He doesn’t look back. Jay Don Blake doesn’t wonder how he could have changed the past — ask himself if he would have been a star if he hadn’t been so stubborn, ignored the doctors’ advice, paid more attention to what was in his head, not his heart.
Blake on Sunday won the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup, at least the single-event section, in the chill and wind at TPC Harding Park on San Francisco’s mysterious southwestern edge.
After going 20 years without finishing first in a golf tournament, from 1991 until September 2011, Blake went only six weeks before finishing first once again.
In the tournament within the tournament, the year-long points race, Tom Lehman, — who as he reminded had worn the yellow jersey throughout the year — managed to stagger to the finish line and earn the $1 million annuity.
Blake, 53, got $440,000 for his victory, but since he had earned more than $6 million through his career, which, because of injury and doubt, never met expectations, the money wasn’t the important issue. The win was.
He battled his way to an even-par 71, holding on as a four-shot lead slipped to two shots, and came in with an 8-under-total of 276. Mark Calcavecchia, Loren Roberts, Jay Haas and San Mateo-born Michael Allen, runner-up last year, tied for second at 278.
Calcavecchia, with a 69, put pressure on Lehman in the annual points competition.
Had he come in no worse than a tie for second, Calc would have overtaken Lehman.
But when Roberts, an old Lehman pal — Loren’s wife introduced Tom to his wife — made par at 18, it meant Lehman couldn’t tumble out of the lead.
“He’s always been a friend,” Lehman joked about Roberts. “Now he’s even a better friend.”
Lehman, 52, had his glory days on the regular tour, winning a British Open, coming second in a Masters and U.S. Open. Blake, however, had his troubles.
He was spectacular as an amateur, winning the 1980 NCAA individual title while at Utah State, then being chosen collegiate player of the year. “He could putt, really roll the rock,” Lehman said of Blake.
“That NCAA, at Ohio State, he birdied the 18th hole four times in one day, to finish up the third round, to get into the playoff, to keep the playoff going and then to beat Hal Sutton.”
But after turning pro, and in 1991 winning at San Diego, what then was the Shearson-Lehman Brothers Open, Blake had “an appendix situation.” The medics told him to take off eight weeks. He didn’t even step away eight days.
“Stubborn,” Blake said. “I kind of damaged the area where the appendix was, and the muscles kind of tweaked my pelvic area out of alignment. I fought it for years, and my game the last eight years on Tour got worse.”
So he left and rehabilitated. Finally. the Champions Tour, formerly the Senior Tour, has been called the game’s great Mulligan — or second chance. Blake turned 50 in 2008 and started playing events the following year.
A win in a playoff over John Cook in Korea in September helped give him the emotional stability he used so well Sunday at Harding Park in the Schwab Cup.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.