Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dakota Dunes Open Round 1

For those of you following, you may remember last year at Dakota Dunes Golf Links on the Canadian Tour, I shot -17 and finished tied for 12th. Reliving some of those shots coming into this week, I was quite excited to build on that performance…perhaps too excited. Too much practice time on Tuesday had me spending all day Wednesday rehabbing my stiff and aching left knee. I entered today’s opening round with one goal in mind: to enjoy the day, keep my mind very quiet and worry free and stay patient. Because I continued focusing on achieving these goals, I finished by birdieing my closing two holes of the day to shoot -2, 70. I could have easily become frustrated at various moments throughout the day when my play didn’t live up to its potential. The most obvious moment came at the 7th hole (my 16th since I started on the back nine) when I hit a 340 yard drive that nestled underneath the lip of a bunker which rests in the right center of the fairway. That result led to a scrambling par effort instead of an eagle opportunity and I had lost a stroke to the leaders. I repeated to myself down the very difficult and long 8th hole that if I could hit a great approach shot, I could make up the lost stroke. A perfect 5 iron landed four feet from the hole like a butterfly with sore feet and after I made the short putt, a birdie had me under par. It was patience and the challenge I issued to myself on the approach shot that propelled me to birdies my final two holes. The 70 matches my opening score from last year, although today’s conditions were slightly more difficult. Looking forward to enjoying a great second round at 1:40 pm tomorrow!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SBO Results

After 2 days of playing in the rain, the clouds were blown away by the blustery, swirling winds of Fort McMurray. The winds blew through the narrow tree lined holes as as if being pushed into corridors of a building and then swirling in all directions. It was common today for me to select a shot with the wind blowing in one direction and by the time I was ready to play, the wind had shifted completely. After bogeying three of the first four holes, I regrouped to shoot even par for the day. My 72 hole total of -1 left me tied for 34th position, an improvement of 12 spots from last week. While I need to play par 5s better (usually my bread and butter) and find a way to make a few more putts on the weekend, this is definitely a step in the right direction. The course was one of the narrower and most penal venues the Canadian Tour has stopped at since I gained my tour card (I only hit driver 8 times in 72 holes all week if that is any indication). Thus, my advantage of being a long driver of the ball was removed. Despite this, I still managed to give myself a plethora of very viable birdie chances this week. This means my iron play is improving and my decision making is certainly getting better. All great signs. I take 3 weeks of competitive improvement into this coming week’s event in Calgary. I’ll take tomorrow off and rest my knee in Edmonton and be back in action Tuesday at Bearspaw Country Club. Another great week ahead!

Hope Drenched

It was a long, wet 3rd round today. Rain soaked the course from start to finish with 2 weather delays in between. All time compiled, the final round took just over 8 hours. It was a mental grind. I played the first 8 holes very solid making it through them in -2, then came the weather horn. Two and a half hours later, I teed up on 9. We made it 2/3 of the way down the par 5 11th hole before the rain had caused the second round of green submersion. Nearly two hours of waiting out the 2nd delay and I was back in position at 2 under par and 70 yards from the pin in the middle of the soaked fairway. It was here where the wheels came off. A dead chunked 60 degree wedge led to a bad bogey and 7 more holes of miscues. I finished the day with a disappointing score of even par, 72. The day had lots of potential, but I wasn’t able to sustain an upbeat tempo through the 4 hours of delays. I go into tomorrow’s 4th round at -1 for the tournament and will look to play great to add some momentum to the start of the next event.

Oil Open Round 2

Wild day at the Syncrude Boreal Open. The rain drenched the course during my opening 9 and thanks to some tremendous iron play from the wet, thick rough, (which doesn’t say much about my tee shots) I stepped onto the 10th tee at -2 for the day. The rain abated and the wind kicked up. Our group had fallen 2 holes behind the group in front of us and we were placed “on the clock” (when a rules official times each player and penalizes them if they take more than :40 for one shot). During the three holes we were timed, my swing began to unravel and an indecisive swing following an aggressive approach shot into a par 5 led to a double bogey. My energy had diminished and my faith in my swing with it. A few tentative shots left me 20 feet for birdie on the par 5 8th hole (my 17th). Knowing I was towing the cut line, the putt had to go in and I drained it! I thought I was clear of the cut at -2 for the tournament on the last tee. I then blocked a tee shot 20 yards into the dense trees and found it nestled between three tree trunks. With an unplayable lie and a small opening in the trees, the cut was getting sharper by the stroke. I managed to position my ball 15 feet from the hole in 4 strokes on the par 4 9th. I was sure I had to make the bogey putt to make the cut. I focused, believed and trusted the ball would find the bottom of the cup. After I stroked the putt and looked up, I was very relieved to see the ball fall over the center of the hole with perfect speed! A few fist pumps later, I had made the cut at -1 through 36 holes and began preparing for tomorrow: moving day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Syncrude Boreal Open Round 1

The Canadian Tour stops in the oil capital of North America this week, Fort McMurray, Alberta, for the $150,000 Syncrude Boreal Open. Fort McMurray Golf Club features narrow holes carved through dense tree lines and attack flies larger than the horses they’re named after. A ball hit into the trees is doomed to be lost and for those crazy enough to go searching, they are at the mercy of the swarms of bugs that pounce like viscous piranhas. I started the tournament by shooting a -2, 70 on day 1. I hit solid shots off the tee and made a couple deft saves around the greens. To ascend the leaderboard tomorrow, I will need to hit my approaches closer to the hole and give myself a few more legitimate birdie opportunities. While I’m not yet healthy, I feel great about the progression of my game in the past month and look forward to a great week!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Canadian Open Qualifier

After the final round of the Western Championship presented perfect scoring condition that I wasn't able to capitalize on (I posted 72 for the day, -9 for the tournament), I drove 5 hours last night to Vancouver for the Canadian Open (5 million dollar PGA Tour event) qualifier today. The traditional layout of narrow, well framed holes and slick greens was sure to be a challenge in the windy, rainy conditions. With most of the 144 players comprising the field being Canadian Tour players, I would need to play a very solid round to advance (the top 22 moved on to the final monday qualifier). That's exactly what I did. I made a 15 foot birdie putt on the day's final hole to post -2, 70 and finish tied for 6th. I will advance to next month's final stage of Canadian Open qualifying and considering I've shot even par of better in five straight days of competition and my knees are finally beginning to feel normal, I am happy with the progression of the last week. Will write more in the coming days as I have this week off before a 5 week stretch of consecutive events. Currently sitting in Vancouver airport cheering on the about dangerous!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Round 3 Western Championship

I stood on the driving range hitting the ball sideways this morning. The various pieces of my golf swing felt completely out of control and disconnected. As I walked to the first tee, my self pep talk was all about tempo and acceptance. If I could control the rhythm of my swing, I could indirectly control club positions and thus, my shots. If I happened to hit a few shots sideways, I would accept them and enjoy the challenge of scrambling from a tough spot. Well, 16 greens in regulation later (that's hitting the ball very well for all you non-golfers), a cold putter left me with a score of -2, 70 and -9 through 54 holes. Because the round had so much potential, I left the course disappointed; feeling like I had let a chance to get in the hunt (the leader is currently at -17) slip away. While that is certainly true, the larger picture indicates that I've made tremendous strides considering 2 weeks ago, I could barely walk and was convinced I wouldn't compete at all. I play tomorrow at 9:39 and will then drive immediately to Vancouver (5 hours away) for a Canadian Open qualifying round. It's been an exciting week and if a few putts fall tomorrow, a top 10 finish is very attainable.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Western Championship Round 2

Another day of minimal winds and soft conditions left Riverside Golf Links defenseless. I played a flawless front 9 shooting -3 taking me to -7 for the event. After 3-putts on 11, 12 and a terrible wedge shot on 14, I had run off 3 bogies and was back to even par for the day, a score that would surely get lapped by the field and leave me in jeopardy of missing the cut (which ended up being -4). I needed to hit a great tee shot at the 560 yard, par 5 15th and I turned to the club I have relied heavily on in the past day, my 3 wood. I made a perfect swing hitting a 320 yard bomb downwind and proceeded to make a tap in birdie. That swing turned my mentality around and I birdied 3 of the closing 4 holes for a score of 69 (-3). I go into tomorrow 7 shots behind the leader and with no cut to consider, will play aggressively and do my best to get in the hunt for Sunday. Overall, I'm most proud of the way I was able to persevere and turn my energy around following three bogies. My decision making and outlook has been nearly perfect in the first two days and when a few more putts fall tomorrow, I'll be within striking distance on Sunday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Western Championship Round 1

Beyond the massive, snow covered peaks that rise above Vancouver sits a little valley town in the Canadian desert called Kamloops. Yes, I said Canadian desert. Riverside Golf Links plays host to the Canadian Tour's Western Championship. The course is a links style with deep fescue grass lining the fairways and swirling winds. During the opening round today, I smoothly swung my way up the leaderboard, carding a -4, 68. As it's only the second week back from my formerly debilitating left knee injury, it felt amazing to regain some comfort in competition today. I strode energetically up the fairways with about a million grams of endorphins flowing through my body. Tomorrow I will continue my assault on par and look forward to positioning myself for an epic weekend run!

Early Exit from TCO

If you had of told me Sunday afternoon that not only was I going to compete in the Canadian Tour's Times Colonist Open, but I was going to shoot 144 for the first two rounds (73-71), I likely would have been happy. As I sat at my departure gate after being barely able to walk from my arrival gate during a layover at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, I was fairly certain it was unlikely I would compete this week. It had been over a month since I'd been able to hit any balls on the range or played a full round of golf and my left knee was just not healing. Maybe I had been overly optimistic in thinking I would find a way to compete and could ignore the vexing soreness in my knee that radiated through my leg with every swing and stride.

I spent most of Monday resting and treating the knee. Tuesday I surprised myself by walking 18 holes during the pro-am. I had to manipulate my swing to take as much stress out of the left knee as possible (neither being easy easy to do). I was able to play 9 holes Wednesday and spent the rest of the day tending to the injury. I knew Wednesday night that achieving great results would be as easy as writing a novel using a pencil with a broken tip (but at least I had a writing utensil that might work).

As I stood on the first tee I was exhilarated. It was as if new life had been breathed into me. Blood coursed rapidly through my veins and my body felt like it was on fire. While I limped around, was unable to crouch down and read putts and undoubtedly still swung tentatively and differently, I competed hard and almost beat the odds by making the cut (the cut at this moment, 3:50 pm Pacific time, is at 143 and will likely remain there leaving me 1 stroke out of a weekend bid and ultimately, a paycheck). It is because I devoted myself so fully to the competition this week that I am really disappointed I wasn't able to hole one more putt. There are few pains in golf that sting as deeply as missing a cut by a single stroke.

Overall however, I believe I'm becoming healthier, healing faster and will be more poised for a great showing in the weeks that follow. If there is one thing I'm taking away from my comeback week, it is the amazing healing power of competition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Putting Down Pain

I've been battling a resilient torn meniscus in my right knee and because I've favored my left leg for two months now, increasing pain there as well. Because of this and the need to be ready for a full season of competition, I made the decision last week to withdraw from the Mexican PGA Championship (scheduled for this week) and visit my Doctor. Yesterday I received cortisone injections in both knees and will see the Doctor for a follow-up later this week. If these treatments create more stability and less pain, I will be ready to start playing in full week competitions within two weeks. My tentative plan is to compete in an EGolf tour event in North Carolina at the end of the month before heading to Victoria, BC for the Canadian Tour.

I tried rushing back to competition in the past two weeks playing multiple 1 and 2 day events in south Florida. Despite two encouraging scores of 65 and 67 and making checks during those weeks, my knees left me unable to practice and compete at my full potential and led to the decision to focus on getting completely healthy. I am more optimistic this morning after yesterday's injections, that my knees won't continue to plague my progress. Pain makes you appreciate the simple luxury of a healthy body. That appreciation alone may save me one shot per side!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Dark Knight

"The night is darkest before the dawn." ~Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight

Maybe it's the optimist in me that has shut down the Mark Baldwin golf blog in the off-season -- an identity I've clung to. An identity that wouldn't allow me to write about being broke or barely able to walk because, who wants to hear about that? I've always believed people have gravitated towards my positive outlook on life. A shortcoming of mine -- I've always valued others' perception of me. So, while I set up this blog to keep people updated about my golf career -- for you dear reader ;) -- this is not a blog post, but a journal entry for my own well being.

Developmental tour golfers must see the scorecard half full of pars, even when the other 9 are inked in black. The lack of posts over the winter have led to emails and Facebook messages asking, "you're still trying aren't you?" And I've been trying, and trying harder. But trying harder only reinforces what you were doing when you're trying. The re-birth of this blog as "journal" isn't rooted in optimism, it's rooted in my reality. The sometimes harsh reality of entrepreneurship, of dream chasing, of professional golf: the odds aren't in your favor and there will be more setbacks than successes. But 1 success after 20 failures could get you on the PGA Tour. The odds then must be stacked against me as success is so intertwined with failure.

The Mark Baldwin of the past may not have written the coming sentence: It's been a tough off-season plagued with injury, heart ache, and an empty bank account, maybe the most difficult yet. It started with the ending of a three year romance. I then didn't go to Q-School last fall because I couldn't scrounge up the entry fee. For a while, I was scouring the cracks between seats for enough money to buy a box of pasta, or a gallon of gas to get to a job interview. As I sit here writing this, a slowly healing meniscus tear that has kept me off my feet for the past three weeks is being iced. I tore it landing an unfortunate stride while working a demanding 6-day-a week caddy job I was grateful for.

These types of challenges have become so common place though, my natural reaction is not to react. The goals in my mind are so clearly forged that my commitment to achieving them is unwaivering and unfazed. What many practical, intelligent people with steady jobs may call failure, I don't lend energy towards considering. These occurences are events. The sum of these events equal rock solid determination, commitment and character. I only now have come to honestly study the events of the past 6 months and provide this limited characterization. My occurrences are not uncommon. They are shared by the majority who achieve something that is truly joyous. Because of these occurrences, the smell of cut grass becomes fresher, each strike of the ball is crisper, each painless stride becomes energetic and each friend is more loved.

My grandfather liked to use the common expression, "golf is a game of inches" and the millimeters between those inches determine who gets paid and who has to get another job. My unwaivering belief is defined by disappointment. Without setbacks synonymous with disappointment, I would not be so committed to winning on the PGA Tour. I was able to work on my short game for over and hour today and hit full sand wedges on a driving range. Time seemed to slow. The ball appeared suspended in air. Every second, I was grateful.

From a practical perspective, the night may be shadowed with deathly hallows, from mine, the dawn approaches.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


With an exciting 2011 season on the horizon, I wanted to bring together blog posts, tweets, news, video and other updates into one central location to make following me easier. Check it out here! Comments and suggestions welcome.