really as in trying to rotate a lot here and change this and get your elbow down here. There wasn't really much of that at all, just kind of watching me hit it.
Q. That situation where you played too soon years ago, was that late 1991, you said?
JAY DON BLAKE: Yeah.
Q. And what caused you to do that? Was it you just felt pressure to make money on the Tour, young family? Was it just one of those things you would have done differently?
JAY DON BLAKE: 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 while a 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.
Q. That led to the back problem?
JAY DON BLAKE: Yeah, it did.
Q. When you won in Korea you came from behind. Here you had a two-shot lead going into the last day. Playing the first several holes, it looked like you were the picture of calm. You hit 12 of 14 fairways today. Had you not won in Korea, how do you think -- would it have been different handling it the way you did? Seemed like you were very relaxed today?
JAY DON BLAKE: Well, I don't show a lot of emotion. I stay pretty -- looks like -- pretty calm on the outside, but inside I've got all kinds of nerves churning up. And I felt under control. Being able to hit the good shots and execute the shots that I wanted to hit and that's what made me feel more relaxed is that knowing that I'm driving it well, iron shots are pretty good. And when you do that, you can be a little more relaxed and a little more calm and don't have to stress about, well, I pulled this driver, pushed this iron or if you're hitting some wayward shots then all of a sudden you start a little panic, things start happening and your mind gets wandering everywhere. I was hitting good, executing shots. Every shot I tried to hit a draw, I'd hit a draw. I felt comfortable with my swing. I really wasn't -- I was nervous. I was tense, stressed, the whole thing, but I still tried to stay patient and play my game and just hoped that I could make some birdies and stay out on top.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.