A round with… Paul Blake

Newcastle Eagles owner Paul Blake shares his golfing memories, his love of Tour golf and his dream of playing alongside Michael Jordan

Basketball player turned franchise owner Paul Blake has cemented his and the Newcastle Eagles’ places in the record books through unrivalled on-court success. With 25 major trophies the Eagles are the most successful team in the history of the British game. With the BBL Cup already secured in 2017, things look set to continue under Blake and player/coach Fab Flournoy – though on-court success does have an impact on his golf game…

With a packed season and so much to do off-court, how often do you play?
Not quite as much as I used to, or as much as I’d like to, due to work and home commitments but I’ll get out a couple of times a month in the summer. I fear I’ve become a bit of a fair weather player as I’ve aged – things get in the way of golf more easily when it’s cold.

You played basketball to national level at university, how did you get into golf?
I lived with a couple of good golfers at university and they would play at Close House. I’d tag along, then gave it a go and got hooked from there. Living in Jesmond, we’d play at Parklands too – I’ve always enjoyed playing different courses and we’d travel up into Northumberland to Longhirst or Percy Wood or out to the coast.

Which is your favourite course in the North East?
If I had to pick one I’d say Linden Hall. Playing there on a summer evening is fantastic, it’s very picturesque and I’ve enjoyed playing there a lot over the years.

And further afield?
I’ve played a bit in Florida where the weather is just perfect for golf, but I’d have to pick Carnoustie – it’s incredibly tough but it’s stunning.

You reckon you’re about an 18-handicapper – but what’s your best ever score?
I’ve broken 80 once, just, at Percy Wood back in the early 2000s.

Which is your favourite golfing memory?
I really enjoy playing in golf days and there have been a few: the United Carlton Back to the Future-themed day at Close House last year stands out and I’ve always enjoyed the Steve Cram Celebrity Charity Day in aid of COCO at Slaley Hall – a great event, really well run and great fun.

What about embarrassing moments?
Too many! I’ve hit a clubhouse roof, a tractor… various static objects over the years.

Do you have any superstitions?
Not really – some say my putting routine is a little odd but it works most of the time.

What are your strengths on the course?

10  And your weaknesses?
Everything else.

11  Which is your favourite club in the bag?
I like my mid-irons so I’d say five iron is my go-to. Longer or shorter is difficult without lots of practice.

12  How does your sporting background help your golf?
It tends to hinder more than help. I was very analytical when I played basketball so I tend to overthink my golf too and cause myself all sorts of problems. That said, if you had two swings at every shot I’d be a very good player!

13  Who is your best golfing mate?
My former teammate Steve Johnson, we get out for the odd quick game in the evenings through the summer.

14  You’re a big golf fan, who is your favourite tour player?
Phil Mickelson as he’s a lefty too and plays the game in the right spirit. I like Justin Rose as well – the way he stuck with it when his form dipped as he turned pro was inspiring. I’m also a big stats guy and he’s consistently one of the top players across the board – plus his Olympic victory was fantastic!

15  Which event to you enjoy the most?
I always enjoying watching the Open Championship and will hopefully be heading to Royal Birkdale with friends this summer. I love The Masters on TV and I’d love to go and sit at Amen Corner on a Sunday afternoon.

16  Which sportsperson do you admire?
It has to be Michael Jordan – he is still far and away the best basketball player there has ever been. It’s rare to see someone play consistently at a level far above everyone else – Tiger did it in the early 2000s and Jordan did it throughout his career.

17  Who is in your dream fourball and the best golfer you’ve played with?
Michael Jordan and Tom Brady are both legends and very good golfers so I’d team up with Seve Ballesteros and hope he could carry me through. In terms of best golfers I’ve played with, Mark James was very good – obviously. A good friend John Lee [former chief executive of Your Homes Newcastle] his sons, and his wife Karen are all very low handicappers.

18  If I could offer you another quadruple-winning year or a scratch handicap, which would you take?
I’d take another quadruple. If I was playing off scratch and the team wasn’t successful I wouldn’t be able to play much golf. The other way round I get the best of both. I do love golf as it is a chance to get away from it all for a good chunk of time, spend 4-5 hours with friends in the fresh air, and just enjoy playing sport.