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Sweet music, on the course and off; record-breaker Jake Card follows his passion

A trained singer of opera and classical music, Jay (Jake) Card III, who has performed at Carnegie Hall and with a prestigious regional opera company, said these days he only “sings in the shower or the car.”

He keeps that passion alive in private, mostly, but the other driving force in his life is on display in the open air. Like late last month, when Jake broke the 18-hole record at his home course, Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, shooting a sizzling 61, one shot better than the three-decades old mark set by Rick Southwick.

He knew what he was going for when several holes short of finishing his round. “I’ve been around the course my whole life,” said Jake, 26, when asked if he knew what the course record was.

From age six, he spent summers in a junior golf program at GBCC run by Bob DeStefano, Reporter columnist and the club’s pro for 50 years.

After scoring an eagle on the 15th hole, he knew one thing: He didn’t want to tie Mr. Southwick. And his talent and control paid off, as he walked into the clubhouse the new club record holder.

The son of Jay Card Jr. and Judy Card, he’s had a glittering career as an amateur golfer, at the top of the leader board in almost every tournament he entered. He was ranked second on the Player of the Year list for Long Island last year and soon made the jump to the professional ranks to pursue the dream of making a living playing the sport he loves.

Not just golf, but music was “a joy, a passion,” from the time he was a boy, Jake said. “Growing up on Shelter Island you do everything,” he said, speaking about how almost all school students here join multiple extra-curricular activities. “I was in the school choir, and did musicals,” he said. “I loved it.”

For college, he chose High Point University (HPU), a private liberal arts college in North Carolina, where he graduated with a B.A. in music and a concentration in voice.

Being a music major had the advantage of integrating him immediately into college life. “You meet people and make friends right away,” he said, by performing music together.

As chronicled in a 2016 Reporter article, Jake, a bass, performed twice with the North Carolina State Opera in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.”

“Soloing in front of 1,500 people, in English,” he told the Reporter, is more pressure than having a meaningful 4-foot putt in competition. “If I miss the putt, O.K.,” he said. “I tried to make it and it didn’t go in. But forget the words in the middle of a solo? Everyone in the audience knows.” Asked why singing in English was pressure, he smiled and said, “Because if you forget the words in German or French, very few people will know.”

Jay Card, Jr., Judy Card, Jay Card III and Tommy Card in front of Carnegie Hall. (Credit: Courtesy Photo)

Four years ago, while still at HPU, he performed in the school’s male a cappella group, The Toccatatones, at Carnegie Hall along with other singing groups from across the country. The show, hosted by music arranger, director, and producer, Deke Sharon, featured musicians from the film “Pitch Perfect 2” and NBC’s “The Sing-Off.”

But golf nudged out music as Jake’s choice for a career.

For the time being, he’s home on Shelter Island until October, when he’ll return to Jupiter, Fla., where he works at The Bears Golf Club. These days, he’s working at this father’s landscape company, staying in touch with his girlfriend, the Manhattan-based travel writer Merissa Principe, and applying to enter tournaments to rack up competitive playing time to gain a spot on the PGA tour.

As Bob DeStefano wrote, “To declare your desire to become a professional, all you have to do is say you are one. But to say that you’re a PGA professional is different. For that, you must put in time working in the business. You also need to pass written examinations and a “Playing Ability Test” that shows you really know how to play the game.”

COVID-19 has hurt his opportunities. “There was a tournament in Canada I was going to play, but they closed the border,” he said, referring to the order against non-essential travel. But he’s signed up for two events in Michigan in August.

His backup plan if he doesn’t become a touring pro, is to be a PGA pro at a specific club, and he is on track to get certified for that role.

The soft-spoken, thoughtful young man doesn’t seem very competitive most of the time, but now and then his sense of not being satisfied with a tie comes through. It was mentioned that his father, Jay was a fine golfer.

“Yeah, he’s all right,” Jake said with a smile.