12-year-old golfer collecting aces

N.C. phenom has five holes-in-one

Staff writerJuly 22, 2009 

  • David Baker's tips to making a hole-in-one

    I don't think too much about the shot.

    I make sure to pick the right club.

    I do my regular (pre-shot) routine, breathe and relax. Then I tell myself to hush to clear my mind.

    I make sure to keep my head down. I know others are watching the shot.

    When you make an ace, you stop thinking. You just start celebrating.

Ask David Baker to tell you about the five holes-in-one he has made in his golf career, and he can give you the details.

"The first one was in 2005 at The Warrior [in China Grove]. It was the sixth hole, 107 yards, and I used a 7-iron. It took one bounce on the green, almost stopped, then fell in, ..." he says.

"The second was at Tillery Tradition [in Mt. Gilead] in 2006 on No. 17. It was 100 yards, and I used a 7-iron. It took one bounce and fell in. ...

"I made the third one earlier this year at The Meadowlands [in Winston-Salem] on No. 3. It was 113 yards, and I used a 9-iron. It flew right in the hole. ...

"The fourth one was at Bermuda Run West [in Advance] on No. 8. It was 116 yards, and I used an 8-iron. That was on June 11. ...

"Then I made one at Asheboro Country Club on No. 7 [on June 30]. It's uphill, 134 yards, and I used a 6-iron. I couldn't see it go in, but I knew I hit a great shot. My dad thought it was over the green, but I had that special feeling."

David Baker, by the way, just recently turned 12 years old.

He has the golf balls as mementoes, and if anyone doubts the authenticity of his achievement, he can point you to the National Junior Golf Club Web site story about his aces, all but one of which occurred in tournaments or practice rounds for the busy schedule of junior golf competition Baker plays.

"I've not seen anything like it, and I'm around the best junior golfers in the country," said Allen Williams, director of the National Junior Golf Club tour, who was at three of the events in which Baker made holes-in-one. "It's amazing, and they're all legit."

Baker isn't the youngest player to make an ace -- Golf Digest magazine gives that record to a 5-year-old in Michigan -- but Baker is collecting them at an exceptional rate.

The odds of an average golfer making a hole-in-one are approximately 12,000-to-1, according to Golf Digest.

Those odds drop to 5,000-to-1 for good players. But Baker has made five aces before he's a teenager.

A hole-in-one often combines the skill of an accurate shot with the luck of a good bounce. No official records are kept of career holes-in-one, and some golfers play for decades without one.

"I've been playing for 30 years, and I'm still looking for that one," Wayne Baker, David's father, says. "When I go to a par-3, I'm hoping to make a par."

Baker, whose family lives at The Club at Longview in Weddington, has won more than 100 junior events, his father says. David's bedroom walls are filled with dozens of trophies, medals and photos from his young golf career.

From his window, Baker can see the course at Longview.

He plays approximately 40 tournaments a year, most of them in the summer, hopping among a handful of junior circuits. In addition to playing the National Junior Golf Club events, Baker plays in the Triad Junior Golf Association, U.S. Kids events and some Plantation Junior Golf tournaments while the family is based in their home on Lake Tillery in Montgomery County.

Baker is a rising seventh-grader at Grace Christian Academy in Matthews, where he has been invited to play on the varsity golf team. As a 2-year-old, Baker watched his dad playing golf with friends, and his interest developed from there.

Just 94 pounds, Baker plays a game is built on accuracy rather than on power right now. He hits so straight, Baker says, that he played two consecutive summers without losing a golf ball.

Ask him his favorite pros and Baker says, "I like some of Phil's [Mickelson] game, some of Tiger's game, some of Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson and Nick Watney."

His favorite player, though, is Jason Gore.

When Gore showed up to practice at Longview during the Quail Hollow Championship, Baker was hitting balls. The two struck up a conversation and eventually played 18 holes together.

"I had him 3-down after 10," Baker said, "but we were just playing for fun. He played the course a lot longer than I did."

As for his remarkable run of aces, Baker doesn't have an easy explanation.

"In every hole-in-one, there is a little bit of luck," he says.

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5118

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