Designer seeks to play on his course in US Amateur


UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Getting time off from his boss to get married was the easy part for Jay Blasi.

Getting time off to try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur was a bit more difficult – even if it could bring some unique attention to Blasi’s company.

“He’s got days off because he’s getting married,” said Blasi’s boss, renown golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. “But golf, he’ll have to work that out with his new wife.”

Blasi will head to Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz, Calif., on July 25 and try to qualify for the 2010 Amateur being played at Chambers Bay, about an hour south of Seattle. Normally, he’d just be another of the thousands of golfers trying to qualify at nearly 100 sites around the country for a chance to play in the national championship of amateur golf.

But Blasi’s connection with Chambers Bay makes him different.

If he makes it through qualifying and to the actual tournament, no player will know Chambers Bay with the same level of intimacy as Blasi. Along with Jones and Bruce Charlton, the 32-year-old Blasi was a co-designer on Chambers Bay, which turned an abandoned gravel mine along the shores of Puget Sound into a links golf course that was awarded the U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open within a year of its opening.

Chambers Bay will be the first municipally owned golf course to host the Amateur. It was a risk of political clout by many within Pierce County government, owners of the course, to invest millions in the project with no guarantees of getting the major tournaments and accolades that would make the investment seem worthwhile.

The accolades have come and so did the big tournaments. The Amateur is a dress rehearsal in operations, infrastructure and course layout for the Open five years from now.

“It’s fascinating to see it mature. This is really the first time I’ve been through the process, to see something beginning, middle, end,” Blasi said. “From the grand opening to see it out through maturity, it’s been fascinating to see it.”

Blasi’s golf resume is strong enough it’s not inconceivable he could find himself playing at Chambers Bay for the Amateur, which takes place Aug. 23-29.

He first grabbed a golf club at age 2, growing up in Wisconsin with a home-built green in his back yard. After four years of playing varsity golf in high school, Blasi turned down a chance to walk-on at Wisconsin and focused on becoming a course designer.

Still busy handling projects for Jones’ design firm, and a July 31 wedding, Blasi manages to carry a handicap that hovers between 1 and 2.

It helps that his project after completing Chambers Bay was building a new practice facility for Stanford University – near Blasi’s Bay Area office.

“I have been spending a fair amount of time in the late evenings chipping and putting and trying to get better with different parts of my game,” Blasi said.

Jones might not be letting Blasi off the hook from his work, but he is encouraging his young designer to pursue the challenge of qualifying, calling to make sure Blasi’s getting in some practice time leading up to the qualifier.

“He’ll call and say ‘Are you getting out there? Are you practicing?”’ Blasi said. “He wants me to do this.”