Sunday, April 27, 2008

Final Round

I finished the tournament with another even par, 72 today and will cash about $1400, or 1.4 million Won...I had to come all the way to Korea to become a millionaire!! It was an extreamly challenging week on the narrow, 7500 yard golf course with rock hard greens and whipping winds. With this being the last of a four tournament stretch, I am a bit worn and really looking forward to taking the next few weeks and improving my self and getting a few bucks together for the remainder of the season. This year is off to a promising start. There are alot of factors that go into getting myself in perfect alignment for success over here, but when I overcome these challenges in the comming months, I will be taking great strides toward the end goal. I will write more in the comming weeks leading up to the next series of adventures. As always, thanks for the support and enjoy every shot you hit.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Round 3 and Weather Songs

If there was a song that could be playing over loudspeakers on every hole today, it would have been Bob Seager, "Against the Wind." It didn’t matter if you were downwind, crosswind, or into the wind, you were against the wind. The greens became so rock-hard, that perfectly struck wedges were bounding from the front edge of greens and rolling 40 yards to the back. My best wedge shot of the day came on the last hole. The pin was cut 34 yards past the front edge on a green that was 45 yards deep. The wind howled left to right. I hit a crispy, low shot with as much backspin as I can put on a punch shot. The ball landed around one or two yards on the green and by the time it was finished bouncing and rolling, I was chipping from five yards off the back of the green. The challenge was fun for about 7 holes, and then it became overly exhausting. The Gail blew harder than day 1 today, getting up to 40 miles per hour; nearly unplayable. A poorly struck shot into this gulf stream left you scratching your head.

I shot the same score as day 1 with a triple bogey and two double bogies. The low score of the day was 75, and it is NOT because there is a severe lack of skill in the field. One of the best players in Asia shot an 89 today. Excessive wind accentuates golfer's flaws, multiplying mistakes and making them slap you over the head with a shovel. I've played 4 out of the last 6 weeks in tournaments and during that stretch, my swing has plagued my scores. I've never struggled with hitting the ball in play like this before in my short professional career. I hit a few shots today that made everyone in the group and a few spectators cringe.

Despite these troubles though, I am very encouraged by my chipping and pitching, which has been very impressive this week. It allowed me to make the cut and will allow me to make a paycheck. I have seen some of my potential unveiled in the last 6 months and I know I have the kind of game that can contend for a victory on a weekly basis. These first 6 weeks on tour have been wild and inconsistent and my body and the golf ball are not performing the way I expect. I look at making the cut in three of the four first events, with a malfunctioning golf swing, as hugely motivating. I know that my 'D' game can remain competitive with the many of the tour players out here and can make cuts. When I find a swing in the next stretch of tournaments beginning in three weeks, my 'A' game could make a few players bury their heads in the bunkers.

I think this entire experience, however frustrating it can be at times, will yield something truly special. I will finish this event tomorrow and have a short break, before returning to action next month with a fresh outlook and a scarily effective golf swing. There is still storm to weather, but sunshine is on the way. "Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it comes..."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Grinding it Out was anything but pretty, but I made the cut one chip and putt at a time. The conditions were much calmer today. I had the best pre-round warm up I've had since I qualified for the Korean Tour. I got off to a promising start with a birdie on my second hole. I was striking the ball solidly again or so I thought. Then I hit a few dead pulls and off-cue slices and found myself scrambling again. I bunkered, chipped, pitched and lobbed my way to parland. Standing on the 13th tee I was +1 for the day. I knew I very near, possibly over the cut line.

I fired my tee shot up into the air. I watched it soar wayward into a hazard. On a golf course that has not yielded many birdies to the field, I knew having to make birdies on my closing holes to get back inside the cut line was going to be a tough position. I dropped my ball 139 yards from the pin after taking a penalty stroke. My ball sat down in the rough. The pin was back. There was 24 yards and a large slope between the front edge of the green and the hole. I needed to allow the ball 15 yards of bounce and roll after it landed. I struck it well and watched it land between the front of the green and the flag. It bounced and rolled up the slope. It was headed n a collision course to the hole. "Get in baby!" The ball broke towards the hole and improbable birdie after a penalty. It was the exact surge of momentum I needed to finish off my round and make the cut.

I improved on my first round score by 10 strokes and advanced 50 positions in the field, to make the cut by one stroke. If I can continue to improve in my last two rounds, a great tournament finish lies ahead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Beaten Not Broken

Today was the most challenging and exhausting first round of golf I have ever played. The steady 30 mph wind battered the golf course all day making the greens about as receptive as ice. A high, majestic ball flight was doomed to never be seen again. On a hole, one player in my group could not putt for five minutes because the wind kept moving his ball down the green inches at a time. This combination of adverse elements makes golf very difficult and it was reflected in the scoring. This is the only professional tournament I have ever played in where no player shot under par in the first round.

I am not making excuses for my poor play. My game has really struggled as of late and today was no exception. I hit a few exciting greenside bunker shots, and a few 380 yard drives, but there was very little celebration in the Baldwin camp. I double bogied my final hole for an 82.

The cut line today is at +7 and I find myself outside that by three shots. A positive of this is that the lower scores were all shot in the morning today, meaning those players tee off in the afternoon when the wind is the strongest tomorrow. Because I played in the afternoon gail today, I have an 8 am tee time tomorrow morning. This will give me an opportunity to play nine holes before the wind begins to peak. I plan on taking advantage of that time and inviting the Jeju birdies to nest in my scorecard.

I'll have some better news to report tomorrow afternoon. Until then...


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taking it Easy at the Tomato Bank Open

This week I am on Jeju Island off the southern tip of South Korea. It is a beautiful place complete with crystal-clear turquoise ocean, volcanic mountains, palm forests and Saint Four Golf Course. The course is the hardest venue I've seen since my arrival in Asia; a 7500 yard monstrosity with rock hard greens from ocean winds and hazards on both sides of nearly every hole. As with any tournament, a course will play as difficult as its hole locations and tee positions dictate. The tournament committee should make holes more accessible and friendly for the first two rounds, but the hole yardages will play their maximum distances, which plays to my length advantage. A player from England who played the practice round with me yesterday, said he felt this was my week.

In the last two days I've found that my downswing gets very fast, throwing off the synchronicity of my swing, when find myself under pressure. In the last two days, I have worked towards "making it look easy," as Dan Wilkins once told me. He said the best compliment you can receive after a shot is someone saying you made it look easy. His swing is the epitome of this statement. One thing I always noticed about his swing is that despite bad weather conditions, his tempo always remained Sean Connery-smooth. That thought has me hitting the ball very solidly and opens up shot making options. The round at Asian Tour Q-School where I shot 64, it felt like my swing was in slow motion. It didn’t just look easy, it was.

This could prove to be one of those tournaments that drains every sense because there is so little room for error on the course. The more difficult the course, the shot and the situation, the more in control, confident and relaxed a player needs to be to perform. So when I am teeing off on one of the numerous 480 par fours with howling winds, I am going to tell myself to 'make it look easy.' My goal at the outset is to make this week the 'easiest' difficult week I've ever had.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Looking Back to Move Forward

I've spent the last few days thinking about different mental approaches to various situations in the last event. The one I encountered that was the most alarming was when I stood next to Retief Goosen for the first time. I've seen him before, but it was from an observatory standpoint. I watched him practice at a PGA Tour event on the driving range. Here he was next to me and we were playing in the same tournament. Although it never crossed my mind in pink flashing lights, playing against a player who has been consistently ranked in the top 10 in the world since the beginning of this century is a hop, skip, jump, leap and then bound, from playing state opens back home. That specific message came in the form of the feeling I got at that moment. I didn’t know whether to kiss his ass or try to kick it on the course. I did not let that thought in my mind for the remainder of the event because I felt it was a sign of weakness. That neglect, which I pushed from my conscious thoughts, was a first instinct. Initial reactions are your subconscious views expressed through natural reaction. Whether this view of my standing in the golfing world had anything to do with my tournament results, it certainly gives me something to work towards improving, and that will come with further experience playing against better competition.

At this time last year, I had just missed the final cut at Canadian Tour Q-School, had no tour to play on and was pretty low on confidence by my standard. I would say I've made great strides in a short year and despite a poor performance this week, am exactly where I need to be. I leave tomorrow for Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea for the Tomato Bank Open. I am approaching this event not so much as an opportunity to breakthrough in the Asian golfing world, as a chance to improve and move closer towards the ultimate goal.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Coming into the tournament I felt very confident: the golf course was tailored to my game; I felt I had made strides improving my swing and I was excited I had the opportunity to compete against a skilled field. But following two days of poorly executed shots, I find myself taking an early exit from the tournament. I wish I could say I wasn’t disappointed.

In my favorite story, a boy leaves his life as a sheppard in search of great treasure. He journeys from everything he knows in search of dream. The adventure takes him far beyond the bounds of familiarity. The farther he goes and the physically closer he is to his treasure, the farther away from his dream he feels. To move beyond the adversity he faces at every step, he must learn something about himself to help him overcome the challenge. He is nearly driven to hopelessness; like he should have never left what he knew and what was safe. But it is these moments where he comes to know himself, and without them, he could never discover his treasures.

I will keep this in my thoughts today as I take something from the two days that better prepares me to play to my potential on the next journey. Onward to the next event.

Round 1 SK Telecom

I dont feel I played as poorly as my 75 today reflects. I began hitting the ball more solidly and stayed positive all day. I actually felt like I had a fighting chance out there and I would come out the victor. I felt that way until my last putt fell into the bottom of the cup for a suprising 75. I executed a handful of putts poorly, made one bad decision and was thrown a couple tough breaks from the Golf gods, but am very upbeat about playing a strong round tomorrow. Although my game is not as finely tuned as I expect, I know I am on the verge of a breakout performance. Based on my standing after round 1, tomorrow would be ideal timing. I'm going to hold my head high and wait for the birdies to stack up tomorrow's perfect round. Keep watching, prouder moments await.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Living the Dream

I had my first thrill of a promising week today when I met up with two players ranked in the world top 10, who came from the Masters to this event. As I came down the final hole of my practice round, I noticed the 9th hole (which runs parallel to 18) had drawn quite a gallery. Emerging from the crowd were KJ Choi and Retief Goosen. 'The Goose' has the same tee time as I on day 1, but off the 10th hole. I have the opportunity to compete against and beat an impressive field this week that includes two of the world's elite. It's one of those rare opportunities for true competitive brilliance.

The golf course is beautiful. One side is bordered by the ocean, the other lined by Incheon Airport. It is a long course with extremely deep, undulating greens. It is a course style similar to a Nationwide Tour Stop; a course that rarely takes driver out of your hand and provides room off the tee. I recently changed to a Titleist D2 driver. That combine with a few swing tweaks since the Japan event have me hitting the ball longer and straighter than I have for a few months. I was positively psyched after leaving the 18th green today, not only because I was about to walk past KJ Choi and 'The Goose,' but because I knew this course helps me utilize my length advantage.

This is a tremendous opportunity for me to butt heads with some world beaters on a golf course that suits my game. I've envisioned making birdie on the final hole of a professional tournament to beat the world's best since I was a long-haired, pull cart toting kid. I believe this is my week to live that dream.

Friday, April 11, 2008

SK Telecom Open

I will be heading for Seoul, South Korea on Monday to tee it up in the 600k, SK Telecom Open. From what the veteran players have told me, golf in South Korea is like football and baseball back home -- it is their entertainment bread and butter. Golf is far more expensive in Korea than the US with an average round costing about $200 USD. Despite the excessive cost, golfers find it nearly impossible to get a tee time. I've been told even if you have the funding, reserving a time play is very challenging bordering impossible. Golf in South Korea is revered, which is why the Korean Tour is so well sponsored and run. Therefore, one of the biggest events on the Korean's professional tour coming to their capital, is like the Sox vs Yanks at Fenway. This event is supposed to attract a great crowd and have a an enthusiastic following. It is the perfect setting for a breakthrough performance.

The last two weeks I have faced a few insurmountable challenges, but am excited to conquer them this week. I've been able to find some swing help in the past two days and know I am back on track in that area. Like the past two tournaments, this will be my first visit to the host country and with that comes new culture, food and language barriers. How I handle these aspects, factor into my final outcome. Last week, I was given a caddy I am sure was a very kind person, but she couldn’t get my bag up the course's hills on her own, lost my umbrella and rain pants and tried to offer advice without being able to speak a word of English. No offense intended, but I would have rather carried my own bag. This week should be a bit easier being in a major city. I should be able to navigate with less stress and eat with less reluctance.

Although my results from the first two events were not up to my expectation, I made both cuts and am learning how to place these unfamiliar pieces into the puzzle. Initially, I was disappointed in myself. I need to keep in mind that no art is mastered without pains and practice and no goal too easily attainable, is worth pursuing. It's like the line in 'Jet Airliner' from Steve Miller Band: "You know you've got to go through hell before you get to heaven..." I am really excited for this week's opportunity and know great success is imminent.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Joyless in Japan

The person that came up with "a bad day at the golf course is better than a good day at the office," has never met anyone who's office is the golf course. I am extreamly disappointed tonight after another terrible round where I had no control over my golf ball and very little over myself. After hitting the ball out of bounds four times today and hitting 6 greens in regulation, which I think ties for my worst stats since sophomore year of college, it's time to get a golf lesson. My swing has been hanging by a thread for a while now and after 6 months without any golf lesson, I can't continue to improve without help. Days like this in the life of a professional golfer are pretty lonely. But this is all part of the experience and makes the journey's story so inspiring when you tell it from the PGA Tour winner's circle some day.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Round 3

Round 3: 71

69-73-71- 213

While I waited for the shuttle to the golf course ten minutes after its scheduled arrival time at 6:40 this morning, I grew concerned it may come very late . 15 minutes later, I got the impression it wouldn't be showing up at all and had to hail a cab for the thirty minute journey through the mountains. Like yesterday, I got to the course with just enough time to find my caddie and make it to the first tee before my name was called.

This is all part of the adjustment I am making to a professional golf in Asia. The travel can be difficult, the languages, food and cultures are extremely unique, the golf course styles and grass varies dramatically and in my case, scheduled transportation to the golf course shows up late or not at all. I always hold myself to high expectations on and off the course and have become overly frustrated with my results recently. Amid the shuffle of this morning's confusion though, I realized I have never dealt with all these factors before. It is important for me to be patient and have way more love for myself and this process as I learn to adjust.

I can't recall playing any tee or approach shots today that would be categorized as "good." Some were mediocre, while most were poor and put my chipping and putting to the test. Fortunately, my putter decided to be the hero and save my scorecard from the bowels of bogeyland. I'm in 26th going into tomorrow's final round and although it isn't an impressive position and I am not satisfied with my results, it is an improvement from my first tournament and with a good round tomorrow, I have a chance of moving into the top 10. I can take encouragement from performing at the mid-level of my ability and still having the chance to post a good finish. So I'll swing tomorrow towards better shots and come out one day more acclimated to the rigors of this new tour life.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Round 2

Round 1: 69
Round 2: 73

I was reassured by my course and game management yesterday, so today, I tried to take a similar approach. But, I lacked the imperative self management that needs to be in game management's corner...

When you get an afternoon tee time before a tournament round and have to spend the morning waiting, your routine during that time can be as important as the time spent on the putting green. I played at 12 today and after an early wakeup, had an early breakfast. I tried to spend the morning in hibernation to avoid building anxiety. The tournament transportation came twenty minutes late, left 25 minutes late, and got caught in traffic, leaving my plan to have lunch prior to warming up, abandoned. Instead, my warm up consisted of practicing my 100 meter dash with a golf bag on my shoulder, from the parking lot to the tee.

I started off steadily with three pars. Number four is a 180 yard par 3 with water a few yards from the green's front edge. The green slopes severely towards the water. After playing an approach shot 30 feet past the hole, I putted my ball down the slope to two feet past the hole where it nearly came to a stop and then started picking up speed. It rolled faster until it was off the green, rolled down the slope and stopped just short of the water. I had putted it off the green; a dreaded scenario for any golfer and finished the hole with a double-bogey.

I was back in grind mode on cut day. I was able to make three consecutive putts from over 10 feet on 12,13,14 that saved my round from excessive disaster. On 15, my body began to feel like I had just spent a few hours in the gym and not eaten after. My hands began to shake, my legs felt lacked stability and my swing responded accordingly. I dropped three shots on my final four holes; a costly reminder that without gas in your tank, you can't drive anywhere.

So it was another disappointing second round, although still better than Shanghai. My two round total is even par, and inside the cut line by three strokes. Tomorrow, I play at 8:10...the perfect time, right between breakfast and lunch.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Emerson Pacific Open RD 1

Cutting to the chase: I posted 69 (-2) in the opening round this morning. It was an up and down round needing to save par, after missing the green in regulation on many holes. After taking some important lessons from the Shanghai tournament to the first tee this morning, my initial goal was to build momentum. As with many courses in central Asia, there is no driving range. Standing over driver on the first hole of an important tournament is nerve racking, even with a range warm up. I wanted to get a bunch of pars on my card early and get some comfort under my feet. I had plans to make confident swings to safer positions. After some early, arrant drives, I kept my driver in the bag for the duration of the round. I focused on playing to the safest parts of the fairway, on a course that has out-of-bounds on both sides of every hole on the course. It made my tee shots less stressful, but it also left a few longer approach shots that weren't as successful. Today I was paying homage to the Allman Brothers Band and "was born a scramblin' man."

I'm pleased with my patience and strategy today. It leads me to believe I am learning with every competitive experience. I will continue to build momentum and confidence tomorrow through the final stroke, on the final green.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Little Fuji Pictures

SBS Emerson Pacific Open, Yonago Japan Photos: Copy and paste this link into your address bar --

Soaring in Japan

I arrived in Yonago, Japan on a small propeller plane with three other passengers Monday night and was greeted by a pleasant taxi driver and a quickly skipping meter. 20 minutes and almost 5,000 Yen later (nearly $50), I was at my hotel. The receptionist spoke English about as well as the taxi driver, so we used sign language and a calculator to get me situated in a room.

Yesterday was an unintentional sightseeing day. I scoured the city of Yonago on foot, looking for an ATM. Armed with a few coins that equated to less than $10, I traveled from bank to bank only to have my ATM card rejected by non-English speaking and accepting, machines. Around mid-day I ordered a piece of chicken off a picture menu to refuel. The journey proved fruitless and I returned to the hotel with no money, no further understanding of the Japanese language and an ATM card that might have well had a prayer on it.

Yonago is situated with ocean on either side. It looks like the landing strip of southern Japan. The massive mountains tower over the countryside. From just about anywhere, you get a view of what the locals call "Little Fuji." The name is misleading; there is nothing "little" about it. It is a gigantic peak with a snow cap covering half the mountain.

It also serves as a backdrop for Hole 1 of the tournament course. This week’s course is situated on the side of a smaller mountain, giving players one of the most spectacular places to hit a golf shot. The tee shot on #1 is elevated a few hundred feet in the air making it more dramatic. The hole is 375 yards. Today I hit a towering drive that soared towards Little Fuji and appeared as if it may not come down; it was that shot you dream of hitting. The ball finally came down on the front of the green, which caused quite a stir with the leading group. I will post a picture of the scene on my website later.

The rest of the golf course feels like coming home. It's nothing close to as breathtaking as the opening tee shot; you could say it's all downhill after that. But because the course winds through dramatic elevation changes, I am reminded of my high-school days playing the back nine at Owl's Nest. It is a bit nostalgic despite being thousands of miles from home, which adds a little bounce in my step.

My tournament officially beings Friday at 8:03 off the tenth tee. I found an ATM this morning and if I can keep my ball majestically soaring, am looking forward to seeing a substantially larger balance in my account at this time next week.