MATTHEW BALDWIN returned from his opening foray into life as a European Tour rookie in upbeat mood – and with good reason.
The Southport player pocketed his first pay cheque of the season amid the birdie barrage that was the African Open.
His four round total of 15 under par gave him a top 10 finish in his debut appearance of 2012 after graduating from the Challenge Tour.
And while the Royal Birkdale player received a swift reminder in the second event of his South African venture that you can play well and still miss the cut, he believes the early lessons will stand him in good stead for the rest of the campaign.
“The first week showed me that I can compete at this level,” he said ahead of playing a few holes in the winter sunshine over the famous Southport links.
“The second week showed me the areas I need to improve in. At the Joburg Open the course set-up meant you were left with longer shots in and I just did not hit it close enough. If you are seven feet or more away from the hole rather then three you are outside the scoring zone. The percentage figure for making putts from the longer distance drops from 90 to 50.
“You also need a good short game and mine just wasn’t up to scratch that week. The second week was frustrating. I had swung the club nicely in the Africa Open and knew the birdie chances would come, but because of my problems with the long game I just wasn’t creating them in the second week. And when I did get a birdie chance I didn’t take them.”
Learning how to deal with frustration is just part of the golfing education Baldwin, a former England amateur international, must undergo as he embarks on only his fourth year in the paid ranks. The former Lancashire county champion’s ranking on the European Tour means he is unsure of when his next appearance will come as the schedule takes its early season swing through the desert states of the Middle East. It is a case of taking a place on the reserve list and then waiting for a call, which can often come so late it leaves little time for practice before the event itself.