During the planning stages of last years event, I was asked to do some minor consulting with the host organization responsible for the operation of the tournament. One of the things we discussed was how to handle the two sponsors exemptions which they controlled. Of the hundreds of requests they received, my thought was that Aaron Baddeley was probably the biggest name and would probably bring out the most fans.
At the time, the Diamondbacks were in the middle of their championship run in baseball, so our tournaments local media attention lacked somewhat. However, the valleys golf fans proved themselves savvy enough to know a good deal when they saw one and showed up in respectable numbers.
I remember when my producer dispatched me to go cover Baddeleys group. I was walking amongst a few in the gallery when this one gentleman approached me and said, 'I cant believe there isnt more gallery out here.' Well, it was late in the day and baseball was on TV, but there was a decent size gallery following Baddeley. The man continued, 'For $5 a day, I get a front row view of Aaron Baddeley. This is the greatest bargain ever for a golf fan.'
In time I believe the astute golf observer will be able to tell that story to a more disbelieving audience. But the point was well taken; Aaron Baddeley has about as much potential as anyone ever to tee up the golf ball in a Buy.Com Tour event. At the ripe old age of 21, Baddeley has a relatively long and proven resume. At 18 years old, he won the Australian Open as an amateur. The next year, he successfully defended - this time as a professional. Having already beaten many of the best players in the world, Baddeley opted to bypass the collegiate route and pursue his dream of following in his idols footsteps. Baddeley would someday like to play as many years in America as Greg Norman has, and he has designs on a couple of majors as well.
Pretty lofty talk for a 21-year-old, but when you talk to his peers, or should I say his competitors, they point to Aaron as the most talented of the lot. A day walking up and down the range asking about Baddeley netted such descriptions as 'a nearly perfect golf swing', and 'enough talent to win multiple majors'. Three-time Buy.Com Tour winner and typical class clown John Maginnes single-handedly voted him 'Most Likely to Succeed.'
The Buy.Com tour has been pretty fortunate through the years to see some amazing players come through the ranks. In 1990 it was Jeff Maggert and John Daly, in 1991 it was Tom Lehman, and the following years produced such current stars as David Duval, Ernie Els, Stuart Cink, and the list goes on and on. In time, and in my opinion, the tour will be able to look back at 2002 at feel fortunate to count Baddeley as one of its alums.
Last week at the Bank of America Monterey Peninsula Classic, a 25-year-old rookie stole the show by leading wire-to-wire and transcended his 112th position on the money list to capture the title. Roland Thatcher's play was awesome, but he even admitted he was feeling the pressure of the moment, and of the guy who was trying to catch him. Thatcher knew he was being chased by one of the best.
Baddeley never dropped enough putts to apply enough pressure, but he hung around all day and headed into the last hole two shots back and needing an eagle to have a chance. After Thatcher had laid up, Baddeley hit a laser-like missile of a 3-iron. It was just the kind of shot that champions hit when needed. I think it was my colleague Kay Cockerill who said, 'Baddeley has that ability to sense the moment.'
She was referring to the intangibles, those champion traits that usually cant be taught. In other sports its referred to as that desire to want the last shot. And when you combine world-class physical tools with the character of a champion, a relatively lethal talent results.
Aaron Baddeley moved up to 17th on the money list and is a great bet to finish the year in the top 15 and graduate directly to the PGA Tour for next year. As with most of the great ones to come through this tour, Baddeleys stay is but a sojourn. We havent gotten to enjoy him for too long on the Buy.Com Tour, but odds are well be seeing plenty of him on golfs grandest stage.
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