Father and caddie Steve Baker shares stories from his daughter Jess’ incredible year as Women’s Amateur champion – from St Andrews to Augusta to Pebble Beach – along with tales his own golfing career
Those who have experienced it say watching their children achieve their goals brings far greater joy than fulfilling your own dreams. Steve Baker – father of 2022 Women’s Amateur champion Jess – has got to watch from the very front as his daughter achieved so many of her golfing dreams over the last 12 months. From being on the bag at Hunstanton when Jess won the Amateur, to going inside the ropes at St Andrews as Jess played alongside Collin Morikawa and Anna Nordqvist ahead of the 150th Open Championship, to caddying in four major championships, Steve has been right there as Jess enjoyed so many incredible experiences in the last year. We caught up with the semi-retired dad turned caddy to hear stories from those events, as well as more from his own golfing career…
1 How much golf do you get to play?
My golf has really taken a back seat in the last 12 months as there has been a lot of travelling. That said, it’s been the most amazing year. I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a caddy, including when to just be quiet and how to rake a bunker properly, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. When I’m home, I still go around the country delivering mental health training to professionals and schools. Around all of that, I manage to get a couple of sporadic games in when I can.
2 How did you get into golf?
I came to golf late, first picking up a club when I was 25. Hockey was my main sport and my mother-in-law suggested the skills may transfer to golf. I was hooked straight away, got some lessons, joined Whickham Golf Club, and off I went. Jess was also really inspired by her grannie – who sadly passed away shortly before the Amateur.
3 Which is your favourite course in the North East?
Catterick Golf Club is very close to my heart as I’ve won two charity events there. That feel-good factor is really important when it comes to golf.
4 And further afield?
Aloha Golf Club in Andalusia, Spain is very special. I’ve played it a lot over the years and it’s my favourite place to play. On the non-playing side, turning into Amen Corner at Augusta National is an unbeatable experience.
5 What’s your best score?
Four over-par on the Prince Bishops Course at Ramside Hall.
6 Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Watching my daughter hole a 5ft putt to win the Women’s Amateur. That can’t be beaten. But, while caddying at the Women’s US Open at Pebble Beach with a large crowd watching, I interrupted her swing on the par three 17th tee box (something I am told never to do) as the wind had suddenly dropped and I felt she had the wrong club. She took my advice and hit the shot 6ft from the pin to warm applause from the fans.
7 What about your most embarrassing moments on the course?
There’s been a few miscalculated yardages which Jess has questioned me on. While caddying at the Evian Championship in her first major, we were starting on the 10th and the buggy to take us to the tee didn’t appear in time. Having politely waited, we ended up zooming through the crowds at great speed before Jess ran onto the tee, shook hands with her partners and hit. Luckily, she was the only one to find the fairway but, as is always the case, the mistake was the caddy’s!
8 Do you have any golfing superstitions?
While I’m not particularly superstitious, I have found that a bad warm-up session tends to lead to playing really well as you focus on your game. Sadly, the opposite is also true.
9 What are your strengths on the course?
As an eight-handicapper, I can be a bit sporadic tee-to-green, but my putting is generally good.
10 And your weaknesses?
I tend to believe I can pull off shots I’m simply not good enough to hit. I have watched the best players in the world up close do these amazing things and think I can pull them off, but it’s never that easy!
11 Which is your favourite club in the bag?
I love the look of my TaylorMade Spider putter and I feel very confident with it.
12 Who is your best golfing friend?
Having been a member of The Northumberland Golf Club for several years, I regularly play with my good friend Dr Ajay Bedi, who has been so supportive and understanding as my availability has been limited lately. A member of The R&A, he has invited me to play at St Andrews on numerous occasions – which is always an amazing experience.
13 What would you be doing if you weren’t so involved in golf?
As an amateur golfer, I have a love/hate relationship with the game, but deep down I would really miss it if I couldn’t play. I do enjoy cycling, and as a bagpiper I would be able to spend more time annoying my neighbours!
14 Who is your favourite golfer?
Justin Rose has done it all and we were lucky to meet him a couple of years ago at the Telegraph junior event in Portugal, which he supports along with lots of women’s events. I’ve got a great deal of respect for how he’s given back to the game.
15 Which golf event do you enjoy most?
There’s something very special about team golf, and the Ryder and Solheim cups are the pinnacle. I’ve been lucky enough to watch Jess play at several college events in America and seeing the team supporting and cheering each other on is a part of the game which is often missed in this very individual sport.
16 Who do you admire?
A rogue answer – Niall Horan from One Direction. Even as one of the biggest artists in the world, he has become very influential in golf and is doing so much to support the game.
17 Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
I’ll go for Robin Williams, the funniest man who has ever lived in my opinion; Bradley Cooper, one of my favourite actors; and the legendary rugby commentator Bill McLaren.
18 If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
I’d pick Jess’ second shot on the 18th in the second round of the Canadian Open, which rolled back off the green and left a tough up and down for birdie to make the cut. If that had held on the slope, she would have had two putts to make a cut on the LPGA Tour.