Baker battles back to course, state | VailDaily.com
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Baker battles back to course, state

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Daily file photoEagle Valley's Jeanette Baker hits onto the green last year at Cotton Ranch Golf Club. Baker missed most of the season with health problems but advanced to the state tournament Tuesday.
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DELTA ” Early this golf season, Jeanette Baker wasn’t worried about sinking putts to save par. The Eagle Valley golfer had more important things on her mind, like her health.

On March 18, Baker had her appendix removed and was hoping to make a quick recovery.

“It ended up having a tumor on it,” Baker said.

For two weeks, Baker waited while she and her family hoped for some good news, which finally came when she heard the tumor wasn’t malignant.

“I was so relieved. So was my family and everyone else,” Baker said.

At this point of the season, Baker still wasn’t thinking much about dropping her handicap, and two days ago at regionals in Delta, she wasn’t holding herself to her usually high standards.

“My expectations weren’t to go to (back to) state,” Baker said.

After a phenomenal practice round Monday, Baker started out Tuesday’s round with a 44 on the front before running into a bit of trouble on the back, but her final tally of 98 was good enough to send the senior back to state for the second time.

“Somebody wanted me to go to state,” Baker said. “I got a tattoo of the cancer ribbon (by her surgery scar) last week, so that was my good-luck charm.”

When she finished her round at the Devils Thumb Golf Course, though, Baker thought she had played her final round of high school golf.

“I told my coach (Charly Hoehn) that I though I shot a 101, and I was crying because I thought that was the last time,” Baker said. “But the scorecard came in, and it ended up being a 98, and I was so relieved.”

But the officials told Baker she would have to go into a playoff hole with another opponent, just like last year, only to inform her awhile later that she wouldn’t need to.

“I was proud. With the circumstances and just being able to go, this was something I’ll never forget,” Baker said.

Along with Baker, three other Devils competed at regionals, with Mikaela Nevin coming close to the cut at 104, Keegan Hammond a few strokes behind at 107 and Emily Boyd at 116.

“It was a tough course,” Hoehn said. “The weather was nice, which was helpful, though, but Mikaela got robbed in her pairing. She went out at 10:50 a.m., and the wind picked up in the middle of her round. She was on track to make it but stumbled on the last two holes.”

While Baker missed the Devils Thumb tournament earlier this year ” it was two days after she had her appendix removed ” she had a chance to reacquaint herself with the fairways and greens during the practice round.

“That round was so much better (than Tuesday). I was paring every hole. I thought I was going to break the course record,” she said.

Baker eagled No. 13, a 295-yard par 4. After a giant drive that left her a few inches from the pin, she tapped in.

Tuesday started out well, with Baker picking up four pars on the front.

“I was hitting (my driver) awesome,” she said. “I was just cranking drives nice and straight and getting up and down. On the back nine, it was into bunkers and over greens into more bunkers.”

Hoehn was impressed with Baker’s fortitude down the final stretch.

“She has that mentality of never giving up and giving it all she has. That’s how she’s been all season. She’s had a lot of things to overcome,” Hoehn said.

By the time Baker tees off at state in two weeks, she’ll be in midseason form.

“She’ll have the opportunity to break 90,” Hoehn said. “We’ve been wanting to do that all season. And our home course is Cotton Ranch, which makes others seem easy.”

Much like she did at regionals, Baker isn’t putting any pressure on herself.

“It’s really nice to go to state and not have any expectations,” Baker said. “I want to do it for my coach Charly ” she stuck with us all season.”

If things keep going the way they have lately for Baker, she won’t have to worry too much. On Wednesday, after Baker had her interview as a finalist for the Pete Nolan Scholarship, her team won the Powder Puff football game, and she was also recently invited to play at the Western Slope All-Stars softball game later this month.

“Then I have project graduation, so it’ll be a busy couple of weeks,” said Baker, who will be heading to Metro State next year, where she’ll look to play softball. “I’m really excited for the future.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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