Tuesday, September 25, 2012

San Diego Man fires 11-under 25 in round

Todd Baek's scorecard from Salt Creek shows the three eagles and five birdies he made in shooting 11-under 25. Baek also kept track of his fairways, greens and putts. He was 7-for-7 in fairways, 8-for-9 in greens and needed only eight putts.

The average golfer reaches 25 strokes in a round after about four or five holes. Imagine taking a full nine to get to that number.

Todd Baek did it on Sunday, and even he couldn’t quite believe it.

The 20-year-old Rancho Bernardo High alum and former San Diego State golfer made three eagles, five birdies and one par on the front nine to shoot an astonishing 11-under-par 25 during a casual afternoon round at Salt Creek Golf Club in Chula Vista.

“I was amazed myself,” Baek said on Monday. “It was like, ‘What’s going on?’ We were playing for money, so my friends were giving me (crud) about it. They said you need to stop making birdies or you’re going to walk home.”

Baek bested by two shots Nationwide Tour pro Brian Smock’s course record of 62, but his 12-under 60 turned out to be bittersweet. He reached the par-5 18th green in two shots with a chance to score a magical 59, but three-putted from 60 feet.

“I was more mad that I screwed up my chance to shoot 59,” Baek said. “But on the way home my friends were saying, ‘Do you realize that you just shot 25?’ We were laughing about it.”

When the round was over, Baek presented the scorecard to Salt Creek assistant pro Armando Najera, who confirmed the scores and had Baek sign the card, which Najera retained. Baek’s playing partners were Canadian Tour player Sejun Yoon, Torrey Pines High golfer Wonje Choi and Chula Vistan Kevin Lee, who played college golf at Army.

A 25 for nine has never been scored on the PGA Tour. The record is held by Corey Pavin, who shot 8-under 26 in the 2006 U.S. Bank Championship. Four players, including San Diegan Chris Riley, have scored 27 on a par-36 nine.

In May 2010, Canadian club pro Jamie Kureluk fired a 25 on his back nine while playing in the Alberta Open. He made seven birdies and two eagles, finishing with a 61.

Golf pros talk about the “perfect” round of 54 – one birdie per hole. Baek was on pace to smash that.

He hit a 40-yard pitch at the par-4 first that dropped in for eagle. At the par-5 second, he lashed a 5-iron to 9 feet and made that putt for another eagle. “I hadn’t ever made two eagles in a row before,” Baek said.

The other remarkable shots: Baek’s wedge approach at the fifth spun back off the green, but he chipped in from 30 feet for birdie; at the par-5 sixth he made his third eagle when he rifled a 3-iron to 1 foot; and when he needed to make a 9-foot birdie putt at the ninth -- the course's No. 1-handicap hole -- for 25, he drained that.

He needed only eight putts on the front. Baek said that for his only par a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 4 hung on the lip.

At 6,829 yards from the black tees, Salt Creek is not particularly long, but there are some challenging tee shots and Baek went 7-for-7 hitting the fairway. The greens are relatively large at the 11-year-old course.

“It’s not Torrey Pines,” said Grant Halverson, Baek’s golf instructor. “But it’s not by any stretch the easiest 18 holes in the county either.”

Born in South Korea, Baek came to San Diego by way of New Zealand four years ago. He played one season of high school golf at Rancho Bernardo High and moved on to San Diego State, where he quickly established himself as the team’s top performer. After the fall season with the Aztecs in 2011, he decided to turn pro this past winter and signed an endorsement deal with Callaway.

On Wednesday, Baek will begin play at the Norman Course at PGA West in the pre-qualifier for PGA Tour Qualifying School.

This article was published by U-T San Diego.

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