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Dave Walsh: Midland golf standout returns to Tri-State

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Before Monday, the last time I saw Zach Baldwin swing a golf club was October 2000.

Baldwin was a senior at Cabell Midland High School playing in the 2000 West Virginia High School State Tournament at Guyan Golf and Country Club. He shot an 82 in the opening round, then rebounded in a big way with a 2-under-par 69 in the final round to help the Knights win the Class AAA title by three shots over Robert C. Byrd. It was the first state golf title in school history.

He excelled in other sports as well, especially baseball, and that's where he made his mark as a left-handed pitcher. He played two seasons at Coastal Carolina University, then transferred to West Virginia State (2004-06). The Washington Senators drafted him and he spent seven years in the minors. He then moved over to the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the Northern League and American Association. The Goldeyes won the American Association title in 2012, meaning Baldwin finally got the pro championship ring to go along with the collegiate championship rings.

That was where Baldwin's baseball career ended. As a pitcher, he didn't have to hit that much so his golf swing stayed pretty much intact.

Baldwin is back in Barboursville now. His home is on Blake Street. His day job as an instructor at Tri-State Baseball Academy in Huntington keeps him in touch with a sport he loves. He also gets to devote all the time he wants to golf instead of just fitting in a round here and there whether he was home or away in baseball.

He's shown he's still got it as a golfer. He won the West Virginia Open qualifier June 3 at Pipestem State Park with a 1-under 71. He went all 54 holes at the West Virginia Open at Parkersburg Country Club.

Last Monday, Baldwin shot a 76 in the West Virginia Amateur qualifier at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club in Hurricane, his home course now. He got one of the allotted 14 spots for the State Am scheduled Aug. 5-9 at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Old White TPC, home of the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic, and the Greenbrier courses will be used.

"I thought about going back," Baldwin said about returning to baseball. "I got my ring and chances at the big leagues (at 30) would be tough. Throwing in the mid to upper 80s isn't enough. You have to have speed. I'm happy with what I'm doing now."

Now that the 6-foot-5 Baldwin can devote more time to golf, watch out. He's one of the longest hitters around. When he keeps it in the short grass on a more consistent basis and the short game and putter become Pat Carter-like, watch out. The 69 in the state high school golf tournament indicates the kind of game he has.

"I've always loved to play golf," he said. "In baseball, I didn't have the time. Now I do. It's time to figure out life and find a career (I'm betting on something in the insurance business)."

When Baldwin's not working with clients at the baseball academy, he'll be working on his game at Sleepy Hollow. As he sees it, he's kind of got the best of both worlds.

"I love to teach baseball and coach kids," he said. "If I can have an impact on their success, that's great. I can also work on being the best golfer I can be. No distractions now. How far I go is up to me."

SPARKS MEMORIAL: Eric Sparks Memorial Outing is Saturday at Twin Silos at Lavalette. Morning session full. Times available for afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Golf is part of 16th annual Ceredo-Kenova Sports Celebration. Dinner is Friday night at First Baptist Church of Kenova. Herb Stephens is guest speaker.

CAROLINAS WIN: The 24-member Carolinas team beat its Virginias counterparts, 56-52, in the 57th Virginias-Carolinas Women's Team Matches held last Monday through Wednesday on the Palmer Course at Stonewall Resort. Ona's Brooke Bellomy, a junior at Campbell University, played on the Virginias team. In nine rounds, Bellomy and her partners combined for 5.5 points.

RONNIE KOUNS MEMORIAL: The 17th fund-raiser for the Huntington YMCA is scheduled Aug. 16 at Riviera Country Club. Entry fee $100. Sponsorships available. All proceeds benefit the Phil Cline Family YMCA. Call 304-697-7113, 304-525-8127 or visit www.huntingtonymca.org for more details.

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.

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