Calgary’s Blake qualifies to challenge field at U.S. Senior OpenWritten by Wes Gilbertson
Even with several days to let this accomplishment sink in, to plan his trip to the 2018 U.S. Senior Open, Calgary’s Steve Blake chokes up as he details the moment he realized he had qualified for his first major championship.
“Sorry, just getting emotional a bit … That tells you how I felt,” Blake said, no apology necessary. “It was just one of those things that I’ve been waiting for so long, you know?
“I was almost in disbelief. When the last numbers went up on the board there, my wife (Kelly) just sort of lost it. It was just … It was awesome.”
Part of the fun of any U.S. Open is storylines like Blake, a 50-year-old financial advisor who will be strolling the fairways from June 28-July 1 alongside some of the legends of the sport.
Blake tried his hand at pro golf as a twenty-something, chasing the old Canadian Tour from stop to stop, hoping to advance through Monday qualifiers to eventually cash a paycheque later in the week.
Also a former instructor, he guesstimates he’s played his way into a dozen or so events over the years but never on this sort of stage.
When Blake arrives next week at the historic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., he will be trading pars — birdies, preferably — with the starry likes of Bernhard Langer and Davis Love III and Tom Watson and (if healthy) Fred Couples.
Those guys were automatically exempt thanks to their hall-of-fame resumes.
Blake, the reigning club champion at Hamptons, was among 2,379 divot-digging dreamers who signed up for a shot at joining them.
With his wife — a high-school phys. ed teacher — carrying his clubs, he fired a 2-under 70 at a sectional qualifier last Monday near San Diego to turn that dream to reality. (His 19-year-old son Connor, recently named captain of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Grande Prairie Storm, will be on his bag at Broadmoor.)
“The outpouring has been just crazy,” said Blake, whose support system and fan club also includes 16-year-old daughter Brooklyn, another sometimes-caddie for her proud pops and already committed to play NCAA Div. I soccer at Oakland University in Michigan. “There’s one guy that I hadn’t heard from in a while, and he said: ‘Yeah, I just heard from a roofer that you qualified for the U.S. Senior Open.’
“That’s kind of neat. There’s a buzz that is running through the community a bit, and not just the golf community. It’s been great.”
There have been countless pinch-me moments for Blake over the past week, and the fun is just getting started.
As he watched coverage of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, he marvelled at the fact those same USGA flags would be flying at Broadmoor. (And crossed his fingers that the rough won’t be quite so gnarly for the older gents.)
The staff at Hamptons e-blasted their members to spread the news, so he’ll be bombarded with messages of support and congratulations during his prep sessions.
When Blake tees it up this week at the SVR Alberta Open at River Spirit, he’ll be pointed out on the range. You know, there’s the guy …
“He’s just a first-class person,” said Gord Courage, the director of golf at Hamptons. “He’s low-key, not boastful, but he’s just a great personality. And he’s not this pizzazz type of player. He has a simple little swing. He doesn’t swing at it hard. He has great tempo, and he’s one of those guys that just doesn’t make many mistakes, and then you look back and say, ‘Holy cow, he’s hit some great shots!’
“I’ve played with enough of those seniors in the qualifiers over my years to know that he can compete with them. And he has that mental (approach), almost like a Dustin Johnson, where if he hits a bad shot, it doesn’t really bother him. His emotions don’t really change. He doesn’t get too up, and he doesn’t get too down, which is perfect for golf.”
Johnson, of course, was among the centres of attention at Shinnecock.
Blake will try to play his way into the spotlight at the U.S. Senior Open.
“Just showing up and to be on the same side of the ropes and to be hitting balls beside those guys, it’s going to be special,” Blake said. “But the other side of it is that I’m still a golfer and I’m still competitive, so ultimately I want to go down there and I want to compete and I want to win. Just because of where I come from and my lack of experience, I don’t think that should curtail that any.
“I want to make the cut. And I have to realize, too, I’m not playing necessarily against those guys. I’m just going out there to play my game, put a number up on the board and I’m just hoping it’s good enough to get me through the first two days. And if I’m lucky enough, I’ll be somewhere in contention on the last day.
“As a golfer and as a competitor, that’s always the ultimate goal.”