In July 2012, Baker, his father Randy and school administrators , discussed the idea of establishing a golf team with the school board and the board voted to allow Baker to play in the regional tournament, but not matches.
He kept his ball from regionals, too, because he advanced to sectionals last year and said that proved to the school board that he should be playing competitively on a regular basis.
“They saw how good I did last year and that I'm not somebody they can just forget about,” Baker said.
This year, Baker was allowed a full golf schedule, traveling to tournaments as the only player on the Neoga golf team and playing well – he finished third at last week's Cumberland regional tournament.
“It's different,” Baker said of being the only player on the team. “You see (other teams) pull up in their vans and they're all pumped. I just drive home in my car.”
As a high school student, Baker recognizes that his schedule is a little different and sometimes limiting, but he said he aspires to play golf in college and knows he has to work to pursue his dream.
“A lot of sacrifices,” Baker said. “I've missed a lot of birthday parties, a lot of events I probably should have gone to. I chose to go play golf.”
His sleep schedule takes a hit, too, especially on summer vacation. He'll wake up a 5:30 a.m. most summer days to play a round of golf or practice at the driving range before it's too hot outside.
In August, Baker shot a round of 65 – the best he's ever played – and remembers sinking a 25-foot putt from the fringe of the green on the 17th hole at Fox Prairie in Windsor. He lipped out on the 18th hole, which would've given him a 64.
“It feels like that's what I should do every round,” Baker said. “Why can't I do that every day?”
He keeps memorabilia like the 26-over-par card and his Regionals ball so he can remember what he's done in the past. You can bet he kept the 65 card, too.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.