Brett Baker found himself in a familiar position Sunday afternoon late in the final round of the Baton Rouge Open at Santa Maria Golf Course.
After driving in the fairway off the 18th tee, Baker was 245 yards away from the water-guarded green and at a yardage from which he comfortably hits a 3-iron.
Last year in the Baton Rouge Amateur, Baker had the same shot as he tried to close out a third-round match play opponent. Baker’s 3-iron found the water in that one, but he made amends Sunday.
Baker cleared the water with ease, and then got up and down for birdie. It provided breathing room as he edged Larry Daigle and Ryan Stephens by two strokes to win the Baton Rouge Open title.
“It could have happened again,” Baker said. “If I don’t clear the water, there’s a good chance I bogey the hole to tie or even worse.”
Baker followed Saturday’s round of 68 with a 72 to finish at 4 under. Daigle and Stephens also shot 72 on Sunday, and were the only other golfers to finish under par.
Daigle was the only golfer with a chance to catch Baker when they reached the par-5 18th hole. Trailing by two shots, Daigle put his drive near the water on the right side of the fairway about 200 yards out.
Baker played it safe with a straight, but much shorter drive.
“It boiled down to pressure,” Baker said of his 3-iron shot to the fairway left of the 18th green.
“I could sit out there and hit 100 balls over the water, but it’s a lot different when it’s pretty much the last golf shot of the tournament.”
Daigle followed Baker’s shot with one that flew over the pin, stopping in the back fringe 20 feet from the hole. Daigle’s eagle putt slid left making Baker’s final birdie academic.
“It was a pretty good day as far as ball-striking went,” said Daigle, who birdied 1 and 2 before an errant tee shot at 4 led to double bogey.
“I really had my work cut out for me, but I kept a good attitude and kept plugging away,” he said. “I hit some good shots, but couldn’t get any putts to fall.”
Daigle hit all nine greens on the back side, making birdie at holes 13 and 18. But he missed short putts at 10 and 12, and had a strong run at two others.
Blaine Patin began the day tied with Baker at 4-under, and briefly took the lead when he worked his way to 5 under on the front nine.
Patin birdied the third, but made bogey at 7 and 8 to fall a shot behind Baker. Patin stayed within striking distance until the group reached the 14th hole.
A fat approach shot led to a bogey there, but the wheels came off at the next hole as Patin hit his tee shot out of bounds.
“I’m disappointed because I had played really well going into 14,” Patin said. “It was a struggle at the end.”
Patin bogeyed 16 and 17, and went on to shoot 77.
Hunter Smith, a freshman golfer at the University of New Orleans, worked his way up the leader board early Sunday.
Smith knocked a wedge to a foot on the 1st, and added another birdie on the 3rd as he moved to 4-under par.
It didn’t last as Smith pushed his tee shot into a hazard at the par-3 5th. It was the first of two waterlogged front nine double bogeys that Smith endured.
Smith dipped as low as 2 over for the tournament on the back nine, but he rallied with an eagle on 18. From 215 yards out, Smith put his second shot 12 feet below the pin.
Smith’s putt curled into the right side of the hole as he shot 74, and moved back into a tie for third.