Hattie Baldwin, one of three seniors for Pierre girls golf, got off to a bumpy start in her final season with the Governors. But a couple of weeks ago, she found her groove and hasn’t looked back since.
Through the first four meets of 2023, Baldwin only scored in the 80s once. That was when she shot an 86 to finish tied for 21st place at the Pierre Invitational on Apr. 25 at Hillsview Golf Course.
The rest of her scores during that period were as follows — 104 at the Harrisburg Invitational (Apr. 13), 91 and 108 on Days 1 and 2 of the Raider-Cobbler Invite (Apr. 17-18) and 106 at the Huron Invitational (Apr. 27).
“It’s a sucky feeling,” Baldwin said Thursday. “When you’re getting those scores and you know you’re just not going to end where you need to be, it’s pretty hard to bounce back from that."
Baldwin stated that, early on, she was struggling with her swing and overall confidence.
“I wasn’t shooting how I was wanting to shoot. I wasn’t getting the scores I wanted to score,” she said.
Govs head coach Tiffany Benham saw similar aspects of Baldwin’s game that might have explained these high scores.
“I think when she first started, her form was really off and was just having a hard time making contact with the ball,” Benham said. “I think she lacked a lot of confidence in herself, her ability and her game. And (she) probably didn’t have a lot of high expectations for herself.”
Baldwin noted that rotating from wrestling to golf may have played a factor as well.
She made the point that the boys golfers play all summer and then transition into their season in the fall. Conversely, the girls practice during the fall and do as much as they can in the wintertime, when Hillsview shuts its doors until the temperatures begin to rise closer to the spring.
“So jumping into that, especially coming from wrestling and not working on golf a lot this winter, it’s kind of a hard adjustment,” Baldwin said.
But after a tough couple of weeks to begin the spring, she started to turn things around.
On May 4, Baldwin and Pierre returned to Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron. She and Govs freshman Hadley Hart ended up tying for 13th with an 85 — 21 strokes less than Baldwin’s previous outing at Broadland just a week prior.
Since she doesn’t look at her score while still on the course, Baldwin was shocked to hear how well she played.
“(Coach Benham) came up to me and was like, ‘Hattie, you shot an 85.’ I was like, ‘No way.’ I thought they were messing with me,” Baldwin said. “Because, I just played the game. I didn’t even think about what I was shooting. So that was a pretty good feeling.”
She said this momentum carried over into Pierre’s next meet 24 hours later at the Yankton Invitational at Fox Run Golf Course. There, Baldwin scored an 81 — a team best and her career low.
She shot an even par on 10 of the course’s 18 holes to tie her for seventh place.
“I was really happy with myself after that,” Baldwin said. “It was just a good day. I had a really good group of girls that I was playing with.”
“Yankton is one of those harder courses that people talk about. So for me to shoot my personal best at a more difficult course, it was an amazing feeling,” she added.
And Baldwin hasn’t scored above a 90 since.
She shot an even 90 at the Mitchell Invitational on May 12 at Lakeview Municipal Golf Course and an 86 at the Watertown Invite Tuesday at Cattail Crossing Golf Course.
The latter tied her for 16th, and Pierre placed fourth overall with 350 team points.
So how has Baldwin righted the ship so quickly?
“I think she knows what she’s doing wrong now. She knows how to fix it when she’s playing out there,” Benham said. “Before, she didn’t know, necessarily, how to fix it. And now, she knows how to fix it.”
The first fix Baldwin has made is her swing.
“I had more of an up-and-down swing instead of bringing my hands back to where they needed to be. So that was one of those small adjustments,” she said.
Baldwin explained other parts of her game she’s altered.
“Just knowing my distances with my clubs. Being like, ‘Okay, if hit (with) this club, it’s going to go this many yards.’ Or, chipping and pitching. Like the ball needs to land here to roll here to get to the distance. Just acknowledging those things and remembering the distances,” she said. “We work on those situations in practice. And then, getting into that situation and being like, ‘Oh, I know how to do this.’ And then being able to play that confidently through the hole.”
The Pierre senior has also adopted a short-term memory when on the golf course to keep her focused.
“Just kind of knowing that if I have a bad hole, there’s another hole — If you have a bad shot, there’s another shot,” Baldwin said. “There’s always something more you can do, and you just have to move on from whatever had happened before. You just have to keep going.”
She mentioned that Benham has been “so helpful” throughout the season, whether that’s assisting Baldwin with her swing or reminding the senior things to improve on during practices.
“She just straight up tells me, ‘Hey, this is what you’re doing wrong. You need to fix it,’” Baldwin said. “And I’ve been acknowledging that, and I can remember that.”
This, in turn, has given Baldwin more confidence out on the golf course.
“When you’re playing well or you know you’re fixing something that needs to be fixed, I mean, my confidence improves so much from there,” she said.
Benham gave her thoughts on how Baldwin has recovered from a slower start to the year.
“You have to feel really good for her,” Benham said. Because, when you have confidence in your game, it just makes things so much more enjoyable.”
“I think it’s something to remember forever, having a good senior season,” she added.
Baldwin said she would be “perfectly” content with continuing to score in the low-80s all the way through the SDHSAA Class AA Girls State Golf Tournament on Jun. 5-6 at Hillsview.
“Obviously, my goal is to shoot lower, but I’m trying not to really focus on that. I just want to focus on playing good golf,” she said. “Because, if I focus (on scoring) too low, that’s when you start getting all nervous and messy.”
With just three meets remaining, Benham wants Baldwin to “play relaxed and not stress about things” the rest of the way.
“That’s what makes you play better, when you don’t have all these expectations on yourself,” Benham added.
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