Times Sports Editor
The Northview boys' golf program has enjoyed a great deal of success over the past three seasons and have continued to excel in 2009.
The Knights have reached the regional each of the last two years with a team championship in 2007 and a runner-up finish last year.
Senior Kade Baker has been a key component in the program's success since his freshman year when the Knights took fifth-place. Both Baker and the Knights have steadily improved over his career and hopes are high for the 2009 postseason as well.
Baker's success hasn't gone unnoticed as Rend Lake College came calling and offered the Knight an opportunity to join one of the top junior college golf programs in the country.
On Monday afternoon, Baker sealed the deal to become a Warrior and join a program that has annually competed with the top programs in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) under head coach Dave Smith.
Last May, the Warriors reached the NJCAA men's golf championships where they tied for 15th-place
Smith was in contact with Northview head coach Scott Buell, but also received a call from a former Northview athlete turned Rend Lake Warrior.
"Actually, I got some calls from Northview's coach and then I got a call from one of our former players, Chad Penman. It was a good phone call to get," Smith said. "We had a lot of good luck with (Penman), but I think Kade is a nice fit for us."
Penman went on to start with the IUPUI Jaguars following his two-years at Rend Lake College. He currently holds fifth-place on the school's top-10 single season stroke averages per round with 75.11 during the 2000-01 season.
Baker burst onto the scene during his sophomore year when he was the sectional low medalist at Rolling Meadows Golf Course in Gosport. His round of 73 helped pace the Knights to a sectional championship.
"Even as a freshman we knew he had a lot of talent," Buell said of Baker. "He's very talented and if he continues to work at it, the skies the limit and he's a hard worker."
Buell noted that while his prep career has garnered him attention, it is an extensive tourney schedule outside of school that has prepared him for collegiate competition.
"His summer schedule is what is impressive," Buell said. "He's played against the best competition. Hopefully he can have two good seasons (at Rend Lake)."
Before he becomes a Warrior however, Baker pointed out that he still has some goals he'd like to accomplish with the Northview program.
"I definitely want to finish well as a team at the sectional and definitely reaching the state finals is the next goal," Baker said.
The senior golfer, who also was a standout football player for the Knights, is concentrating on refining his game to accomplish both his high and collegiate goals, which include playing at the Division I level.
"I need to work on my short game, probably from 100 yards in," Baker said.
Buell agreed, but quickly pointed out what makes Baker a threat at any level.
"He'll need to work on his wedge game," Buell said. But he has a ton of length. He's probably the longest player at any tourney he plays."
"You just have to tee it up," Smith said of playing at the college level. "We're going to have seven freshmen next year. When we get everyone here we're just going to play and play. The biggest difference is the traveling and playing courses they've never seen. But they'll adapt."
The Knights continue their season on Thursday night when they travel to Terre Haute to take on the Patriots at 5 p.m.