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Baker earns first berth to PIAA Regionals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The third time was the charm for Warwick’s Drew Baker.
After falling a little bit short of making the cut to the PIAA Eastern Regionals in his two previous trips to the District Three Triple-A Golf Championships, the Warriors’ senior accomplished his goal last Friday and Saturday.
Baker was one of 16 who advanced after carding a two-day score of 8-over 152 (75-77) at this year’s District Tournament, placing 13th overall at Briarwood East Golf Course in York. He is one of seven L-L golfers to punch his ticket to the next level, including Manheim Township’s Craig Hornberger, who won the District title with a 3-under 141.
As Baker prepares for the Regional Tournament, slated for next Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Golden Oaks Golf Course in Fleetwood, he is also breathing a sigh of relief.
"It’s always the toughest step to go from Districts to Regionals because they only take 16 people of (73) kids," said Baker, who as a sophomore shot a 152 (79-73) and came within just one stroke of advancing to a playoff for the final two Regional berths. "There’s quite a few that go (to Districts) and not very many make it. So it’s just awesome to be able to go and represent my school as a golfer because I know in the past few years I haven’t been able to do that. It’s awesome to be able to finally show that Warwick does have a few good golfers on the team."
Baker certainly started off with a good round of golf on Friday at Briarwood, tying Central Dauphin’s Mike Gress and Palmyra’s Tyler Shank for 10th place with a 3-over 75. That was easily under the cut of 79 to move on to the second day of competition.
There, he got a strong start out of the gates on the front nine, making three straight one-putts which resulted in two of his nine pars and the first of his three birdies on Saturday.
"I sorta felt like I could almost make anything I looked at," Baker said. "And it’s good to have confidence with putting because it makes everything else easier when you feel like you can make putts and save yourself that way -make numbers with the putter."
His putting played a big role in Baker being at 2-under through the first six holes.
"I knew I needed to (have a good start) because the first six holes are some of the easier ones out there on the front nine," Baker said. "I knew I needed to get a few strokes before I went to the back nine and the end of the front nine because that’s where the course starts to get difficult. I gave a few back here and there, but overall, I hung in there at least for Saturday to make the cut."
Indeed, Baker hung in there even while trying to navigate past the seventh through ninth holes which sat at a higher altitude and either went into the wind or had a tricky cross-wind welcoming the golfers.
"I was happy to get through those not too damaged and I knew I needed to just keep playing solid," Baker said. "The holes were definitely more challenging than the first few, so I think that sorta contributed to making a few bigger numbers than I expected."
He rebounded nicely to finish with a birdies and two pars on his final three holes to lock up a berth in Regionals. The fact that the Briarwood West Golf Course was a bit longer yardage-wise than those that Baker played during the L-L season worked to his advantage.
"The course was playing almost 7,000 yards which is a little bit different from our high school courses that play 6,200 yards or 6,300 yards … I think the longer course sorta played to my advantage because I’m a relatively long hitter and I know that people aren’t as accurate with their longer irons and stuff as I would be," Baker said. "So I think the course set up well for me especially for my game at this time."
It also set up well for him on Friday, when the weather conditions were significantly warmer and he was able to capitalize on his short game. Baker had three eagle putts and ultimately came away with birdies on all of them.
"On Friday, I just hit the ball really well for the most part," Baker said. "(The birdies) were sorta big because when you can make birdies through putting, you have to be hitting the ball pretty well to be able to do that. It makes the birdies just a little bit easier and makes the round a little bit more enjoyable when you can say you had a few eagle putts."
In the long run, those eagle putts made a big difference in getting Baker one step closer toward accomplishing his goal of competing at the State Championships.
"I always say I can do better," Baker said, "but Friday I played very well and made a lot of nice shots and I finished strong. And Saturday, I got off to a very good start, lost it a little bit, but then I finished strong … My ultimate goal was to make it to Regionals and keep moving on because everyone wants to play at the State Tournament. So I was pretty happy with the way I played. If I play my own game and play well, I don’t see why I cannot make it to States. But I just want to stay humble and enjoy it because this is my senior year. I just like playing golf so much that you don’t realize how quickly it goes by."
Warwick’s Hannah Riden also competed last Friday, firing an opening-day score of 102 (49-53) in her first-ever appearance in the District Three Triple-A Girls Championships. She was unable to advance to the second round. More BAKER, page B-5