Jay Don Blake enjoying life in St. George, hanging out with the grandkids
Blake has been winning golf tournaments his whole life and is now content to spend time relaxing at his St. George home and enjoy his 10 grandchildren
SALT LAKE CITY — When Jay Don Blake looks back on his golf career he’s most proud of his consistency. He’s been successful on the golf links his whole life from the time he was a junior golfer growing up in St. George to being a three-time winner on the PGA Champions Tour in his 50s.
“It’s hard to pick one highlight. Each level has a highlight, being the state high school champion, then in college you become the NCAA champion. You progress to the PGA Tour, when I won San Diego, then when you turn 50, it’s pretty nice thing to go out on the Champions Tour where I played well and got three wins. So each level is gratifying to have a highlight.” — Jay Don Blake on his golfing career
Blake is now 61 years old and still living in St. George in the same house where he’s lived for 30 years. He and his wife, Marci, have four children between them as well as 10 grandchildren.
When contacted last week, Blake was surprised it was the 40-year anniversary of his remarkable NCAA Championship victory in 1980 at Ohio State University.
It’s still one of his fondest memories, beating the best amateurs in the country as a little-known golfer from Utah State.
“That was a lot of fun — pretty exciting.” he said.
As exciting as his upset victory was, it is just one of many of his golf accomplishments.
He became a regular on the PGA Tour and won $5.5 million over two decades, including a win at the Shearson-Lehman Brothers Open in San Diego in 1991. Then, after turning 50, he won nearly as much money in less than a decade on the Champions Tour where he picked up three victories.
“It’s hard to pick one highlight,” he said. “Each level has a highlight, being the state high school champion, then in college you become the NCAA champion. You progress to the PGA Tour, when I won San Diego, then when you turn 50, it’s pretty nice thing to go out on the Champions Tour where I played well and got three wins. So each level is gratifying to have a highlight.”
And recently Blake achieved another milestone when he was selected to be in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame. He’s already been inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, but the Utah Sports Hall of Fame came as a surprise.
“I didn’t even think about the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, but I got a phone call from someone asking to be my sponsor ‘to see if we can get you into the Hall of Fame,’” he said. A month later he received another phone call saying he’d been selected along with soccer’s Nick Rimando, football’s Haloti Ngata, water polo star Courtney Young Johnson and track and field standout Teri Okelberry Spiers.
“I was pretty excited about it, not only me, but my family and lot of friends are excited about it,” he said. “My grandkids will say, ‘This is my grandpa, he’s in the Hall of Fame.’ It’s an honor to have happen and to be able to share it with my family and my friends.”
Blake played on the Champions Tour from 2009 to 2018, but injuries have hampered him for the past four years and he hasn’t played for the past 18 months.
“I’ve got what they call a frozen shoulder, where it gets locked up,” he says. “I couldn’t raise my arm up above my head at all and then I got it on my right shoulder. There’s no surgery, it has to run its course.”
Blake said he can hit some iron shots and will sometimes hit balls with his grandkids, but can’t play like he used to.
“They want you to hit shots, but it’s kind of embarrassing to feel like in reality you’re about 50%,” he said. “It’s tough to hit a ball when you’ve got a kid about 14 years old that hits it about 300 yards that you can’t outdrive. So I stay away from hitting too many balls.”
Blake says all of his 10 grandkids play golf, four play a lot and two take it very seriously. Nine-year-old Trey Amico has been playing in tournaments around the country since he was 5 years old and his younger brother, Landon, “has the determination and competitiveness to beat his brother,” Blake says.
“I’m more the spectator kind of a coach,” Blake says. “I just like watching and letting them develop on their own and give them a few tips here and there. I like to see the kids develop a skill set, without hovering over them let them develop their own instinct. If they stray too far, I kind of rein them in and say ‘Let’s work on this a little more.’ That’s about all I do any more.”
Blake hasn’t given up on competitive golf, but is OK if he isn’t able to compete again.
“I wouldn’t mind playing three or four times a year on the Champions Tour,” he says. “But if not, I’ll just hang around and play with the grandkids and enjoy life a little bit.”