Australian golfer Aaron Baddeley sits 2 strokes behind Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick entering Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He “brought a shovel” to Orlando this week, bailing himself out of 15 greenside bunkers to salvage a 7-under par through 3 rounds. He will tee off alongside England’s Matt Wallace at 1:35 p.m. EST (Golf Channel, NBC).
The 6-foot, 175-pound Baddeley is jockeying with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Kevin Kisner for his first PGA Tour title since the 2016 Barbasol Championships in Alabama. He currently ranks No. 61 in the FedEx standings, and projects to No. 38 at the moment.
He tied for second a few weeks back at the Puerto Rico Open, shooting an even-par to lose to Martin Trainer of the United States. Trainer used a 5-under to seize the title. Now, Baddeley is seeking a strong finish to grab one for himself.
Here’s what you need to know about the 37-year old:
1. He Carries Dual Citizenship Between Australia and the United States
Aaron was born in Lebanon (N.H.) on March 17, 1981 to Ron and Jo-Ann Baddeley. Ron worked as a mechanic for legendary Indy car driver Mario Andretti. The family moved to Australia when Aaron was just 2. As evidenced by a Geelong Cats (Australian rules football team) coin he keeps in his bag, he considers Down Under his home.
As Mike James of the LA Times wrote back in 2005, Aaron was the only one to pick up golf. This devotion was a huge investment early on, as Ron put over $72,500 on credit cards to fund his son’s amateur career.
“This is his college degree, his education,” said Ron. “After he won the (Melbourne’s Croydon Club) championship, he said, ‘Dad, whatever it is, I’m doing something with golf. This is going to be my life.’
“So we worked back from the U.S. tour and came up with a plan: ‘OK, this is your career, your education.'”
He was second in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1998, then in November 1999 became the youngest winner in the history of the Australian Open after outplaying fellow Aussie Greg Norman and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie on the final day.
2. He Skipped the European Tour & Tried to Compete Immediately in the USPGA
According to the Sydney World-Herald, a 14-year old Baddeley said this to his dad after taking the club championship:
“Dad, by the time I’m 21, I’ll have my US PGA Tour card’.”
The traditional path to that for international players is on the European Tour. Instead, Baddeley opted to go straight to the U.S. He earned a special invitation to compete at the 2000 Masters, and then competed on the Buy.Com tour. As a 21-year old at the 2002 Gila River Classic in Chandler (Ariz.), he earned enough winnings to qualify for the PGA.
By picking up $US37,400 ($68,357), the Victorian jumped from 17th to 10th on the Buy.Com Tour money list. The top 15 at season’s end are promoted to the main tour next year and, with just two events left, Baddeley is well positioned…
He was widely criticised in his first professional season last year for trying to jump straight onto the USPGA Tour – playing there on sponsor invitations and missing a string of cuts – rather than take the popular stepping stone of the European Tour.
At the time, the 2-time Australian Open champion said, “”My goal was to be on the PGA Tour by the time I was 21. I’m 21 and I’m achieving my goals.”
3. The 4-Time PGA Tour Winner Has Had Ups and Downs in his Career
After a successful 2003, where he made 15 of 20 cuts, Baddeley looked like he was on the rise. He increased his workload over the next few seasons, and his play started to suffer.
In 2004, he failed to make the cut 11 times over 27 appearances and made about $300,000 less than the year before. In the same amount of tournaments in 2005, he missed the cut line 11 times again. At one point in 2006, he exited early in 7 of 8 appearances (though he did take the Verizon Heritage title that year).
His fortune started to change in 2007 when he broke through in February with a first-place finish at the FBR Open. From there, he earned 7 top-10 placements, including second-place at the BMW Championships, as well as nearly $3.5 million.
Between then and now, he has claimed championships at the 2011 Northern Trust Open, as well as the Barbasol in 2016 as previously mentioned. He held off Si Woo Kim in Alabama with a 5-under on the final day, including a 24-foot birdie putt to prevail in overtime.
“I was just telling myself, ‘Let’s end this right here. Come on,'” Baddeley said to the Associated Press. “The first couple of putts (in the playoff), I didn’t quite swing it the way it needed to be swung. I just let it swing and it was going up over the hill and I was like, ‘Oh wait, this looks really good.'”
4. He Credits His Faith for Getting Him Through the Struggles
He shared his religious faith a crowd of 1,000 at the Warren Baptist Church in Augusta (Ga.).
“God said it to me loud and clear. God did not call me to ministry. God called me to golf,” he said to the Augusta Chronicle. “It’s not just about playing golf, but doing the Lord’s work.”
He’s leaned on his Christian beliefs to perservere through the adversity at points of his career.
“I wouldn’t choose to struggle with my game. I wouldn’t choose to go through tough times. It’s not fun,” Baddeley said.
But it’s during times of uncertainty that Baddeley said he learned to trust God.
“Am I walking in the direction, am I walking in the path that you have set before me?” Baddeley said he asks God. “Every time I ask these questions I have a peace and a joy.”
At one time, he even thought of moving on from golf to be a preacher. Instead, he hosts a weekly bible study with other Christian golfers on the tour such as Tom Lehman, Ben Crane, Bubba Watson.
5. He and his Wife Richelle Have 5 Children
He met his wife Richelle Robbins in 2003, and the couple married in 2005. Robbins is from Scottsdale (Ariz.) and was formerly a daycare manager. The pair bonded over their belief in God.
Now, she manages 5 children: Jewell, Jolee, Jeremiah Aaron, Josiah and Jaddex.