Thursday, January 31, 2008

Round 3

The scrambling continued in round 3 as did the difficult conditions. The greens have burnt out from all the extreamly hot weather and wind, making them mini-golfesque. I played a strong back nine to grind my way back to a score of 73. I currently stand in 19th place, 3 strokes outside the top 8 and 2 strokes inside the tour card cut line, heading into the final round. Players inside the top 8 are exempt into 16 events and players inside the top 28 receive exemptions into 10.

Although I have not played well for three rounds, I feel I am exactly where I need to be. If I had of shot three consecutive rounds of 68, I would be gauranteed exemptions, but I wouldnt have to go earn it under the final day pressure. The comming experience of playing for a tour card under the gun will be better for my development than if tomorrow was just a stroll around the course. Tomorrow will be an exciting round and a chance for me to demonstrate how far I have matured since turning professional.

Great news to come...stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Round 2

My round today consisted of poor decisions, terrible swings and recovery putts. Most holes went as follows: Baldwin hits drive in the rough; Baldwin hits approach shot left/right of the green in least welcoming spot; Baldwin chips to 6-15 feet; Baldwin makes putt. I had one of the most successful putting days of recent months, accumulating 23 putts in 18 holes, meaning I averaged just over 1.2 putts per green. If a player however, shoots 75 with this stat in their putting category, they could have used a shovel and bat to hit all other shots. Watching my ball loop off its intended course into hazards, past out of bounds stakes and bury into bunkers, became quite routine and predictable today.

So I sit in 21st position, tied with a few other players going into the third round at a two-round total of 147. The conditions so far have been challenging: very hot and windy, making the small greens extreamly firm and fast. These two factors account for the high scoring of the field's majoirty.

The top 28 this week will receive their tour cards and the top 8 are entitled to play in 6 more events than the remaining 20 players. This is some strong incentive for me to find my swing sometime between now and my opening tee shot tomorrow. Two consecutive rounds of solid play tomorrow and Friday will give me a great chance to settle into the top of the leaderboard by the tournament's conclusion.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Round 1 Korean Tour

I imagine Q-School Round 1 was similar cycling a mountain range (not that I ever have). It started off warm at 9am. I felt cool and relaxed. I was at internal peace when I hit my opening tee shot down the middle on hole 10 (my first hole of the day). Holes 11-13 at this course are the most difficult and stressful as every shot you face hazards on all sides of your target. I played it cool through that stretch and made it through without any major setbacks. My emotions were very controlled and relaxed. Hole 14 is a long par 5 that played into a breeze today. I hoisted a 260 yard 3 wood into the air and onto the green in two, securing a birdie. Holes 15-16 I had two birdie opportunities inside 20 feet and left both hanging on the edge of the cup. Then started the climb up the range.

It was getting hotter, I had to wipe my brow before every shot, otherwise my eyes were filled with sweat. I hit two consecutive poor shots on 17 (my 8 hole) and suffered a buried lie in the bunker and finished with a bogey. 18 found me making a brilliant chip and putt to save par from behind the green. I made the turn, filled my bag with drinking water and carried on, making a birdie on my 10th hole. On my 12th (hole 3), I hit a drive that ran down a cart path and into a water drain...bogey. The following hole, I hit and 7 iron 30 yards off line, short-siding myself on a nasty slope in the rough. After a creative chip I made a 10 footer to save par. As I walked to the next tee I realized my bag was out of drinking waters. I had drank 1 per hole since making the turn and was now out. It was excessively hot being over 100 degrees and I had holes left. I made two bogeys in my next few holes and a pounding headache set in screaming dehydration. I was over par and overheated and still had more golf to play.

I found some shade, my heart was pounding and my hat was dripping wet. I toweled off and regrouped. I gave myself some perspective: this was only round 1 and right now could be the most important time of the tournament. This was a cross roads; I had negative thoughts rushing through my throbbing head. Everything was saying that this opportunity was slipping away and would continue to do so. I slowed my breathing to calm down and pretended it was cool and I had plenty of fluids in me. I only needed a few seconds to fool myself, just long enough to get a positive vision and a solid golf shot off.

I hit a wedge to 3 feet from the cup and made a birdie. On my 17th I wedged it to 4 feet and made birdie. On my closing hole I had a downhill 15 foot snake for birdie and hit it precisely in the center...mind over matter. I had faked myself out and closed with 3 birdies in my final 4 holes to shoot even par and keep myself in contention. More importantly, I was finished!! I could go drink some water!

I dont know how hot hell is, but if it is as hot Johor Bharu, Malaysia today, I may hang up the clubs and become a man of the cloth. I finished on a very postive note and expect to have as many birdies as drinking waters tomorrow. Talk to you then!

Practice Round

I made it to the tournament venue yesterday feeling significantly better. Today, I dodged rain showers and completed my practice round. The golf course is short with many fairway bunkers and water hazards. The typical Malaysian grass that comprises the fairways and rough is cowgrass/crabgrass. It is not a championship venue, but it is this championship's venue thus, I love it.

My strategy for day 1 is a somewhat modified version of the strategy I used for Asian Tour School where first stage was held on a long course that forced players to hit driver on every hole and second stage was a similar style venue to this tournament's. The mistakes I made in final stage Asian Tour Q-School were results of unsure, overly aggressive plays off the tee and the inability to make up for it in my short game saves. This week I will play more conservatively off the tee, placing the ball in the widest parts of the fairway and sacraficing a few yards in proximity to the green for a clean lie and angle to the hole. My putting has been very solid from inside 15 feet over the past two weeks and tomorrow, I know it's performance will begin the ascent toward peaking.

So that's where I am. My yardage book is marked, my strategies are specific and sound and I have ran the shots I will play tomorrow through my head multiple times. The prep work is done, what remains is most fun: turn my analytical side off and get the ball in the hole.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Glamorous Tour Life

Last night I ate a meal on a cheap Asian airline service that had me up all night, sick again. Today, I couldnt eat anything because it would come right back up. I had planned on traveling to Malaysia to the tournament venue today, but because of this, I lay in a tiny, single bed, in a hotel you can rent by the hour in Singapore, trying to get myself in a state of health that allows me to do something else besides get out of bed to spend time sick in the cramped bathroom. My belongings are scattered about the room and there are no windows, making it quite a lonely and clostrophobic sight.

I spent the last few hours trying to catch some make-up sleep and then, thinking about the next time I step out onto the tee with the golf hole being the only thing in my field of vision. I think: this is the road to the Tour. It can be at rare intervals that are all too short lived, exciting and perfect, but more often than not, a test of faith and character.

This is the road I am on. It is not yet glamorous. There are very few galleries and sponsors, no VIP hotel rooms and rental cars, seldom do you find television crews and never do I you see large first place checks. The food has knocked me out for the third time this month, and again, has done so two days before a big tournament. But because of all that, there is nothing ordinary about this job and nothing gauranteed. You never have the same experience twice and it always leaves you learning something about yourself.

So as I lay here in what could be considered, one of the least glamorous and sickest states of being I have experienced in quite a while, I realize why I love this job: because after all this in a few days time, I get to step out onto the tee and discover what I am made of.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Keeping Updated

I'm in the Taipei airport awaiting a flight to Singapore, where I will stay tonight. Tomorrow I'll travel to Malaysia and get to my tournament site. The tournament is at Pulai Springs Resort. Their website is: and the tournament website should be posted in the english translation of the korean tour website: (click on the only icon in the top right of the screen that you can read and understand).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Korean Tour Qualy

I leave tomorrow for Johor Bharu, Malaysia for the Korean Tour Qualifier. The event gets underway this comming Tuesday and will consist of 72 holes, finishing on Friday. There will be somewhere between 100-140 players competing for 28 exempt cards. The top 8 finishers are exempt into 16 events with purses ranging from 300k to 600k.

I have been told the course is a resort-style course: short yardage with many hazards. A style of course that requires excellent course management and a hot putter. Fortunately, with the more experience I gain, my course management continues to improve and a good friend went out of his way to get me a putter that I am very confident in.

As is becoming common with me, I found a way to get sick prior to leaving for this event. I've spent the last two days getting over another stomach ailment, but I am feeling much better this evening and knowing my track record in tournaments following illnesses, this is more of a blessing than a setback.

I am very excited for the upcomming event. After 18 months of professional golf, I am begining to crave golf competition. Success at this level has an abundance of high-quality preparation behind it. The tournament is the determining moment of impecable living. It ultimately determines how effective your preparation time is, whether you are able to live completely in the moment and how much you believe in yourself. The end result is a score reflecting your ability to find the perfect balance of each element at the right time. After a month and a half of being away from tournament play, I am looking forward to getting back into the tournament areana.

Lots of success and excitement ahead.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Swing vs Mind

A typical round of golf is supposed to take 4 hours, 5 if you are playing in a tournament and maybe 3 if your trying to beat imminent darkness. A golf swing takes around 1.5 seconds and the average golfer shoots 90. So the average golfer swings a golf club for just over 2 minutes during a golf outing. Therefore, which is more accountable for the success or failures of the golfer: the 2 minutes and chance when the player physically swings, or the remaining 3 hours and 58 minutes that the golfer "plays?"

The entire week prior to first stage of Asian Tour School, where I shot -16 on a course measuring nearly 7500 yards, I spent sick in bed and unable to keep any substanance in my body. I had two practice days to get my physical swing prepared for the rigors of Q-School golf. During my sick time, I prepared in the only way I could: through visualizing myself as strong, relaxed and healthy, hitting perfect golf shots and making birdies on my favorite holes. That tournament was the best ball striking week of my life and I did it without having hit more than 3 buckets of range balls for a week and a half and having lost 15 pounds.

If you are sitting in a winter wonderland reading this, consider these two paragraphs and how they can enhance your 2008 experience.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Taiwan Living

I have been getting many questions about life in Taiwan and hopefully I can offer a few answers...

I have been living in Taipei now for almost a month. I am staying with a wonderful family who has been very kind in opening their home and their lives to me. They speak a bit of English and have been trying to acclimate me to the mandarin language. The language is very complex. Aside from the obvious character reading and writing difficulties, the structure of the language is opposite from English. If you take a common English sentence, to directly translate it to mandarin usually requires taking the end of the sentence and placing it at the beginning. Everyone tells me I speak "upside down Chinese." That combine with the tonal difference makes the language very daunting to learn. There are four basic tones in Chinese and if you were to pronounce the same word in those ways, they carry separate meanings. For instance the word for water and handsome are the same, but tonally, are completely different. I've asked for one bottle of handsome. I think the response I got was, "you need it."

The city is large and lively. Most stores (supermarkets, convenience stores, glasses shops) are open into the wee hours of the morning and restaurants are almost always busy at every time of day and night. They act as an after hours meeting hub, much like a bar in the US. They actually have very few bars here. With most of the places I have been, bars are uncommon and expensive if you can find one. It's fortunate that I view the pursuit of golf excellence and alcohol as going together like dirty diapers and lolly pops.

Taiwan is a subtropical climate and the weather is inconsistent. Many days are 70 and beautiful during the winter, but more are 50 with a strong, cold wind. You never get the same golf course two days in a row.

The course I am practicing at is the best course in Taiwan. It has taken me in like my surrogate family here and been incredibly helpful. The course is set at a very high altitude outside of Taipei, making it much colder and windier than in the city. The course without adverse weather conditions is very difficult as a 7100 yard Robert Trent Jones design that weaves through mountainous terrain and thick forest. It provides some of the most miraculous views that resemble Hollywood pictures of European bluffs and vineyards in between nerve-testing, challenging shots. Shooting par in the winter is equivalent to shooting 65. The wind blows between 25 and 40 routinely. On the very blustery days, breaking 80 is impressive. The course becomes the ultimate course management and short game test.

Most days I wake up early for a bus, train and taxi ride to get to the course. It takes about 2 hours in all. Fortunately, public transit here is cheap. I've found that although the daily travel is tiring and tedious, it ultimately helps me stay focused during my day knowing that I need to make that journey as worthwhile as it can be. If I can take that small incite into a larger perspective, this trip will be well worth the effort.

Keeping you posted...

Monday, January 7, 2008

True Freedom: Subconscious Success Under Pressure, Part 1

This will be an ongoing series with a Part added daily.

Introduction: The Factors Combating True Freedom

When you played your past best golf were you thinking of your takeaway, your position at the top, or your two plane swing? What are the thoughts that flow through your mind when you hit your best shots? What thoughts free your body to calculate the position of impact which gets your ball in the hole? "Free" is the key word here. You are not free to swing if you are trying to confine your swing to a desired specific position on the course.

The rate of speed your club moves at, regardless of whether you are a junior golfer, college player, seasoned professional or a senior golfer, is too rapid, with too many angles for you to be guessing and checking during a round. Guessing and checking is the terminology used my 4th grade math teacher to describe a less effective method of solving a division problem.

Your swing changes in subtle ways on a daily basis. Every players’ does. It isn’t your swings fault, it isn’t your golf instructor's fault. Golf is a holistic process. To prepare to shoot low scores on command takes years of preparation. The average age of a successful PGA Tour player, one that contends on a week to week basis for a victory, is in their mid-30s. There are the anomalies, sure. They are the players that for some psychological reason, have figured out how to create this freedom faster than the majority. That ability also applies outside the golf course. A Tiger Woods-like competitor is not only the toughest golf competitor, he has the other aspects of his life in balance more consistently than the rest of the playing field. In a recent ESPN article, it was revealed that the period during his father's illness where Tiger was went winless in the major championships, was the darkest period of his life. )

Stevie Williams, Tiger's caddie, talks about how lost Tiger was. Tiger's conscious focus got him in contention for a while in all those events, but your best golf is not only what is conscious in the moment; it is your subconscious, your self-esteem and belief that has been created by millions of moments when you envisioned yourself in the light or in the darkness, or somewhere in between.

Whether you are able to pull a shot off at the end of your $10 weekend nassau, or a $7 million dollar event isn’t based on whether your swing came a fraction of a degree more from the outside of the desired swing plane. It isn’t based on that damn hook that crops up on occasion because you don’t set your hands at the top properly.

The end of a round is when you are most likely to lose a round: you begin to think about finishing the round strongly; you begin to analyze why you have performed well for the previous 15 holes; you consider the stakes and how much you could financially gain from three consecutive pars, how will your handicap benefit, how will your friends praise you; you are prone to getting ahead of yourself, you lose the moment; your muscles are broken down without enough nourishment to allow them to recover sending a chemical response to your brain that causes negative thoughts. All these factors become prevalent. When your physiological response is an increased heart rate, a dry mouth and shaking hands, your ability to find true freedom dictates your outcome. True freedom comes from your subconscious, which is rooted in years and years of trail and error, failure, success and its following perspective.

If your childhood experiences led you to believe you were not worthy of winning and your experiences following that did nothing to rectify that deserving belief, or your experiences in the past year have brought dramatic negative change to your life, 9 times out of 10, that series of shots in the final holes, when your heart rate increases and the heat of day seems to raise 10 degrees, your true belief in yourself, rooted in your subconscious, reveals itself. Those uncomfortable, pressure packed moments when your ass is on the line then becomes the ultimate way to know who you are and how to improve yourself. Following failure in those moments masks itself as a time to fall into inner darkness that perpetuates itself. That darkness, that longing to shake your head and throw a club father than your last shot went, is the reason you were unable to find true freedom in your swing.


What is true freedom and how I can achieve it when it's rooted in my childhood wedgies?

Sunday, January 6, 2008


I apologize for not writing over the holidays. I hope Santa brought everything you wished for. I have been busy finding a place to prepare for the journey to come. After a week of searching, the best golf course and resort in Taiwan has extended playing and practicing privileges to me. They have an extremely challenging Robert Trent Jones design, set at a high altitude, outside of Taipei. The wind cuts across the course daily, making true belief and solid ball-striking, imperative. The course has two short game areas to practice at, 5 par-3, practice holes and a large driving range with many targets. It is a perfect place to hone game and a great location to attack the Asian and Korean Tours from.

I have conditional status on the Asian Tour, for which I will have the opportunity to play in between 1-5 events. The Korean Tour gives their exempt players 10 events to play in, with purses between $300-400k. The players at the top of the KT order of merit, are given exemptions into the two Asian Tour events played in Korea. Therefore, my spring and summer schedule should bolster between 11-17 events, with the smallest purse in any event being $300k.

There will be better fields than ever, more money and a world ranking at stake this coming year. Paying homage to Roy McCavoy, there will be crucial moments and I will be there to define them as defining moments. Whether in the fairway or not, "keep your face to the sun, so you never find the shadows." ~Chinese Proverb and Keegan Rice life motto.