Baker caps off junior campaign at state
WINDSOR – At Highland Meadows Golf Course, there are plenty of bunkers.”We didn’t call them bunkers. We called them craters,” said Eagle Valley’s Jeanette Baker. “On one hole, there were eight-foot high walls.”Baker played the challenging Highland Meadows course in Monday and Tuesday’s 4A girls state golf tournament. Not only did Baker have to take on the course, but she also had to battle some cold temperatures and rain showers. And there was also the field of the best golfers in the state, many of whom play year-round.In her first state appearance, Baker shot a 206 over two days.”I was hoping to do better, but, all things considered … I was nervous and it was the hardest course I’ve seen,” Baker said. Baker did a good job avoiding the giant craters during the tourney, and shrugged off a weather delay on No. 6 Tuesday.On Hole No. 6, the No. 1-handicapped hole on the course, Baker’s drive flew over a large ravine and landed in the fairway. But Baker and her group had to head back to the clubhouse.”We were the furthest away from the clubhouse … and we had to go wait there, then come back,” Baker said.
After the trek back out, Baker laid up her next shot in front of another ravine, then avoided a sand trap right in front of the green. With a two putt, Baker finished with a six.”Some girls were shooting 10’s and 12’s on that hole,” Baker said. “To tell you how hard this hole is, we were about a hole-and-a-half behind other groups, and when we (got to No. 6), we ended up having to wait for three other groups to go because they lost balls and had to get (officials) over to make rulings.”The long-hitting Baker pulled in pars several par 5’s, as well as a few on par 3’s Monday.”(That’s) surprising because I’m bad at driving with my irons,” Baker said.Baker thought the speed of the greens were difficult to read; getting them on was no cakewalk, either.”One (green) would be on the sunny side of the course and really fast, and you’d get to a hole where it would be raining and it was slow,” Baker said. “So you just had to adjust. And all the pin placements were next to craters.”And there wasn’t much leeway in the rough.”If you didn’t hit it on fairway, the second-cut was thick, heavy grass,” Baker said. “You go to hit a 7-iron 150 or 160 yards, and if it was in the rough, you’d get it 120 yards.”
Cutting strokesThe three-sport junior, Baker didn’t pick up a golf club until her freshman year.”Some of the girls were coming up, had really nice clubs, and we asked if they played other sports, and they said, ‘No, just golf,'” Baker said. “I told them I was in the gym for the first half of my season.”I told some of the girls I didn’t even put on golf patch on my varsity jacked because I’d figured I’d quit,” Baker said. “I told them I can’t get frustrated because it’s my fun sport.”But Baker is doing more than just having a good time. “Every year (my handicap) is dropping down 10 strokes,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s not bad. I’ll stick with it.’ It gave me motivation to work hard and represent Eagle Valley.”Baker’s teammates were there to support her, as was her dad. On Monday, Ken Reagan, Baker’s basketball coach took the day off to join her, while Baker’s golf coach Cory Strickler was on hand Tuesday.
“It was really nice having them there,” said Baker.Strickler was impressed by Baker’s composure.”For her first time at state, she did a good job,” Strickler said. “She was hard on herself. But our girls here only have a couple months of the golf season and expect to turn into a pro.”She’s the No. 1 golfer on our team. She’s one of those girls who picks it up for the season, and call still pull off an average of 95.”This summer, in addition to playing softball on the Front Range, Baker plans to hit the links at Eagle Valley’s home course – Cotton Ranch Golf Club.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.