PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Chris Baker is a 33-year-old journeyman who marvels at all the crazy twists and turns in his road to the PGA Tour, at the exotic and not-so exotic stops along the way.
From little Seymour, Indiana, as a kid to the far-flung reaches of Kazakhstan, Morocco and Moscow as a pro, Baker has felt a sense of wonder in so many of these places, but never quite like what he felt Friday as a rookie climbing on to the leaderboard at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Baker shot an 8-under 64 in his first time around Pebble Beach Golf Links to move into weekend contention. He’s four shots off the lead.
“Pebble Beach is my new favorite golf course,” Baker said.
Technically, it wasn’t his first time around Pebble Beach. He played a practice round Wednesday.
Baker said walking around the hedge at the fourth tee to see rugged shoreline of Stillwater Cove sprawl out in front of him for the first time was breathtaking.
“I’m like, 'Wow, that’s incredible,’” Baker said.
Baker didn’t come flying out of Iowa State and take professional golf by storm. He bounced back and forth around the Hooters Tour, the eGolf Professional Tour, Europe’s Challenge Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour before finally earning his PGA Tour card last year.
He got to see St. Basil’s and the Kremlin in Red Square along his way.
He won in Morocco.
Golf has taken him to so many thrilling places, but none more so than Pebble Beach.
“There are times where it's tough, but there are also times like today, where you play Pebble Beach and you shoot 64,” Baker said. “So, that's pretty hard not to just smile about and be really happy.”
Baker opened his rookie season missing four consecutive cuts. He has missed seven of 10 so far, but he knows a lot tougher spells than that. He knows what it’s like to have his back against the wall, with almost nothing in his bank account. He knows hard work has always helped him find a way.
“You never know when the next opportunity is, and just kind of keep plodding along and try and stay upbeat,” Baker said. “I mean, I've beaten myself up enough, so you just try to stay up and keep moving forward.”
As wonders of the world continue to unfold around him.