Sunday, August 29, 2010

Canadian Tour Conclusion

I posted 67 at the final round at the Canadian Tour Championship to finish tied for 24th place. Today was a big test for me: I've had a few very poor final rounds on tour this year which have cost me respectable finishes and important dollars. Today was an opportunity to prove to myself that this year on the Canadian Tour has been a great learning experience and I'm improving.

I've struck the ball well all week but my wedge play and short game have held me back from shooting low scores. Today, I lacked the control over my swing I had in the first three rounds, but my short game finally shined. I added an exclamation point on the short game spectacle by making a 15 footer at the 230 yard par 3 17th and holing a 30 yard bunker shot in front of the gallery at the 18th, finishing birdie-birdie.

After the crisply struck sand shot landed softly and bounced in the hole, did I throw a few dramatic fist pumps and take numerous bows?? bet! I've been waiting all year to birdie the last in front of the crowd and took full advantage of the last hole at the Tour Championship.

It's been a great summer on the Canadian Tour. I've improved, learned a great deal about how to manage my game and my energy levels for consecutive weeks of competition, and will be in the top 50 on the order of merit, gaining my tour card again for next year (top 80 retain their tour cards).

I head back to Florida tomorrow, where I'll continue to hone my skills and fund raise for a possible Q-school bid this fall.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Round 3 Canadian Tour Championship

If I could take back two swings today, it would have been my best round on the Canadian Tour. I played very solid, but suffered a triple and double bogey and shot 70. The bad swings came from terrible lies in the rough and overly aggressive decisions. While my score hasn't quite reflected it, I've played better with every passing round. I'm tied for 38th going into the final round at -1 for the tournament and am 4 strokes outside the top 10. If the trend of improving play continues and a few more putts fall, a very respectable finish is in my future.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Making the Cut at the Falls

After an inconsistent day, I finished at +1, 71 leaving me with a 2 round total of -1, 139. I've made the cut at The Canadian Tour Championship and am 9 back of the lead, 4 back of 5th place heading into weekend play. I had 5 severe lip outs on the speedy greens, leaving me contemplating all the potential the round had. If those putts drop tomorrow, I will find myself back in contention heading into Sunday.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canadian Tour Championship Round 1

I got off to a solid start at the Canadian Tour Championship next to Niagara Falls, by shooting -2, 68. The course is a ball strikers paradise and with soft conditions today, players were able to take advantage. I'm tied for 18th going into round 2. I will write more tomorrow after a great round.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wedge Woes

Last week's struggle extended into today as my wedge play was glaringly terrible. Everything else was bad, but my wedge play continues to hold me back from being a successful pro golfer.

Tomorrow is my 27th birthday and I will need all the magic and birthday bounces August 20th can offer if I am to make the cut.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Artistry in Seaforth

Among the last Canadian Tour events of the year is this week's Seaforth Economical Insurance Classic. The small farm town of Seaforth is 2 and 1/2 hours outside Toronto. Surrounded by meadows rich with corn stalks and cows, and barns with handwritten advertising saying "storage space available," the tournament isn't likely to attract deep rows of spectators or ESPN coverage.

The course is short with reachable par 4s and 5s and par 3s requiring only short irons. The greens are undulating and as receptive as metal counter tops; rock-hard. Last year, twenty-six under par won the tournament but veteran players are spreading the word that the greens were more forgiving then. Scores will be slightly higher this year.

This will be the final tune-up event before the Tour Championship next week. I'm staying with two pottery artists on a farm ten minutes away from the course. They mold clay into a variety of beautiful shapes and sizes. I plan to be an artist of sorts this week as well, shaping shorts of various lengths beautifully close to my targets. It should be a fitting match to a great week.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Bad and The Ugly

Bad swings, worse course management and ugly short game lead to scores like I shot today. Missed the cut at the Jane Rogers Championship. Will spend the next couple days moving past this performance to be ready for next week's Canadian Tour tournament.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Clublink Jane Rogers Championship

After a great opening nine of -3, I hit two arrant shots making double bogeys and left me played defensively through the remainder of the round. In challenging conditions, I finished the day at +2, 73. While it was a frustrating end to what could have amounted to a good day, I have my favorite two days of the tournament week ahead of me. I've played some great second rounds so far this year and intend to add another second round notch on the belt. I play tomorrow at 12:30 pm and after some great results during a practice session this evening, am looking forward to going low.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Next Stretch

Ontario plays host to the coming three weeks on the Canadian Tour. This week's event is the Club Car Jane Rodgers Championship at Greystone CC in Toronto. I fly into Toronto tomorrow afternoon and play the pro-am on Wednesday. While my arrival is a bit later than usual, it is part of a new strategy that helps me remain fresh and energetic throughout the entire week of competition. My goal is to win the next event and move into the top 10 on the money list. If I can improve every week I play this month, I will be prepared for the challenge of PGA Tour Q-School in the fall.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Evil Round 4 Monster

A disastrous 78 today.

Until I learn how to defeat the evil round 4 monster that I transform into on the final day of competition, I will never succeed consistently as a pro golfer. Day 4 has been my nemesis since I turned pro. I haven't fully acknowledged it until now, and maybe that is one of the issues. Instead of advancing from the top 25 into top 20 or 15, I fall off the map on the final day: from a profitable professional golfer, I transform into a useless hacker. It was very costly in Asia and it has been thus far on the Canadian Tour.

The same swing, rhythm, energy and feel troubles inevitably show up on day 4 and I continue to react the same. It is the very definition of insanity. I have become a very solid, competitive three round professional golfer. Unfortunately, pro golf requires 4 cumulative rounds of competition. I need to prepare and train my energy levels, swing and feel for day 4 if I expect to reach my potential.

In the last three weeks, I've made all three cuts, finished 12th shooting -17 and secured my Canadian Tour card for next year. The final round of 2/3 events have cost me thousands of dollars however and just making cuts is no longer an acceptable measure of success.

Like I wrote two weeks ago, I need to continue to set myself up for success through the first 3 rounds of tournaments and be more prepared for final rounds with a new game plan and better preparation during off weeks.

There are lots of great things to take away from the past three weeks on the Canadian Tour, but the most important is to learn from the round 4 failures to succeed in future events.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Long Round

I teed off at 10:40 am for round 3 of the Canadian Tour Player's Cup and tapped in for 69 at 8:52 pm. With a 5 hour severe weather delay, I spent more than half the day waiting to get back on the course. Through 4 holes, I was cruising at -2 and had a great chance for birdie on 5. Then the suspension horn blew following loud thunder rumbles in the distance. It would be another 5 hours before I could hit my shot at the 5th.

At the end of a three week stretch of hard work and competition, day 3 proved to be exhausting. I had many chances to "take it deep" today (shoot low scores), but squandered them with avoidable mistakes.

With all the rain and difficult pin positions, very few of my competitors "took it deep," and I actually advanced my standing to 25th place today at -2 for the tournament. If I can maintain my focus for one final round tomorrow and capitalize on all the opportunities that come my way, it will be a very special week resulting in a top finish.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Player's Cup: Day 2 Recap

Not much time...just finished the round, have to get out for dinner. Today's recap: Played very solid on the front nine (8 pars, 1 birdie). Hit a terrible block-slice out of play on 11 and made double bogey to go to +3 for the tournament (+1 was the cut at this time). During a 30 minute wait on the next tee, I became determined to beat the cut line and trust my swing. I took that determination over every shot and birdied three holes in closing to shoot 69 (-2). The conditions were difficult: rock hard, slick greens, windy conditions and fighting to sneak under the cut line. I am at even par for the tournament and am tied for 27th heading into weekend play.

This is my 3rd straight cut made on the Canadian Tour and I have a great opportunity tomorrow to move up the leaderboard and position myself to make an epic Sunday run at the leaders! It's great to make cuts, but even more exciting to know I am improving and moving up in the world of pro golf!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of Trust

I ran out of steam today on the 17th hole at the Canadian Tour's Player's Cup. I finished with a bogey and a double on the closing two holes for 73 (+2). Included in this score was +1 on total par 5 scoring. Whenever I play par 5s over par during a competitive round, I am sure to get lapped by the field.

The course is a short Donald Ross design with extremely undulating, slick greens. Position around the holes is paramount as are angles into the greens.

Down the last four holes, I tried to play low punch shots under the wind, taking one more club and reducing my swing speed. Last week, I played my closing holes making full, confident swings and trusting in my abilities instead of trying to control the ball with abbreviated swings like I did today. The short swings resulted in poor strikes and were not chosen out of trust. I played well last week because I fully believed in my swing.

Tomorrow, I need to regain the same trust and belief as last week when the closing holes approach. I am very much looking forward to redeeming myself in round 2 and shooting a score that gets my name closer to the top of the leader board.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The End of This Week's Hunt

As the day came to a close, I faced a 6 foot par saving putt on my 72nd hole. It had been a challenging day: I battled my swing, fatigue and the pressure and thrill of being in the hunt on the final day. My timing and rythm had left me on the first tee and I spent most of the day scrambling my golf ball around the course trying to salvage par. The back nine was bipolar: 5 birdies, 3 bogeys, a near hole in one and, dare I say, a shank. When this 6 footer on the 72nd hole fell, it would be my first par in 9 holes.

I closed with -3 69 on the final day to finish at -17 for the tournament and tied for 12th place. It was a solid event and marks the lowest 72 hole total of my professional career. While I wish I could have been a stronger contender on the final day, I am still pleased with the progress I'm making. This finish nearly secures my Canadian Tour card for next year.

I will write more in the coming days while I'm on my way to The Player's Cup in Winnipeg for the final stretch of this 3 week run. For now, it was great to feel the sunday rush of being in one of the final pairings and being in the hunt. Off to celebrate my best finish on the Canadian Tour so far. I'll look to top it next week in Winnipeg!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Contention in Saskatoon

Another round of 66 (-6) leaves me at -14 headed into the final round. I'm 5 strokes back but have a chance to contend for a win with a great closing round.

I started my round timidly, fighting a block-cut swing that left my tee shots sailing towards the tall native grass right of the fairways. After chipping out of the knee-high fescue at the 2nd, I played an approach shot to 10 feet and made the putt for birdie. After four straight pars, I made a 40 foot eagle putt on 7, birdied 9 and came to 10 at -4. The 610 yard monster played downwind, and I hit a driver and a three wood over the green. Facing a delicate chip over a severe slope, I played a chip and run 7 iron perfectly that found the middle of the hole for another eagle!

At -6 though 10 holes, the round looked promising. While I gave myself a few more great opportunities, the birdie train slowed as it reached the clubhouse and I parred the last hole for 66.

I felt a bit disappointed I couldn't squeeze a few more birdies out of Dakota Dunes Golf Links today. I still have a distant chance to win however. If I can convert a couple more tomorrow and close with the low score of the day, I'll have a great chance to win!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Going Low at Dakota Dunes

The wind was calm, the greens were receptive and the Dakota Dunes golf links was defenseless. I birdied my 18th hole today for a -6, 66 leaving me at -8 for the tournament.

Before teeing off, the buzz around the course was players were going low. The cut was moving to -3, then to -4 and eventually would get to -5! Feeling a bit nervous on the first tee, I popped up a 3 wood and left myself an intimidating approach shot of 210 yards to the 440 yard opening hole. I pulled out 6 iron and played a very solid shot that left me 12 feet from the hole. That would be the most challenging approach shot of the day.

I made a 15 foot eagle putt on my second hole and I was off to a quick start. I felt very comfortable all day, giving myself birdie attempt after birdie attempt (I would have 18 of them today). I hit 18 greens in regulation, the first time I've accomplished this during professional competition in over a year. It was one of those amazing and rare days when golf is actually easy because you're completely in control. I didn't convert quite as many birdie putts as I would have liked, but my putting certainly is showing signs of improvement.

Yesterday, I wrote if I continued to strike the ball well and gave myself chances, I would eventually capitalize on them and that is exactly what happened. At -8, I'm in great shape heading into weekend tied for 19th. Another great round like this tomorrow is just what the golf doctor ordered.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dakota Dunes Round 1

The golf course lent itself to low numbers today. With multiple rounds of 64 and 65, the field took it deep on the links course left unprotected by the wind. After a shaky start, I seemed to find a bit of momentum, birdieing my 4th, 7th, 9th and 11th holes of the day. The steady charge ran out of gas though and I closed with 7 straight pars to finish at -2, 70.

I feel very good about my game right now. I'm hitting lots of greens in regulation and giving myself great looks for birdie. I know if I can continue to give myself chances, when the putts fall, I'll go low. This was a solid start to the tournament and I've left plenty of room for advancement tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dakota Dunes Casino Open

After a disappointing final round last week, I'm playing for a bit of redemption tomorrow at the Dakota Dunes Casino Open. The course is unique from the others played on the Canadian Tour because it is a links course. The wind cuts across Saskatoon's open plains and across the course creating challenges at every hole. Yesterday afternoon, a storm flared creating an F3 tornado not far from the course.

The course is long at 7300 yards and despite afternoon showers, should play fast and firm. Massive slopes on the green edges will provide some opportunity for creative shot making. Based on how well I've struck the ball in the past week and a half, I believe this course will suit my game and give me an advantage over a shorter hitter. I should be one player in the minority that is able to reach some of the 600+ yard par 5s in 2 shots.

As always, putting is crucial. I've gone back to my belly putter and made some minor stroke adjustments this week that should give me a chance to hole more putts.

I'm looking forward to another great week and improving my results.

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th on the 4th

The 4th and final round of the ATB Financial Classic took place on the 4th of July. I sported the red, white and blue Pin High attire and believed I would make some fireworks. I lost my opening tee shot to the right woods and failed to save par.

Edmonton is a beautiful city with a massive gorge running through it's center. The gorge also guards the right side of the 3rd hole at Edmonton CC. I became a little more familiar with the landmark when I over cut my tee shot into the treacherous gorge. When I failed to convert a crucial bogey saving putt from 20 feet, I had lost three shots to par in the first three holes.

I hit two more poor shots on 8 and 9 leading to bogeys after failing to convert par saving putts. I closed my round solidly, but continued to miss likely birdie opportunities down the final stretch. 75 was the best I could manage on a day where nothing went right. If fireworks were lit, they backfired. This seems to be a reoccurring theme on the final day of play. I haven't been able to maintain a high level of play through 4 rounds of competition.

My body rotation gets a bit quick on the final day causing my downswing to get on top of the proper swing plane resulting in slices and pulls. In my last two day 4 final rounds, putts also have a way of veering away from the hole at important moments in the round.

The best way I know to overcome these final round disappointments, is to keep playing four round events. The more final rounds I play in, the more comfortable I'll become and I will break through and have success.

I don't feel the week has been a total loss though: I hit some great wedge shots, delighted a few fans with drives of epic proportion, tested out a new short putter in competition, and made a little money in the process. My host family, Barry and Susan Kuwalchuk, were absolutely amazing. Barry caddied for me, kept me relaxed and gave me some helpful perspectives. His energetic and very optimistic wife Sue was the best fan on the course!

Prior to last week, I hadn't planned to play this tournament at all. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to compete and believe I'll be more prepared for success at the next event.

I leave today for the next Canadian Tour event, The Dakota Dunes Open in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

ATB Financial Classic's Moving Day

Saturday saw some of the best shots I've hit in a long time. My ball striking was impeccable leaving many close birdie opportunities. I failed to convert most however, and struggled with my new putter for the first time. After a disappointing bogey at the last in front of the gallery, I finished with a -1, 70. Going into the final round I am tied for 27th at -2 for the tournament. If I can convert on similar opportunities tomorrow, I may be able to nab my first top 10 on the Canadian Tour. I've hit great shots and putts this week and tomorrow is a perfect chance to do both at the same time for an entire round!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Staying for the Weekend

After opening with 72 at the ATB Financial Classic, I finished my second round today at 69. I'm at 141 (-1) for the event and will make the cut. On my first hole of the day, I hit my drive behind a tree and had to chip sideways back to the fairway. A rocket 3 wood from 260 left me 8 feet and I was on my way. On my second hole, the ball moved when I placed my putter behind it on the green and I had to take a penalty stroke...this was an unfortunate break and it could have destroyed my positive energy if I had let it.

The desicive hole of the day was the 6th (my 15th... we started on the backnine). I hit a driver and a nine iron to the 507 yard par 5 to within 2 feet. A tap in eagle left a little safety net between the cut and I.

Tomorrow I will try to pick up where I left off and play to make birdies. I'm 6 back of the lead going into the weekend and a low score tomorrow would have me contending for a win come Sunday. Keep checking back for the good news!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ATB Financial Classic Round 1

This post will be abridged due to exhaustion: Wind kicked up and blew furiously in the afternoon, made ball striking very hard. My wedge was my magic wand and I pitched, chipped and punched it near the hole to save pars. I finished with 72 (+1)...tomorrow I play at 9:10 and have a great chance to jettison up the leader board.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ATB Financial Classic Practice Round

I've completed my practice for this week's ATB Financial Classic and am ready for competition. With its receptive conditions, short yardage and forgiving rough, Edmonton Country Club will yield many birdies this week. The greens are small with enough slope to create significant challenge for players leaving themselves slippery putts.

I had a great practice round today, hitting piercing cuts of the tee and throwing darts at the pin with my wedges. With my new Scotty Cameron in action this week, I feel very comfortable and prepared.

The true challenge as always lies in maintaining that comfort level during competition. If I can go out determined to hit great shots and remain resilient after a miscue, I will have an amazing week!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ATB Financial Classic

I got into the Canadian Tour's ATB Financial Classic in Edmonton this coming week. I fly into Calgary for a one day Pro-Am clinic Monday, and move onward to Edmonton that evening. The event is held at Edmonton Country Club and features a $250k purse.

I feel fortunate to have this opportunity, as it almost didn't come to fruition and will play to make the most of it. I will report more as the coming week arrives and I'm on the "fertile" Edmonton turf (Not my term...Wikipedia describes Edmonton as having "fertile" farmlands and I thought this word was funny and fitting).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Coming Events

For the coming Canadian Tour ATB Financial Championship, I am the third alternate on the field list. Meaning, between now and next week, if three people withdraw, I will get the magical call. I'm hoping this happens. I've switched putters to a Scotty Cameron Squareback 2 and am putting amazing! The ability to again make 20-30 footers is going to provide a new level of dynamism to my game. I played a skins game in Boca Raton, FL this past week on a 7,000 yard course in windy conditions and made 8 birdies and no bogies, carding a flawless 64 -- the best round I've played in over a year. I'm hoping to get the chance to put on a similar putting clinic at the ATB in 2 weeks!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Round 2, TCO

As the morning rounds ended and I was over an hour away from my 2:20 tee time, I overheard a player that had just completed his round say, "you guys are getting screwed." He was talking to my playing partner Barry O'Neil of Ireland, and he was referring to severe winds that kicked up around midday. The morning saw rain sprinkles and nearly non-existent winds. Then the sun arrived and with it came blustery, swirling winds that held steady at 25 mph.

I was resilient and determined all day, hitting the "low ball" to keep it under the wind. My chipping and pitching from the deep cabbage around the greens was spectacular. My putting improved slightly and although my ball striking was not in peak form, the windy conditions made this aspect of the game very challenging for everyone. I finished with a score of 70, but the total score of 144 for two rounds left me 2 strokes outside the cut line.

I've had tee times that have been very advantageous in the past, but round 2's was not one of them. Those breaks likely average themselves out at the end of a career. All I can do is focus on the fact that I played determined and focused golf in the second round, never quit on myself, and hit some quality shots in tough conditions.

The next event is the ATB Financial Open in Calgary, three weeks from today. Like the Terminator, "I'll be back" with guns ablaze and robotic precision.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Round 1 TCO

I continue to struggle with my putting and suffered three disastrous three-putts on the front nine. I hit four putts that lipped out or burned the edge of the hole on the back nine, but none dropped. The poor putting performance led me to post 74 in the opening round. I drove the ball decently overall, and my chipping and sand play shinned. I will build off those positive attributes for tomorrow's round. A golf cliche says that if the putts don't go in today, they'll all go in tomorrow: this is a brilliant marketing phrase surely created by some golf promoter, but I believe this will hold true for me. I am down, but not out. While it's been months since I've posted a competitive score in the 60s, I've compiled quite a few scores of this caliber over the course of my career and know how to make it happen. I will be well outside the cut when day 1 ends, but a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain is a dangerous competitor. Tomorrow, I will play on a mission to get inside the cut line and have a successful week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Tournament Book

If a week long golf tournament were a book and every day was a separate chapter, most books would start off similarly: travel, arrival, accommodation acclimation, course study and preparation, practice, rest, etc. But if in some Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness format, the narrative may play out uniquely, as the psychological always provides new challenge.

This week I arrived hopeful yet fatigued: both bad mental characteristics. Hopeful is practical but -20 par requires more than optimism. Thus, my challenge over the past two days has been to mentally transform "hopeful yet fatigued" into "determined, energetic and fearless." This psychological metamorphosis would be the interesting introduction to the tournament novel. The belief system is the baseline from which all shots follow. Deepak Chopra wrote in his Golf For Enlightenment, "don't blame your ball because you've loaded it with hidden and conflicting intentions."

So with less than a day before my opening tee shot in the Times Colonist Open, my technique feels comfortable enough to produce low scores. The course is in amazing condition despite heavy rains in the past two days: greens are true and fast, rough is thick and high, fairways are cut short and narrow.

It's now a matter of continuing to work towards solidifying my week's belief system that exudes confidence and trust. Most players know rationally where their "zone" is and can describe it, but the difference between knowing and feeling, determines success. I must rediscover my zone and work to remain in its flow, leaving behind hopefulness for complete self belief; relinquishing the need to control and surrendering to my own conditioned ability to place the ball where I intend.

While the rest of the book is unwritten, I've prepared myself to succeed and believe the book's closing chapter will be exciting and fun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lakewood Junior Golf Program

Lakewood Junior Golf Program from Mark Baldwin on Vimeo.

An amazing New Orleans junior golf program! I feel fortunate to be a part of it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ND Go Irish Post

A most recent Notre Dame fan blog featured a short post about my current status as a professional golfer. To visit the post, click here.

To my knowledge, there has never been a Notre Dame graduate play on the PGA Tour. I hope not only be the first to do so, but the first to win on the PGA Tour as well. Go Irish!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre...or lack there of

There was no glamorous storyline, no treasure, no direction from John Huston, but "Bogey" was part of my experience at the base of the Sierra Madres. It was a bad week for me on the greens. A few wayward swings and poor putting left me missing the cut this week. I gave myself more great birdie looks early in the round, but never converted.

While these "MC" (missed cut) weeks are very disappointing, I refuse to dwell on negative results. This is just the beginning of the tour season and my goal is to win on the Canadian Tour and peak at the end of the year just in time for PGA Tour Q-School.

I will regroup and be ready to contend at the next event in Victoria, Canada in one month.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Cause You Had a Bad Day..."

...The Daniel Powder song was the theme music to today's story. There isn't much I can say about today's round. I made two bad swings early playing aggressive approach shots that led to double bogies. After "steadying the ship" with two pars and a birdie, I made a poor driver swing and lost a ball on the 18th (my 9th). I spent the entire front nine trying to battle back, but the birdie attempts never came to rest in the bottom of the cup. It was a tough day and the only thing I can do to change my score of 78 today, is play the best golf of my life tomorrow. If I can play one of my all-time best rounds of golf and I get just a little help from the field, there is a chance I could play the weekend. If I can make this happen, tomorrow's theme will be Tina Turner's "Simply the Best."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Riviera Nayarit Classic

This week the Canadian Tour hosts the Riviera Nayarit Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The brand new, highly-anticipated Litibu Golf Course, will open just for this event. The Greg Norman design is amazing: 4 holes are set along the ocean with the 5th looking identical to the par 3, 7th at Pebble Beach. Every hole demands different shots and has tremendous character.

Some holes weave through the jungle and require players to shape their ball flights, and others bring gigantic contours into play around the fairways. The fairways are generous and the greens are large. Because the Mexican government offered the Canadian Tour this venue and Litibu has opened early, the course isn't quite tournament ready. While the fairways and bunkers are in spectacular shape and the views are heavenly, the greens are too new to cut short. The result is extreamly slow and inconsistent putting surfaces for the week. Because I putt best on tightly cut, speedy greens, my biggest challenge will be to remain patient and make sure every putt that does not drop in the cup, runs past the hole. This will give me the best chance to make solid strokes that result in made putts.

I have taken pictures of this amazingly beautiful golf course, but will not be able to upload them on the blog until I return home. (Be on the lookout over the next couple weeks)

My ball striking is consistently strong and my pitching has returned to a stellar level. I am going to enjoy the relaxing ocean walks, the challenges each hole present and the opportunity to play great golf in a top level event. Great things to come this week! I begin the quest for my first Canadian Tour win tomorrow at 2:30 pm.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Finals Round Paves Way for Fresh Start

Bad day. I began with two tough breaks. I was stymied up against two trees in my first three holes. This wasn't so much a result of bad swings as it was being unprepared for four rounds of competition in Mexican heat. I haven't played four competitive rounds consecutively since I last played in Asia in 2008. I just didn't prepare myself properly and was fatigued going into the final round.

While I finished the event at +2 and played my last 20 holes in +7, there were some good things that I can take away. Firstly, making the cut this week improves my tour ranking order, giving me entry into the first Canadian Tour event in Canada, the $250k Times Colonist Open in Victoria next month. Secondly, I made the cut in my first Canadian Tour event despite my game not being in top form. Thirdly, I was able to play four consecutive tournament rounds for the first time in over 18 months. This will help me be prepared for the coming tournament week.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the second event on the tour schedule. While I am disappointed in my finish this week, I am going to use the positive characteristics of the week to help propel my coming week of competition.

My caddie Sergio said to me this morning, "Last two holes yesterday, very bad Senor." I responded, "We're moving on with today." On a bit larger scale, this event is over and it is time to get focused on the new opportunity the coming week presents.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Moving Day

Today had serious potential. I gave myself frequent birdie chances on my front nine, but failed to convert most. I came away from the front nine at -1 with 2 birdies and 1 bogey. I hit a 6 iron from 198 to within 10 feet on the 535 yard par 5, 2nd hole (my 11th of the day because I began on the 10th). I poured the putt in for eagle and was on my way. A couple mental mistakes en route to the club house left me at -1 for the day after I tapped in at the last.

The score was not indicative of how well I played. The opportunities to shoot a very low score presented themselves today. If I can create similar opportunities for myself tomorrow, "moving day" (the standard name for day 3) may come a day late.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Coming Through in the Cluth

I don't often feel like I weathered a storm after I played. I don't often feel the need to breathe a sigh of relief. Today I did.

The conditions were hot and windy. The grain in the bumpy, inconsistent bermuda greens took many putts for detours around the hole. For 17 holes, almost all my birdie putts fell pray to these challenges. I struck the ball well today and gave myself the chance to shoot a great score had the putts fallen. After bogeying 17, I felt -1 may be the cut and I had dropped to even par for the tournament. I needed a birdie on the 9th (my 18th because I started on the back nine today).

I hit a brilliant 3-wood, splitting the narrow fairway lined with water, bunkers and o.b. stakes. I punched a 9-iron under the wind to the front hole location. 10 feet left. After surveying the putt I committed to the line and hit the ball squarely in the middle of the putter. I looked up to watch the ball fall into the center of the cup, assuring me a chance to play the weekend in my first Canadian Tour event of the year.

My round had so much potential, and it was exhausting remaining patient for 17 holes before I was able to watch a birdie putt fall in the hole. It was a full day's work, but making birdie on the final hole to secure a chance to play the weekend and make a paycheck, was worth the wait.

Five or six under par is very attainable. If I can shoot a low round tomorrow, I will have a chance to make a run at the lead come Sunday afternoon, and that will be really exciting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1st Round Mexican PGA Championship

I drove the ball well and was deadly inside of 10 feet with the putter to finish at -1, 71. To put myself in contention to win the tournament, I will need stronger iron play as the event continues. I started the day by hitting an approach shot over the top of the pin. My ball buried in the back bunker. 16 holes later, I hit another poor approach well past the pin, Sergio (my caddy) received my club and quietly sighed, "wrong club...again." It was actually more of a poor swing than a poor club selection (maybe a little of both), but my casually blunt, 67 year old Amigo, was not shy about letting me know he was disappointed. I plan on giving him more to cheer about tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Golf Tournament Preparation

The day before the tournament is always crucial. After a long day of travel and two of hard practice, it's a chance to catch up on some rest and do some last minute checks. On the day prior to competition, it's important for me to spend more time visualizing my rounds, than I do on the practice range. I create my final strategy, see myself playing my best and then for about 1 hour, I putt, hit chips, pitches, wedges and a few tee shots. Then it's time to turn off the side of my brain devoted to mastering golf, believe I have prepared as best I could, and relax. The final component to that plan can be the most difficult.

At 8:45 in the morning, I will blast a cut 3-wood down the 1st fairway and my event will be underway. You can visit for 9 hole score updates. Until the morning, I am going to forget I am a pro golfer, enjoy some tacos and hone my Spanish greetings.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Playing the Right Notes

Played my first practice round today. The breeze blowing off the ocean makes for some tricky tee shots on holes defined by king palms. Placement, not length, is crucial. It's 3 woods and 2 irons all day off the tee to set up shots from the 150 marker. It will be a putt off this week. The lowest scores will come from solid short iron play and better putting. With a new, comfortable grip on my putter, the club feels like an extension of my arms. It's like Clapton playing the blues. I'm just playing the right notes with the putter right now.

Tomorrow, I will play early with my caddy Sergio: an older man with a relaxed demeanor who shares my affinity for high heels on senoritas. Sergio will be my looper for the week and my guide through the ocean gusts and grainy greens of El Cid.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mazatlan Mexico

I spent the day traveling to the sunny, warm city of Mazatlan in central Mexico. I write this over looking the sun setting on a light blue sea. There is a pool that winds through the resort, complete with tiki bars serving Coronas and the gentle strums of James Taylor to encourage a carefree attitude and the purchase of more margaritas. Of course, this isn't the resort I'm staying at. I'm paying 300 pesos to use another resort's internet because my hotel doesn't offer this service.

The town outside the coastline where the airport is located, reminded me Johor Bharu Malaysia. Homes are brightly painted, thick graffiti lines the walls of every compound and the hot sun has left the ground charred.

I walked around the practice area of tournament course and saw the opening tee shot. Based on viewing one hole, I'm guessing the course will resemble a narrow, south Florida resort course with extremely grainy greens, strong ocean breezes and hazards lurking.

I'm excited to test my hypothesis tomorrow morning for the first practice round. The Corona Mexican PGA Championship begins Thursday.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Laconia Citizen Article

Ryan O'Leary of the Laconia Citizen, published an article today titled, "Incredible Emotional Journey," about the series of events that occurred leading up to me winning a Canadian Tour card. See it here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Concord Monitor Article

New Hampshire's Concord Monitor ran a concise article about my successful bid at Canadian Tour Q-School. See it here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pin High Golf Apparel

For the 2010 season, Pin High Golf Apparel and I have renewed our relationship. I will continue to wear their classic and extremely comfortable fits with simply brilliant and colorful designs, while competing on the Canadian Tour. Company President and CEO, Spencer Sebastian, has built a brand on a fast track to immense success: his company was voted "best emerging company of 2009" by Score Golf; Daniel Chopra of the PGA Tour and recent Nationwide Tour winner Robert Gates, don the Pin High clothing line; and Pin High is the official clothing partner of both the Canadian and Asian Tours. I am excited and proud to contribute to their continued success.

To see their full line, visit the Pin High Golf website.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Golf Swing

Filmed on the driving range at the TPC of Louisiana, this is the swing that gave my putter the chance to win a Canadian Tour card.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Canadian Tour Schdule

After qualifying for a Canadian Tour card last week, my first two events will come next month in Mexico, beginning with the Corona Mexican PGA Championship. The event is held in Mazitlan, Mexico and following that, I will travel to Puerto Vallarta for the Riviera Niyarit Classic.

Golf stars Steve Stricker, Mike Weir, Arron Oberholser and Will MacKenzie, have used the Canadian Tour as a launching platform to get to the PGA Tour. The Canadian Tour is managed and set-up similar to PGA and Nationwide Tour stops and provide players direct opportunities to play for spots in the Nationwide Wayne Gretzky Invitational and PGA Tour's Canadian Open. As a member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, the Canadian Tour receives world ranking points for every event, allowing players to achieve a world ranking and compete on other tours around the world.

This year has the potential to provide new opportunities and a greater competitive experience. I'm very excited to begin battling with very skilled players on great courses and get myself "in the hunt" to win a Canadian PGA Tour event.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Canadian Tour Q-School

"It would make a great story," said Cindy Cote, Canadian PGA Tour official.

She handed me a rules sheet for the week and I nodded. "Yes it will," I said. I smiled and headed off to walk the front nine of the second qualifying course for the Canadian PGA Tour. The day's light was fading, but I was determined to use every last bit of it.

About 24 hours earlier I was in New Orleans and by chance, had received word that Canadian Tour Q-School had a player withdraw. The tournament was a day and a half away. Surely I couldn't make it to Tampa, play two practice rounds and be prepared for four grueling rounds of competition in one day!

Without a moment's hesitation, and with the support of my golf coach and family, I drove down I-10 with the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" blaring. 10 hours later, I slept at a rest stop in Florida and by late morning, arrived at Hernando Oaks GC in Brooksville, FL. I was to play a practice round at Hernando Oaks and walk a few holes on Southern Hills Plantation CC, the second tournament site.

The impulsive decision to capitalize on this opportunity led to status on the Canadian PGA Tour for the 2010 season. After days of miserable weather and numerous delays, the event was shortened to a 36 hole competition. I posted rounds of 74-69 for -1, 11th place finish. The top 16 finishers were awarded the opportunity to compete on the Canadian tour this year.

Sometimes in life, but almost always in golf, acting on your first instinct pays off. These bets always make a great story.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kuala Lumpur Swing Video

I've discovered footage of my trip to asia never before seen on the blog. I will continue posting the videos here in the coming days. This was my corner of the range at Bukit Jalal CC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This crab grass patch of rough was where I called home for a few very humid weeks, at the end of 2007.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Painful Endings and New Beginnings

For the first time in my pro golf career, I had to withdraw mid-event due to a neck injury during last weekend's Emerald Coast Tour event. I went to see a Dr. Jaffe, an Orthopedic Surgeon in Birmingham, this week. X-ray and range of movements tests revealed there was nothing abnormally wrong, so I'm spending the week recovering.

This month, I will Monday qualify for the Nationwide Tour Louisiana Open in Lafayette, LA. The LA Open is the same event I Monday qualified for last year and missed the cut by a single stroke. This year, I expect improved results.

I am starting a new movement on this blog for the coming year. While continuing to 'tweet' results via Twitter (screen name: markbaldwin1), I will add short video blog posts to my site. This is going to be a new year with exciting results I will describe and exhibit with video.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010: A New Golf Odyssey

"Reality is an illusion. Albeit, a persistent one." ~Einstein

There is no sport more indicative of this statement than golf. Imagine: you are playing the best round of the year, you can do no wrong. You step on the 18th tee and stare down the par 5 you've birdied 100 times. "Oh yeah, I've got the perfect baby draw working today. What water hazard on the right!? All I'm seeing is that perfect angle into the flag about 300 out."

You tee your ball up and feel a slight gust from the gods moving the hair to the right side of your head. As you take your practice swing and feel the breeze pressing your shirt into your back (you are right handed of course), it occurs to you to aim farther left to account for the breeze. You open your stance slightly too much and now aim farther left than you would have advised yourself, just to be safe.

"A miss left is better than a miss right," you subconsciously rationalize.

Your swing is a bit more aggressive than normal causing your upper body to move outside "the slot." The club face moves across the ball along your toe line, starting left and cutting. The wind accentuates the ball spin and that minor setup miscue now has you playing your next shot in knee-deep mud.

This is the golf and this is life. In my world, the two are intertwined. Previous attempts to move up the pro golf hierarchy have ended this way. The "I was so close to..." is an all too familiar story.

With 5 months of golf education in Birmingham with my coach, I am ready to rewrite this story. Tournament finishes in the past months are as follows: 5th, 2nd, 4th, 1st. This week I will play the Emerald Coast Tour in Ocean Springs, Alabama in an effort to add a second consecutive win to this recent resume and to strengthen my preparation for that final tee shot with everything on the line.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Twitter Postings

Follow my Twitter postings for more frequent updates on my practice sessions and thoughts. Click on the Twitter button in the right column and start following my Tweets.