This winter, Dan Forsman and Jay Don Blake are carrying the banner in a big way for Utah.
One could say Forsman, who lives in Provo, and Jay Don Blake of St. George are the hottest thing on the Champions Tour. Hopefully they'll keep it rolling this week at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla.
How hot are they?
At the Jan. 22 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at the Hualalai Golf Course in Kona, Hawaii, Forsman won and Blake finished second. They cashed in a combined $492,500.
In the previous event, the Charles Schwab Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco that awarded the Schwab Cup to Tom Lehman, Blake fired an 8-under-par and won the tournament, a prize worth $440,000 for a 2011 season earnings of $1.5 million, fourth in the Schwab Cup point standings.
The thing about this pair is they're great guys, in the mold of Mike Reid and Bruce Summerhays, who have proven time and again to be personalities you want to win every time they tee it up.
Forsman, who has battled a sore hip, once took a season off to coach his kid's little league team. At Kona, Jay Don Blake rented a house for 20 family members and their traveling party, including his ex-wife and her husband. So it didn't distract from his work, Blake made sure the house was 30 miles from the course.
I've never had the chance to get acquainted with Jay Don Blake until this past week in St. George when I joined him for 18 at Coral Canyon and then ran into him at what seemed like every eight hours for the next few days.
It is Blake, you may remember, who grew up playing golf at Dixie Red Hills in St. George. He's always made those red rocks his home. A star at Utah State, he won NCAA medalist honors. Locally, Blake set the course record at Riverside Country Club as a collegian, the home course of all BYU's All-Americans including Johnny Miller and Bobby Clampett.
A drag-racing aficionado, Blake attended the National Hot Rod Association driving school in December 1995. A regular competitor, he won a hot-rod sprint in the fall of 1996. Professional drag racer Bob Vandergriff Jr. has caddied for him.
In the round we played last Friday, Blake was tinkering with two TaylorMade drivers and regularly took several shots off the tee. It was amazing to see not only the distance this 53-year-old has, but his attention to detail of ball flight, shape, spin, roll and distance. These guys are good.
Blake is as low key as you can get. He is quiet and introspective with a quick wit. Someone compared him to Fuzzy Zoeller.
And game? Blake holed out twice from around the green and lipped out two other chips. Just for show, on one reload, he took nearly a full swing 20 yards from the hole below a slightly elevated green, and softly landed a high lob within a foot of the hole. You could've put it to music.
In our group, I rode with Fairways Magazine publisher Randy Dodson and Blake was with his longtime friend and swing coach Gary White, a teaching professional at Sand Hollow Golf Club.
I started out being intimidated, playing with Blake, whom I didn't know at all. I butchered the opening pair of par 5s but rebounded and birdied No. 6 and No. 16.
Dodson and I played from the whites while Blake and White launched from the tips and they jokingly told Dodson and I that after our good holes, they were only down two. Right.
I found Blake to be gracious, patient and kind. He was so low key it took the edge off any anxiety I felt to play with an athlete of his caliber.
I can see why Aggie faithful and St. George natives love the guy.
The next day, while I was watching BYU's Zac Blair win the Sand Hollow Amateur, White and Blake showed up in the clubhouse to check out the scoreboard and watch a few shots. Within minutes of Blake's arrival, two guys approached him, asking for advice on their swings and he took 20 minutes demonstrating swing plane and impact. As I hooked up my computer, I watched the interaction and was impressed.1 comment on this story
That night, I wandered over to The Outlets at Zion strip mall for something to eat and found Blake and his family eating at the Mongolian BBQ. I didn't want to disturb him and passed by for my table. To my surprise, when Blake finished and was headed out the door, he took the time to come over, shake my hand and wish me well. Just 24 hours earlier, I was a stranger.
How can you not pull for a guy as nice as this?
Last year at the Allianz Championship, Blake fired a 64 in one of his rounds, his best as a professional, and finished in a tie for sixth.
I wish three of those on him this week in Roca Baton.
In Forsman and Blake, indeed we have Utah treasures.
They tee off within a few minutes of one another on Friday.