Support helps Baker stay on course


Hometown supporters abounded.

During the Barbasol Championship at the Champion Trace course at Keene Trace Golf Club, they included Brownstown Central High School administrators and a coach, friends and of course, family. There also were people who picked up on his recent success and wanted to witness it firsthand. The fans were from a variety of ages.

Brownstown native Chris Baker has always made his hometown proud since becoming a professional golfer in 2008, but that has kicked up a notch since earning his PGA Tour card.

In June, the 35-year-old competed in his first major, the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California. He qualified after shooting -5 across 36 holes at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, with his dad, Jim, as his caddie.

His parents, fiancée, sister and sister’s fiancé were there to watch him make the cut on the Friday of the U.S. Open to continue playing Saturday and Sunday. He wound up placing in the top 30 and gained attention for making ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 for holing out from the fourth fairway bunker for an eagle.

In early July, Baker again made the cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Michigan. His final score of -6 tied him for 58th place. Again, his parents and some local supporters made the trip to support him.

The past two weekends, he missed the cut by one stroke in the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, and the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

At the latter event, he had one of the larger contingents of people following him from hole to hole. I considered myself fortunate to be one of them.

As my brother, Josh Spicer, and I arrived at the course Friday afternoon, we immediately could tell we were at a PGA Tour event. It was a new experience for both of us.

At the gate, we were told to turn around and drive to a church 2 miles away to park and get on a bus back to the course. There is a limited amount of parking at golf courses, and when the PGA Tour is in town, fans flock there for the opportunity to see the best of the best golfers, from newcomers to rising stars to veterans.

Once we got off of the bus, we walked toward the first hole and realized we just missed Baker’s group and found them finishing at the second hole.

Throughout the course, there were ropes to separate the fans from the players and caddies, large boards listing the tournament scores and details about the golfers currently on that hole and the presence of a national television crew.

Also, there was a large portable grandstand with views of the ninth and 18th holes and officials on the course tracking distances or holding up signs to keep fans quiet on tee shots and around the greens.

Those signs were lowered between holes, and my favorite moment Friday was when one of Baker’s friends, Mat DuSablon, shouted “Let’s go, Bake!” as he walked between two holes on the back nine. That drew Baker’s attention, and he smiled at his friend.

You could tell that’s just what Baker needed in that moment.

A birdie on the par-3 second hole put Baker at -1 for the round. He needed to be at -4 by the end of the day to make the cut to play on the weekend.

On the 11th hole, he reached the green in four and had a three-putt for a double bogey, putting him at 1 over. He quickly bounced back with a birdie on the 12th hole to pull even.

He strung together four pars before another birdie on the 17th hole to put him at -1 for the round and -3 overall.

On the final hole, he needed a birdie to make the cut but just missed a putt.

As rain began to fall, a group of fans gathered near the clubhouse holding umbrellas. Baker’s mother, Becky, received a text message that he was coming out to greet her and the other supporters.

While he may have been disappointed with just missing the cut, Baker expressed his appreciation to the people for making the trip to support him. He received some encouraging words before and after gathering for a group photo with the supporters.

It’s moments like that when having other people’s support means the most.

Golf is a tough sport, both mentally and physically. There are ups and downs in more ways than one. Some days, tee shots are strong, but you struggle with the short game. Some days, it’s the other way around. Some tournaments, you make the cut and advance. Other weeks, you miss the cut and refocus for the next event.

While you’re out there on the course competing on your own, it has to make a world of difference knowing people are there supporting you along the way — whether watching in person or following results on the internet or television.

I know Chris Baker appreciates the support. After each PGA event this summer, he has posted on social media reflecting on his rounds, thanking fans and sharing info about his next tournament.

His goal is to keep his PGA Tour card. That’s based on points, and Baker needs to reach at least 125th place in the standings to do so. Currently, he’s 191st.

This weekend, he’s competing in the 3M Open in Minnesota. Then he will have the Barracuda Championship in California from Aug. 5 to 8.

Whether they are watching in person or from afar, I know the hometown fans will continue to support Baker. As Mat said, “Let’s go, Bake!”

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