BC grad Baker is PGA Tour bound


Chris Baker is a PGA Tour pro.

After fighting for seven years, the Brownstown Central High School graduate tied for fourth place Monday in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, lifting him to 15th in the overall standings and qualifying him for the PGA Tour.

He did it all in front of his family and friends, who he says pushed him into fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing at the sport’s highest level.

It’s a nice bounce-back for Baker after missing the cut in the first of three final events and finishing tied for 37th in the second.

Yet, if it wasn’t for Baker’s 2013 tournament win at the Cedar Rapids Open in Iowa, he may not have ever earned his pro card.

Had he not won that tournament, he might have given up on golf altogether.

“Bills were higher than I would have liked, money was basically nonexistent in my bank account and then I signed up for the Cedar Rapids Open,” Baker said. “I was so down, I just missed the cut prior at the Waterloo Open and had one foot out the door ready to be done with golf.”

It just wasn’t worth it to keep going, said Baker, who said two years of playing on the PGA’s Mini Tours in 2012 and 2013 was starting to weigh on him.

But then he won the open and was given a large novelty check, which he still keeps in his apartment, keeping his golf career alive. He paid off his bills, signed up for qualifying school and got his Web.com card the following year.

“That tournament right there kept me playing golf,” Baker said. “Had I not won that tournament, who knows what would’ve happened.”

Since then, it has been all about learning for Baker. Each year, he said, is about getting just a little bit better. This year, he added onto it, focusing on putting himself in contention to play great golf and finish out tournaments.

In 2019, Baker has had seven top-10 finishes, coming in fourth three times, including Monday’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

After Friday and Saturday’s rounds, Baker was firmly in the lead and looking to put behind him the heartbreak of just missing the PGA Tour card cut three weeks ago in Portland. Baker failed to make the cut in Portland and was 26th in the season-long standings. The top 25 in the season-long standings receive their card.

Baker credits his excellent first two rounds to a more relaxed approach, and it showed with an eagle and a birdie back-to-back on holes 8 and 9.

But during Sunday’s round, he admits, he tried too hard.

“It was one of those things where you try to hit birdies, you get close and the putts don’t go in and everything just kind of piles up on itself,” he said.

He went 1-over-par for the day, sliding down the leaderboard and feeling his pro card was slipping through his fingers.

Some encouraging words, coupled with the support of his friends and family, put his mind at ease before the final round.

“Sometimes, you just wake up and it’s your time,” Baker recalls being told before he teed off on Labor Day.

The last two holes of his final round couldn’t have been more stressful. He double-bogeyed the 17th hole with a three-putt, and his tee shot on 18 went into the bunker. He needed two putts to earn par. His birdie putt was short, but his par putt turned right into the cup, clinching his card.

Still, his mind was at ease.

Coming back home to Jackson County also played a role in his mended emotional approach.

Last Wednesday, Baker rolled into town and played at Hickory Hills Golf Club and was able to visit with some friends and family. He said it gave him a chance to reset and get his mind right before he headed down to Newburgh to fight one more time for his dream.

“It was just cool to be home, have fun and get away from it,” Baker said. “It kind of just got me back … it got me back to my roots, and it was nice to just kind of reset because I hadn’t been home in forever.”

Home now for Baker is Jacksonville, Florida, a place he just got back to Tuesday morning after catching a 6 a.m. flight just hours after sinking his final putt at Victoria National Golf Club.

But there won’t be any time for him to sit down and process his accomplishment, needing to prepare for the effects of Hurricane Dorian, which is bearing down on the east coast of Florida.

Unfortunately, the storms also will keep him from preparing for his second PGA Tour event, the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia, which begins Sept. 12. His first PGA event was the 2016 Honda Classic.

Amidst all that stress, he still knows he belongs.

“I know I belong, and to be honest, I’m just excited for the opportunity to get back to work the next coming week,” Baker said.