Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Baker a Real Pressure Player; Area Man, Who Ended His First Round by Driving a Golf Cart into the Water, Now on Golf TV Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Baker a Real Pressure Player; Area Man, Who Ended His First Round by Driving a Golf Cart into the Water, Now on Golf TV Show

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

Can a man who has plucked accident victims out of storm-driven ocean waves or tried to talk a violent criminal out of harming hostages be afraid of a golf shot?

"Oh, yeah," said Larry Baker, a former Navy paramedic who worked with search-and-rescue teams and is now a detective and hostage negotiator for the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. "When you feel pressure in the Navy or law enforcement, you instinctively rely on your training. No matter how long you play golf, there are always situations you've never practiced or faced before. It's a different kind of pressure."

Baker recently faced one such situation. He was on the tee of a difficult par-4 hole, with TV cameras around him, golf analyst David Feherty poised to pick apart his swing and more than 500 people watching.

"Now I know what those PGA Tour players face on every shot," he said.

Baker responded to the pressure by pounding a tee shot 260 yards down the middle of the fairway. He can't talk about what happened after that at The Links at Lighthouse Sound in Ocean City, Md., April 17-22, because it was part of the St. Joseph Pressure Challenge. Baker was one of 29 contestants in the golf reality show that will be aired in two parts on CBS on May 14 from 2-3 p.m. and May 20 from 2-3 p.m., preceding the network's weekend PGA Tour coverage.

Golf Magazine conducted the registration and interview process, and selected the players.

Baker and the other contestants had handicaps of 8 or higher, and were selected through interviews and by displaying their golf skills. They were culled from an initial list of more than 1,100 applicants.

The format was simple, but obviously nerve-wracking on a difficult course buffeted by high winds off the Atlantic Ocean. Players attempted to make as many consecutive pars as they could, with each hole bringing more money -- and more pressure.

If a player parred the first hole, he or she could keep what they earned (the first par brought $1,000, the second $2,500, the third $5,000, and so on) or risk the money and advance to the next hole. Failure to par a hole resulted in the loss of all money.

The most that could be won was $250,000.

Players had three mulligans which they could use at any time (no more than one per hole, and none on the putting surface), and they had a "lifeline" in former PGA Tour player and Orlando golf instructor Brian Mogg. At any time during the competition, players could request a swing tip, club selection or a strategy from Mogg.

As is the case in most reality shows, Baker is not allowed to reveal specifics before the show airs. He indicated, however, that he did not make an early exit.

"I think I did Jacksonville proud," Baker said.

Baker is a Wolfson High School graduate who then joined the Navy and became a paramedic. …

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