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So Badds He's Good

April 24, 2006
April 24, 2006

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April 24, 2006

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So Badds He's Good

At Hilton Head, while others decompressed from the Masters, Aaron Baddeley showed his colors

As saturday nightwas turning into Easter Sunday, the party was in full swing at the Harbour Townlighthouse, the red-and-white-striped landmark that CBS uses annually to remindyou of where you are, or could be. During the previous week, at Augusta, CBSused the Butler Cabin in a different way: We're in here, you're not, and you'renever getting in. ¶ The Masters in early April followed the next week by HiltonHead has been a scheduling fixture on the PGA Tour since 1983, and it's nevergoing to change. It's too perfect. In 1985 Bernhard Langer won both events, butsince 2000, when Vijay Singh won at Augusta, no Masters winner has even playedthe following week. Winning at Augusta drains your tank. Others are looking fora working holiday. ¶ "The word I always heard for Hilton Head wasdecompress," Jim Furyk said on Sunday night, still looking for sometournament in the South to give him a sport coat. Last year he finished in atie for second, two shots back, at the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town GolfLinks, and he was solo second this year, a stroke behind Aaron Baddeley. (At 25Baddeley is catching up in Tour wins with the other young Australian golferwith whom he's been linked most of his life. Now it's Adam Scott 3, Baddeley1.) If you played Augusta, as Furyk did this year, you come to Hilton Head todecompress. If you watched the Masters on TV, as Baddeley did this year, youcome to Hilton Head psyched to play.

This is an article from the April 24, 2006 issue Original Layout

Lastweek--playing the par-71 Pete Dye gem that is less than 7,000 yards long andhas hardly changed since it opened in 1969--Baddeley took a giant leap towardgetting himself invited back to Augusta in 2007. You don't shoot 66, 67, 66 and70 (15 under par), playing the final 36 holes with the steely Furyk, on a firm,windswept course, unless you can golf your ball. "I didn't expect him to goout and shoot 80," Furyk said. He saw too much skill and composure in theSaturday round to imagine that.

On Sunday, Furykcould have had the shot of the day. On the lovely, dead-flat seaside home hole,Furyk hit a downwind pitching wedge to a crunchy green with the hole cut 15feet from the front edge. With the ball in the air Furyk made anuncharacteristic grunt, the equivalent of Hal Sutton's "Be the right clubtoday" at the 2000 Players Championship. With the exception of Tiger Woodsand maybe Chris DiMarco, there's no American golfer who seems to need thecompetition provided by tournament golf as much as Furyk. But the luster andimport of his wedge shot were lost when he misread the ensuing 12-footer forbirdie, blowing his chance for a playoff and a possible win.

That leftBaddeley--the final syllable is pronounced lay--with a par putt from seven feetfor the victory. It slithered in the right side of the hole, whereupon RichelleBaddeley, the winner's American wife, her blonde hair spilling out fromunderneath her Fidel Castro--style hat, did a couple of peppy greensideverticals that brought to mind Amy Mickelson prekids, started to sprint towardthe champ, realized that Gentleman Jim still had to finish and very cutelyretreated with a step-for-step reverse run. But no matter what she did, itwasn't going to turn into Brookline 1999. This was Hilton Head, in any year.Par-tay!

Did you see allthose boats in the Calibogue Sound, moored within wading distance of the 18thgreen? In gorgeous weather the boat people were lounging on their sun-drencheddecks, blowing their foghorns to celebrate Baddeley's win and their ownaffluence. It's great to be a "have" in America. Part of the appeal ofHilton Head is that you can buy the good life there and you don't have to be azillionaire to do it. At 59 1/2 you can cash out the 401k and get a time-sharecondo on a little lane with a maritime name. At Augusta, even zillions don'tguarantee you a sniff of Butler Cabin.

But last week wasalso a reminder of how TV can turn real lives into fiction. Not long afterBaddeley turned pro in 2000, he was Badds, the star of a MacGregor spot thathad him in fashion-forward snugwear, with long (by Tour standards) blond hairand driving a convertible with three babes in the backseat screeching hisnickname. Stud, right?

That's how hedressed (still does), and that's how he wore his hair (now his head isscalped), but that wasn't the true him, then or now. He was the picture of calmon the golf course last week, even when he was missing greens, even when Furykhad him by a shot standing on the 14th tee. Before holing his seven-footer towin $954,000, the name behind badds.com said to himself, "This is for you,Jesus." In the laid-back Hilton Head interview room--about one tenth thesize of the one at Augusta National--Baddeley discussed his golf and his lifewith an almost detached serenity. He said he has "walked with Christ"all his professional life. The guy in the convertible never seemed like him tohim.

Last Saturday wasAaron and Richelle's first anniversary. He was in the last group of the day,and he finished late. He and Richelle had a celebratory dinner, then retired totheir hotel room, with a window facing the lighthouse, the low hum of theSaturday-night revelers reaching the young couple. There was a band coveringthe enduring Pink Floyd anthem Wish You Were Here, the postcard sign-offespecially appropriate in that setting, and Baddeley was making notes for histestimony at a 7:30 a.m. Easter Sunday service to be held on the 18th green. Hefinished, set his alarm clock for 6 a.m. and went to bed. "He wanted to beprepared," Richelle said, "but when he gave his talk, it was from theheart." There was nobody shrieking, "Badds!"

The smell aroundthe lighthouse on Saturday night was of fried grouper and spilled beer andburning cigarettes, and for many the fun continued on Sunday. At Augusta youendure a cavity search before they let you through the gate, your cellphone istreated as if it's radioactive, and you can't even tell what brand of beeryou're drinking. At Hilton Head, where scads of people were wearing souvenir2006 Masters shirts, people slipped off boats and onto the course without aticket, chatted away on cellphones to faraway homeys and drank Bud in cans keptcool by brightly colored thermal holders issued by Verizon.

ChristopherMasterson, a "105 shooter" visiting Hilton Head from Chicago for abachelor party, strolled around the 18th green on Sunday in sandals, patchworkMadras shorts and a pink short-sleeved button-down shirt. Atop his head werefurry pink bunny ears. "With the tail I'm getting, I'll be wearing theseears every year here," he said.

Somebody askedhim if he had seen any golfers. "Four," he said quickly. "PaulAzinger, Chris DiMarco and John Daly. I like Daly. He likes to drink and I liketo drink."

The fans engagethe players at Hilton Head, or try to. Davis Love III--0 for 17 at Augusta, 5for 21 at Hilton Head--thanked fans for birthday wishes throughout his round,on Thursday, when he turned 42 and shot 69. Billy Mayfair, who drove to HiltonHead from Augusta in his Masters-issued white Cadillac courtesy car with XMSatellite Radio, chatted with fans about his wild loss in a playoff at HiltonHead in 2001. (This year he tied for third.) Baddeley was congratulated oftenfor his anniversary and his good-looking wife, but he was less easily engaged.Baddeley's caddie for the week, Kenny Harms, filling in for the ill PeteBender, said his man was so focused on the course that Baddeley was not awareof the nonstop cocktail party just behind the yellow fairway ropes.

It's not nearlythe raucous bash the Phoenix tournament is. "This is lay-low country,"said another fan, Linda Berry, a Hilton Head native. "Very mellow."Some churches, she said, had afternoon Easter services so that people couldstay out late, sleep in and then go to church--or not.

Corey Pavin wasin the latter group. While Berry talked to a reporter, Pavin played up the 18thhole. Pavin, accustomed to celebrating Passover this time of year during hisJewish childhood, has been a devout Christian for years and after signing hisscorecard, said he enjoyed playing on Easter "as a nice platform" toshow his appreciation to God. He's worked fairly often on Easter, either atAugusta or at Hilton Head. But while Baddeley was delivering his early-morningtalk, Pavin was still asleep. He didn't make it to church this year on Easter.Berry said she was planning to go when she left the tournament, but she wasmaking no promises. For a lot of people it was the best kind of Sundayafternoon, lazy and slow, beer in hand.

But it wasn'tlike that for Baddeley. In victory he cited 2 Timothy 1:7 ("For God hathnot given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a soundmind"); the "unbelievable" seven-iron he hit 200 yards and over the18th green; his early-morning testimony; and how he saw the win as a"stepping-stone in the big picture"--meaning, to winning majors.

In a golf cart onhis way from the 18th green to the press tent, the champion whizzed by an oldGullah burial ground, reserved for the descendants of the black farming andfishing families that once populated Hilton Head before it became a resort. Theburial ground is hemmed in by a six-story condo, a curbed lane and, last week,a collection of portable toilets sold under the name Nature's Calling. LindaBerry's ancestors are buried there, and someday she may be too. The gravestonefor one William Simmons, 1872-1916, reads ASLEEP IN JESUS. OH HOW SWEET. Itsounded like an epigraph for Aaron Baddeley's Easter Sunday win.

Furyk made an uncharacteristic grunt, the equivalentof Hal Sutton's "BE THE RIGHT CLUB TODAY" at the 2000 Players. Theremay be no player who needs the competition as much.
"He wanted to be prepared," Richelle said ofAaron's Easter-morning testimony. "BUT WHEN HE GAVE HIS TALK, IT WAS FROMTHE HEART." There was nobody shrieking, "Badds!"
PHOTODarren CarrollLONG SHOT Normally not one to overpower a course, Baddeley was 11 under on the three par-5s last week. PHOTODarren CarrollLAST CHANCE After a brilliant approach on the 72nd hole, Furyk missed this putt to tie. PHOTOKEVIN C. COX/WIREIMAGE.COMBADDS AND BEAUTIFUL The day after celebrating their first anniversary, Richelle and Aaron reveled in a first PGA Tour win.