Any athlete wants to close out their career in a sport or a division the right way.
Not many get to go out on their own terms and win the last event of their respective career.
While John Baldwin isn’t retiring from golf, he is retiring from Junior golf.
Baldwin, backed by a tremendous tee-to-green game, claimed the Boys’ Division of the 99th Rhode Island Golf Association Junior Amateur defeating No. 4 seed Harry Dessel of Rhode Island Country Club, 4&3, in the Final at Alpine Country Club (par 72, 6,672 yards) Thursday.
Baldwin, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 15 seed Ben Sapovits of Ledgemont Country Club, 4&3, in the morning semifinal match.
“It means a lot to be the champion,” said Baldwin, 18, of Little Compton, R.I. “This was the first event I started to play in when I got serious about playing competitive golf. With it being my last year of eligibility, getting it done was a great feeling.”
Baldwin, a recent graduate of St. George’s School in Middletown, made the turn with a 2-up lead as a result of eight pars and one bogey on the front. Nothing special about it. But it was working.
“I knew Harry was a good player,” said Baldwin, who will play golf at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. “I knew I needed to go out and play my best. At the end of the day I can bore the people I play against with pars. My 2-iron didn’t miss the fairway so that helps put the pressure on Harry.”
“John was tough,” said Dessel, 17, of Barrington, R.I. and a rising junior at Moses Brown School in Providence. “He kept making pars and it seemed like I was always trying to halve the hole. I know that I can win this. It just wasn’t my time yet.”
Baldwin’s high school career helped prepare him for this moment. He was the 2019 Independent School League MVP, where they play match play in their meets.”
“I am comfortable in match play,” said Baldwin. “Our league is stacked and our meets are nine holes of match play. So, I have a lot of practice in this format. You have to be OK with a bad hole.”
Fairways and greens are the staples of a good match play competitor. But good lag putting can’t be discounted.
“I didn’t really make anything,” said Baldwin. “My lag putting was great the whole match and he had to give me basically everything. I didn’t have to stress over 3-footers.”
He didn’t have to make anything. He just needed to keep the pressure on Dessel, who said his game lost its form as the afternoon Final began.
Now that Baldwin ends his Junior career as a winner, he couldn’t help but smile when discussing what he’ll remember about this week.
“Having one of my best friends caddie for me [Peter Alofsin] and laugh with me along the fairways was helpful,” said Baldwin. “It’s one of those things that I’ll never forget.”
Photo Credit: Dalton Balthaser