Aaron Baddeley will share the marquee for next week’s Fry’s Electronics Open with Phil Mickelson and John Daly.
A year ago we probably would not have given him such stature among the game’s most sought-after stars, but that was before “Badds’’ won the FBR Open and closed out his 2008 season at the FedEx Cup with a bang.
It’s nice to see that Baddeley, an Australian who lives in Scottsdale for 11 months and the other month in Melbourne, is playing before what he now considers the “home crowd.’’ Next month, however, he will make a less-heralded appearance in the East Valley that arguably means even more to the people it will affect.
“I’m hosting a one-day fundraiser on Nov. 6 at the TPC Scottsdale for a group called HopeKids,’’ Baddeley explained. “We’re looking for a foursome of golfers to put up $30,000 – all for HopeKids – and play a round of golf with me with the same Sunday pins that were used when I won the FBR Open in February, and then have lunch afterward.’’
The day starts with a warm-up session on the range and a few tips from Baddeley.
And, sure, it’s a lot of money for one round of golf, but it’s the way things get done for HopeKids, an organization that is based in Phoenix and Minneapolis and also includes such philanthropic pros as Scottsdale’s Tom Lehman and Stan Utley.
The HopeKids mission, which was initially forged by Phoenix’s Rob Cottrell and includes former East Valley resident Josh Taylor, helps kids to get through their chemotherapy or radiation, or whatever the treatment might be, while giving them something to hold on to.
“Research shows that if you help someone who is going through an awful illness and treatment to realize their dreams or wishes – or just give them hope – that they’ll do better during this traumatic time in their life,’’ Baddeley said of the cause.
“So basically, HopeKids is trying to help them survive that, and give them yet another reason to keep living.’’
Even though Baddeley and his wife Richelle don’t have any children, they have always been surrounded by youngsters ever since they met. That occurrence came three years ago when a friend introduced Aaron to Richelle when she was the director of a Scottsdale day-care center.
“My wife has always loved kids, so much that HopeKids was a natural fit for us,’’ Baddeley said. “(The fundraiser at the TPC) is pretty much the last thing I’ll do here before I return to Australia and spend a month in Melbourne playing in the Australian Masters and Australian Open.’’
Yes, Badds is basically the antithesis of his nickname. Soft-spoken with a less-heavy Aussie accent than he had, say, a year ago, I think you’re looking at the future of the PGA Tour. Remember, even though he’s only won twice in the big league to go with three international wins, Baddeley is only 26.
“Yeah, I still feel like I’m a kid,’’ he said with a chuckle.
When will he become an adult? “Maybe when Richelle and I have a kid,’’ he countered with another laugh.
Actually, Baddeley is looking more mature all the time. This year, he rose from 90th in the world rankings to his current position of 19th. He also ended up sixth in the final FedEx Cup standings, and currently in 10th place on the money list with a career-best $3,441,119 – or almost $2 million more than he’s ever made in a single season.
The only real downer for Baddeley in ’07 was the U.S. Open, where he took a two-shot lead into the final round and skied to a 10-over 80. Otherwise, it was all good for this truly phenomenal ball-striker and putter.
“I was quite pleased with the year. The only goal I didn’t reach was winning twice in the same season,’’ said Baddeley, who might have realized that, too, had Tiger Woods not shot a course-record 63 in the final round of the BMW Championship in Chicago to edge Baddeley by two shots.
“Of course, there’s still next week and the Fry’s Electronics Open,’’ he said. “But that will be my final opportunity.’’
True, Baddeley’s most successful Tour campaign will be history. But still to come will be that HopeKids exhibition at the TPC Scottsdale with four golfers who want to get to know Badds a little better while making a difference in a few young lives. If you have an interest, check it out at www.hopekids.org or call Cottrell at (602) 843-4673.