We Are Going Back to the Barracuda
The coolest moment I’ve spent in golf was caddying for Mark Baldwin at the Cuda. It’s time to do it again.
By Ryan French
We walked up the 72nd hole of the Barracuda in August, and Mark put his arm on my shoulder. “No matter what happens in my career,” he said, “this has been an amazing week. I’m glad you were on the bag.” It was the most incredible moment I’ve spent in this game. And there isn’t a close second.
And now we are going back!
On Monday, Chris Hoff, the tournament director of the Barracuda Championship, texted me to ask if I was available. I said yes, of course. He called me minutes later and said he would like to give Mark an exemption into the 2022 Barracuda, an event we lovingly call the Cuda. “Hell, yeah!” I yelled. Chris and I then came up with a plan to surprise Mark.
Mark produces my podcast, so Alex Upegui, a partner of the Fire Pit Collective, and I set up a call to discuss things. In the middle of the meeting, Chris joined. I’ll let the video (at bottom of the article) speak for itself. It was an especially cool moment.
If you follow my account, you know I was passionate about opposite-field events even before Mark Monday’d into the Barracuda in California. As I have said in many tweets, few tournaments on the PGA Tour produce career/life-changing wins, but it’s a different story at opposite-field events. Ask Greg Chalmers, Parker McLachlin, and Andrew Putnam—all former champions of the Barracuda—what this event means to them. It changed their careers. When Collin Morikawa has 30 wins and seven major championships, the answer to the trivia question of where his first pro win came will always be the Cuda.
Here is the reality. Mark is 38; he has played on the Korean, Asian, Australasian, China, Latino American and Korn Ferry tours, not to mention countless mini-tours. He and his ever-patient wife, Sarah, have a son now, and they live in her parents’ house. A glamorous life it is not. The window for “making it” is closing. If I had a dollar for every time I had a grinder tell me it’s his “last year,” only to see that guy grinding away the following year, I’d be hanging with Elon Musk. This is Mark’s fifth “last year,” but I truly believe if he doesn’t find some success, 2022 will be his last.
After a poor round last week at the RSM Monday Q, he told me, “There are 20 downs in golf for every one up, but every pro holds onto that one through the 20 downs. If you don’t, you will never make it.”
I’m not sure Mark would be playing again if it wasn’t for Bill Haas and the 2021 Barracuda. On Tuesday of that week, Mark joined Haas, Nick Watney and Rafael Campos for a couple of holes of a practice round. Mark was striping it, and he is long. After two holes, Haas pulled Mark aside and told him, “Keep playing like that, and I’ll see you on Sunday.” That’s former FedEx Cup champ Bill Haas, a guy who has played a million rounds with a million random pros. He went out of his way to say he was impressed. It was so damn cool. Mark and I talked about it for most of the back nine of that practice round. He would make the cut, had a good round Saturday, and put himself in a position to sneak into the top 10 before finishing 34th. It was a fantastic week. (If you haven’t read it, here is a link to the daily article I wrote.) And now we get to experience it all again.
Maybe the Barracuda is the perfect place for Mark to hang it up, at the site of the best week of his career. Or maybe it’s the place where he jumpstarts his career.
Thanks to Chris and the Barracuda for the opportunity. We cannot wait to get back. And thanks to all of you for following along. It’s time to win the Cuda.
And yes, I’m stealing another caddie bib.