SNOQUALMIE, Wa. – It has been eight years since Jay Don Blake’s beloved mother died yet his emotions from that personal lost are still barely below the surface.
They rushed out Sunday during his post-tournament interview after winning the Boeing Classic at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge course. Blake dropped in a birdie putt on the second extra hole to beat Mark O’Meara.
As the media interviews were winding down, he was asked to explain why he once purposefully shot an 85 during a tournament. It turned out to be his simple tribute to his mother Ilene.
“Now you’ll get me emotional,” said Blake, who immediately got there.
His mother had been in declining health for about three years and on June 27, 2004 she passed away in St. George, Utah. Blake was not with her at the time, he was playing in the Booz Allen Classic in Potomac, Md. As he was driving to the TPC at Avenel golf course for his final round, his brother called him with the bad news.
“I wasn’t really sure whether to play or not. I got out there and I just really wasn’t into playing golf. I didn’t want to be there,” Blake said.
He wanted to return home. More importantly, he wanted to somehow honor her in some way that day. As he was playing, he came up with a plan.
“I told my caddy that was with me, I said, ‘I’m going to do something here in the last few holes, so don’t be shocked about it, don’t be alarmed or worried or panicked,” he said. “Walk over and tell my wife that I’m going to do things that are happening for a reason.”
At that point his wife, Marci, who also served as his caddy Sunday, sensed the stirring emotions from her husband, came over to the podium (pictured) and stood behind him for support, rubbing his shoulders.
“So I started making some silly little mistakes, some bogeys and some doubles,” Blake said. “My thought was to honor my mother, for how old she was (85).”
While most of us might be challenged in that situation to shoot down to an 85, Jay Don had to shoot up to it. He had double bogeys on the seventh, 10th, 13th and 14th holes. His first three rounds were 69, 70 and 77 but this one taking off.
On the 18th green, he was sitting at 78 and was within a foot of the cup. It took him seven putts to get in.
“The first couple times I missed the two-footers or so the shock of the spectators was like, ‘uh,oh.” Then they started laughing. Then it was like ‘what’s happening?’ I wasn’t trying to be comical or disrespectful.”
He knew exactly what he needed to make on the final hole and he delivered – again, and again and again.
“I know when I got into the scorer’s tent the rules official came in and was pretty upset at me because he thought I was being very disrespectful to professional golf,” he added. “I couldn’t talk to him. Dicky Pride was in my group and he told him, ‘you don’t understand the story, so you better not say much more.
“That meant a lot to me,” said Blake, his voice breaking up.