An Enduring Passion: From SCGA Amateur Champion to PGA Professional at Black Gold CC, Mark Blakely has a lifelong love of the game
Mark Blakely and I sat outside in mid-March overlooking the 10th and 18th holes of Black Gold GC in Yorba Linda. It was 90 degrees outside with a nice breeze, not a cloud in the sky.
“It’s days like these when I wonder why I don’t make time to play more golf,” said Blakely, PGA Professional at Black Gold.
Blakely used to play a lot of golf. First picking up a club at the age of five, he fell completely in love with the game by the time he was 15 years old, deciding it was he wanted to do with the rest of his life. By 16 he was a scratch golfer, earning a college scholarship and putting himself on the path to the PGA TOUR.
Right after graduating from United States International in San Diego, Blakely tried for the first time to qualify for the SCGA Amateur Championship in 1982, succeeding and earning medalist honors at his qualifying site.
“By the time the Championship came, I was feeling really good about my game,” Blakely said. “I had been playing really controlled, steady golf and that continued at Stockdale CC.”
Blakely held the 54-hole lead at the SCGA Amateur, playing in the final group of the day in the final round. But it was on the 17th hole that things got interesting.
“A marshall came up to me and let me know that Duffy Waldorf, playing a group ahead of me, had shot a 64, which was the course record,” said Blakely. “It also meant that my lead was down to 1. I had thought the winner would come out of my group, but I was glad to know what I had to do.”
On 18, still nursing a 1-stroke lead, Blakely found sand for the first time all day. Looking up at a tough bunker shot, the then-22-year-old from Temple City hit one of the best shots of his life, landing the ball about a foot above the hole and tapping in for the win.
“It was a pretty special moment,” he recalls.
He would turn professional just two months later, making the victory his one and only SCGA Amateur Championship appearance of his career.
Blakely has worked at Black Gold for almost seven years now, with another 21 combined at Candlewood CC and Industry Hills GC. After an injury derailed his professional golf career — he was in the finals of PGA TOUR Q-School when he blew out his shoulder in 1988 — Blakely went to the head pro at Candlewood seeking a job. He had spent six years playing professional golf abroad, finishing as high as No. 20 on the money list in South Africa, and knew it was time to “get a real job.” Candlewood found a position for him, and five years later he was head pro himself. He remained at Candlewood for a total of 16 years.
“It’s a lot of fun teaching,” said Blakely. “I just enjoy the people. My favorite thing is seeing the lights come on when someone I’m teaching gets it, and learns something new that they didn’t think they could do.”
Blakely, who still lives on Candlewood property in Whittier with his wife of 26 years, knows he’ll be around the game for the rest of his life. He briefly left golf after his stint at Candlewood to try something new, but it didn’t last more than a few years.
“It was good to get out of golf and try something different, but it was even better getting back,” said Blakely. “It’s in my blood. It’s just one of those addictions.”