She didn’t plan to play that week.
It was 1980. The season was winding to a close and the second to last event on the schedule was a new one, the Inamori Golf Classic being played just outside San Diego, California. The LPGA Tour was looking for a star to help boost their field that week at Almaden Country Club.
That’s when Jane Blalock got the call.
“I wasn’t planning on playing that tournament because certain courses favor you and certain ones don’t and that one didn’t favor me, so I hadn’t signed up. The LPGA called and said we need you to play,” Blalock said via phone. “That was the only time it happened.”
Already 25-times a winner on the LPGA Tour including her victory at the inaugural Dinah Shore Colgate Winner’s Circle, Blalock was in the midst of one of the greatest streaks in the history of golf. The 1969 Rookie of the Year hadn’t missed a cut in her 11 years on Tour, which meant she had played 299 consecutive events having earned her way to the weekend.
“That final couple of years people started writing about it, so I was aware,” said Blalock. “I played like a street fighter. I felt so lucky to be there.”
Blalock picked up the game as a teenager, so she considered herself a late bloomer and believed it gave her an edge over those who had already been playing for years.
“I was fresh. I wasn’t burnout, I was grateful to be there,” said Blalock. “I always credit having a successful career with my attitude, my positive attitude and mindset. I enjoyed the pressure. I’d get as nervous as anyone, but pride myself on being able to perform when it’s important and I would try to dig a little deeper and play all the mind games that were required to do that.”
Having agreed against her better judgment to play in San Diego, Blalock posted an opening round 78 that left her with a lot of work to do on Friday to keep her streak alive. But her struggles continued, Blalock recalls hitting the ball out of bounds during the second round, uncharacteristic for such a strong driver of the golf ball. As fate would have it, history hung upon one putt on the 18th green. It was all that stood between Blalock and No. 300.
“I actually remember having a 20-foot putt on the last hole to make the cut.”
The streak was over. It was October 10, 1980.
Blalock carded a second round 76 and missed the cut.
“The air definitely came out of the tires, it was disappointing, a let down,” said Blalock. “I missed some other cuts, it again took the wind out of your sails, whatever it took to hang in there and play on the second day because I didn’t want to miss a cut, you never want to miss a cut, but it never seemed to matter quite as much.”
Blalock went winless for four years after missing the cut in California, ending another streak in having won every year on Tour since 1970. But Blalock wasn’t down for long, fighting back for the final two victories of her career in 1985, which gave her 27 victories on the LPGA Tour, the most of any player without a major championship.
“I am very proud of that because I never gave up on anything and that mentality has helped me in everything I’ve taken on,” said Blalock. “I believe if you tried just as hard to make the cut or play on the weekend that would carry over to your mindset of trying to win a tournament, different levels of pressure, but it’s pressure just the same. I definitely played with tenacity.”
That same attitude has served Blalock well off the course. Since retiring from professional golf in 1986, she relocated to Boston and founded the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women, which are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. The clinics not only teach women the game but also help to empower them with the same determination Blalock displayed both on the course and in life. Blalock also serves as CEO of The Legends Tour and has been instrumental in its growth and success since its founding in 2000.
“I juggle a lot. I have passion and love for what I do,” said Blalock. “I love the challenges of the business side of it and I enjoy the game of golf. It’s just the perfect harmony of mind and body and that’s why I still love playing and love practicing and I still think I can get better.”
It’s hard to get much better than 299, a streak that will likely never be broken.
“Whenever they announce the streak, that gets more attention than the Dinah Shore and the audience always responds. I guess it is appreciated.”
35 years later, Blalock is still very much appreciated.
Notable Cut Streaks in Golf History:
|Jane Blalock||1969 - 1980||299|
|Tiger Woods||1998 - 2005||142|
|Byron Nelson||1941 - 1949||113|
|Lorena Ochoa||2005 - 2012||107 (101 at time of retirement announcement in 2010)|
|Paula Creamer||2010 - 2014||82|
|Annika Sorenstam||2002 - 2006||68|
|Karrie Webb||2010 - 2013||57|
|Lydia Ko||2009 - 2015||53|