Jake Bauer (RIGA photo)
By Kevin McNamara, Providence Journal
SEEKONK, MA (July 13, 2018) — As a star at Portsmouth High, Jake Bauer enjoyed a sensational golf career but came up short in the state title chase. The same fate awaited him in the state Junior Amateur.
Yet, after four superb seasons at Johnson & Wales Miami, the left-hander is finally a champion. Bauer lit up Ledgemont Country Club on Friday to the tune of 12 birdies and an eagle over 29 holes to cruise to the title in the 113th Rhode Island State Amateur.
Bauer led Matthew Broome by only two holes after a fast-paced 18 holes in the morning, but then caught fire. Starting with three straight birdies, Bauer found all sorts of ways to score on his way to a sizzling 7-under 29 on the front nine of the afternoon round. He closed out Broome on the 29th hole to win, 8 and 7.
“It’s a little surreal,” said Bauer, who plays out of Montaup. “I really didn’t hit it well in my first round this week [1-over 72] but I stuck with it and it paid off.”
Bauer said he spoke and exchanged texts daily with his swing coach, Chris Hawley of Kohr Academy in Natick, Mass., and never lost his focus.
“We went over some simple stuff and every day I felt like I was hitting it better and better. I started seeing more and more putts go in,” he said. “In this tournament you have to believe in yourself for a whole week.”
Bauer spent his high school career in the shadow of talented players such as Will Dickson (Georgia Tech) and Davis Chatfield (Notre Dame). He now joins Chatfield (2016) as a State Amateur champion.
Bauer was largely overlooked in the collegiate recruiting process but plenty of NCAA Division I schools could have used his talents. He landed at Johnson & Wales, won four tournaments, became a three-time NAIA All-American and boasted a 73.07 career scoring average. He picked up a degree in business/sport management along the way.
“I never really had Johnson & Wales on my radar until the end of making my decision,” Bauer said. “I met the coach, A.J. Broderick, at a tournament at PGA National and right when I met him I felt that click. He was like my second dad when I went down there.”
Bauer said he had some opportunities to transfer to some NCAA schools during his time in North Miami but resisted.
“I felt like I had a good family down there. The decision to go there and graduate just last week, I definitely don’t look back on it at all,” he said.
Now Bauer is looking to make a run at professional golf. If he can bottle any of the fireworks he displayed on Friday, he’ll get his chance. After losing two of the first three holes to fall behind Broome, Bauer found his touch. When he wasn’t rolling in putts, he was covering up minor mistakes with soft chips or pin-point iron play over Ledgemont’s 6,800-yard layout. Three birdies in a four-hole stretch gave him a three-hole lead after 15 but his only three-putt bogey on the 18th hole kept things close going into an hour lunch break.
“That sort of stuff can kind of haunt me, but I told myself that I had 18 more holes left and that was the one short missed putt I had in awhile,” he said. “I made a great first putt on the first hole of the afternoon to tie Matt and I just trusted it the whole time.”
Birdies on the first three holes pushed the lead to 4-up and when Bauer ripped a 9-iron nearly 170 yards on the hardest hole on the course (No. 7), a bit of a stunned silence was followed by him pumping his arm into the air and exclaiming “It went in!”
“I knew it would be really close and couldn’t go long because it would be over 200 yards to go over the green, so it was either just short, spun back or it went in,” he said. “I saw it bounce and disappear down the flag stick and a rules official sort of freaked out. Then I heard on the radio that it went in.”
Broome, a Rhode Island Country Club product who starred at Furman and is now in the golf agent business, could only shake his head.
“I’m never one to quit but that was probably the dagger right there. You just realize it’s not your day,” he said.
Broome said he offered Bauer some advice through the day on the next step in his career. Bauer, who shot a 4-over 76 in a PGA Tour qualifier in Hartford last month, hopes to turn professional this fall and play in Q School tournaments.
“The professional game is so hard,” Broome said. “I had some discussions with him out there about taking the long road. That long-term process of turning pro is difficult. It’s all about Web.com and Q School and how to be best prepared for that. I think he has all the tools. He made all the putts [today] and when he didn’t have to putt he made a 7-iron, or whatever it was.”
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