Baker’s ready to hit the golfing high notes

Jess Baker is a key performer in more ways than one.

On the course, the talented 17-year-old is an integral part of the girls’ squad for 2020.

Off the course, Baker is an accomplished pianist and could have emulated her older brother Cameron and opted for a career in music.

However, Baker has closed the lid on her piano for now to open up a world of opportunities on the golf course.

And after building up her experience levels in 2019, the Gosforth Park Ladies’ member is happy to put her music on the backburner to concentrate on hitting the right notes with England and planning a move to college in Florida.

“I only seriously took up golf aged 10 or 11, as I did a lot of music when I was younger,” admitted the plus three handicapper.

“I actually got my Grade 8 piano last year and that’s me signed off with music. Grade 8 is the highest level you can reach.

“Balancing school, golf and music was tough so I’ve had to make a choice. I just want to concentrate on my golf.

“My whole family is very musical. My brother Cameron plays piano too he wants to be a music therapist.

“But my dad’s side is also very sporty and that has worked out for me.

“To be honest, I keep the piano stuff under wraps – I haven’t really told the other girls, so they won’t be aware!”

What Baker’s team-mates are acutely aware of, however, is her prowess on the golf course.

The last 12 months proved to be a crucial learning curve as she graduated from girls’ events to playing in a number of the women’s championships.

And more than that, she acquitted herself very well as was shown when reaching the semi-finals of the English Women’s Amateur where she lost out to England colleague Lily May Humphreys.

Baker added: “2019 was different in that I played in a lot of women’s events. That was not previously on my agenda.

“In a lot of the tournaments I was able to play consistently and produce good scores. I felt like I free-flowed a lot of the time.

“I was able to travel a lot with my parents and also with the England teams and that was also a lot of fun.

“Playing in the women’s events really brought me on because I was able to gauge where I stood by comparing girls’ and women’s golf.

“College in America will be another jump in 2020 and then we’ll see what happens next.

“It’s all learning experiences every time I tee it up.”

Another important event for Baker in 2019 was her recovery in the English Girls’ Open Amateur held at Gog Magog Golf Club.

This event not only showed her skills, but also a degree of mental toughness which is as much a part of a golfer’s weaponry as a razor-sharp short game.

After a disappointing opening two rounds of 81 and 72, Baker was struggling to make the top 100.

After two brilliant rounds of 66 on the final day’s play, she hoisted herself into third place just one shot back from Caitlyn Whitehead in second and two adrift of winner Marie Bechtold.

“I just made the cut and was something like 99th and then ended up finishing third,” revealed Baker.

“That was really exciting. But it was frustrating too – I wish I’d played better in the early rounds!”

Baker admits that she is inspired by watching England Golf graduates Bronte Law, Charley Hull and Georgia Hall performing on a world stage.

But she also owes a debt of gratitude to parents Steve and Louise for their support and others who kept her chin up when sticking with golf was difficult.

“I was the only girl at my club – that was tough,” added the teenager.

“To maintain motivation was difficult so the England regional squads were massive in changing that.

“There were also a lot of volunteers at Gosforth Park Ladies’ Club and mentors who were able to support me, though.

“I received a lot of encouragement from them and that kept me going and my parents have been brilliant taking me all over the country for my golf.”

In August, Baker will pack her bags for the University of Central Florida where she will study psychology.

Understandably, she’s excited about what 2020 has in store.

“I’ll be 20 minutes from Disneyland – the weather, golf and the whole package of life in America is amazing. You can’t really turn it down,” said Baker with a smile.

“Before all that there are big events for me as an individual and hopefully with England.

“The European and the Home Internationals will be massive. It’s all so exciting.

“To represent your country is mind-blowing when you think about it.

“We’re all there as a team and it’s not individual. We all pull for each other and bounce off each other.”