SNOQUALMIE – When it dawned in 2005, the Boeing Classic seemed destined to evolve into a late-summer destination for the little-known or where-have-you-been Champions Tour golfer.
But over the past four years, the elite of the 50-and-over golf crowd – Tom Kite, Loren Roberts, Bernhard Langer and Mark Calcavecchia – had emerged as winners.
So where does Jay Don Blake fit on the Boeing Classic list of champions? He won once on the PGA Tour – hardly what was anticipated from the former NCAA champion from Utah State.
But after the 53-year-old defeated Mark O’Meara on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday afternoon – the fourth in eight years at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge – Blake has won three Champions Tour events since September.
Only Seattle’s Fred Couples can match that win total in that span.
“I do feel like I belong,” Blake said. “I feel like I can compete when I get things going well and playing well. Not in an arrogant way, but I don’t really feel like I’m intimidated by the players out here. There’s a lot of talent out here, but I just feel like … if I play my game, I can kind of be in the hunt and make it interesting.”
For a while, it looked like the tournament would play out to old form, and another long shot would win – just like inaugural Boeing Classic winner David Eger.
The talk coming into Sunday’s final round was about overnight leader Tom Jenkins, who at 64 years old was vying to become the oldest winner in Champions Tour history. He nearly shot his age in the second round – a 7-under-par 65.
But Jenkins started the final round with a string of three bogeys – including missing a 3-foot putt on the second hole – to fall off the leaderboard. He shot 78.
About the time Jenkins faltered, Texas native Joel Edwards – a non-member of the Champions Tour who has spent the majority of 2012 getting into tournaments as a Monday qualifier – jumped up into the lead at 9-under after making four birdies in his first eight holes.
But Jenkins three-putted from 50 feet for bogey at No. 10. And on the next hole, he pulled his approach into the left greenside bunker – and left his 28-footer for par short.
Well ahead of the lead groups, Blake birdied the homeward par 5s – the 15th and 18th holes – to reach 10-under par. And O’Meara two-putted from 35 feet on the finishing hole to join him at 10-under 206. Both shot 4-under 68s in the final round of regulation.
O’Meara – a two time major champion (Masters and British Open in 1998) had the best chance to win on the first extra hole (No. 18), but his 6-footer for birdie stayed right of the target.
“(I) let him back into the game,” O’Meara said.
Both golfers were near the green in two shots on the second playoff hole (also No. 18), but Blake’s chip from the back fringe stopped within birdie tap-in distance, and O’Meara – who was well left of the green, and in deep rough – faced a 16-footer to match the birdie.
O’Meara’s putt to extend the playoff stayed right of the hole, and Blake had his first win since the 2011 season-ending Charles Schwab Championship.
“Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, if he’s won twice, he ought to win more, more more,’ ” Blake said. “I didn’t perform as well as I would like and … got frustrated. But coming here, I guess the hard work and the patience finally paid off.”
Calcavecchia shot 70 on Sunday and finished tied for fourth at 8-under 208 – the best showing by a defending Boeing Classic champion. … Willie Wood (70), last week’s winner at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in New York, was in third alone at 9-under 207. … Talk about a meltdown. After his first-hole birdie, Fred Funk was 5-under – and in the top 10. He ended up shooting the highest round in Boeing Classic history – an 88. Funk recorded a score of 12 on the par-3 12th where he lost four golf balls (two from the tee, two from a greenside bunker), and finished the hole with a fifth. … The final round Sunday drew 28,000 spectators – and the tournament finished with a record attendance of 81,000 for the firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8442 blogs.thenewstribune.com @ManyHatsMilles