Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

The Loop

Blake looks to make most of opportunity in Senior PGA

May 29, 2010

PARKER, Colo.--Jay Don Blake has a name out of a Dan Jenkins novel, but his career has had an "E.R." theme. But with a round to go in the Senior PGA Championship, Blake has a chance to put it on a trophy for the first time in 19 years and give himself a little job security on the Champions Tour.

"Probably won't sleep a lot--a lot of nerves," Blake said, anticipating what it will be like sitting on a share of the 54-hole lead with 1996 British Open winner Tom Lehman at six-under 210. "Be a lot of thoughts. Trying to calm my emotions. I've got my family with me [for] support, so we're going to go give it my best."

Blake, 51, won only once on the PGA Tour, the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open (he also won the Argentine Open that season), and a bad back has caused him problems for years, with his last full year on the PGA Tour coming in 2004. On the Champions Tour in 2010, he has struggled to get in many tournaments because he isn't fully exempt.

"I've just got one tour victory  and that gives some status," Blake said after shooting a third-round 70 at Colorado GC. "But it's down the list quite aways.  So like going into next week, I'm 20th or 21st alternate. So I'm not even in the tournament. I've been going to the Monday qualifying--that's about all, the only way I can get in the tournament is by doing that."

Blake qualified for the Allianz Championship and Regions Charity Classic and registered top-10s in both. While it helped his bank account, it didn't get him into any more events. "We thought there was a rule that if you finished in the topâ¿¿10 you automatically go to the next tournament, but we quickly found out that they take only one player out of the topâ¿¿10, and it's the lowest player," he said. "So it's tough to get your foot in the door. I just have to do Monday qualifying and I thought, hope to finish in the topâ¿¿10s and advance on and keep plugging on and maybe win one of these things and get my foot in there."

Blake, who showed great promise by winning the 1980 NCAA individual championship while at Utah State, ought to get some good vibes from having Lehman in his pairing Sunday, who acknowledge Blake's ups and downs. "I think absolutely that's what makes you want to cheer for a guy like Jay Don," said Lehman. "It's nice to see the good guys do well.  And Jay Don Blake is one of the good guys.  So to see him play well just feels good. To have to overcome stuff that it's in your way and kind of get back to where you want to be, that takes a lot of courage. If all the people were like Jay Don, the world would be a lot better place."

If he were to outplay Lehman--and host of other contenders, including Mark O'Meara and Fred Couples (four under) -- Blake knows how big a day it would be. "I I know it would bring a lot of tears," said Blake, who threatened to win the 1989 U.S. Open until a closing 76. "It would mean quite a bit."

*-- Bill Fields