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We Can All Learn From This Former Teen Icon's Newfound Wisdom

Aaron Baddeley is Back. He still sort of looks 18, but he's a LOT smarter now.

17/11/2016 11:08 AM AEDT | Updated 17/11/2016 2:01 PM AEDT
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Piece of Wisdom number One: Hug your mother. This is Baddelely in 1999 after he won the Australian Open as an 18-year-old amateur.

Even if you're not into golf, there's a great story of one man's fascinating journey as the Australian Open golf tournament swings into action in Sydney this Thursday.

That man is Aaron Baddelely. Maybe the name rings a bell. He's the golfer who won the 1999 Australian Open as an 18-year-old amateur. Greg Norman came second that year, so it's not like Baddeley beat an easy field. And just to prove it was no fluke, he came back and defended his title on a different course in 2000.

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His golf balls weren't the only things with dimples.

Baddeley was the next big thing in Australian sport, and knew it. He wasn't way over the top brash, but he did announce goals like wanting to be world number one.

Never happened. Baddeley's career kind of levelled out. Pretty soon, he was overtaken by his contemporary Adam Scott as Australian golf's new big thing. Scott went on to become the first Aussie to win the Masters (in 2013) and has won 29 times around the world in total.

Baddeley? Not so impressive. He's won four times on America's elite PGA Tour, which admittedly is four times more than a lot of good golfers. But those wins have been spaced, and there've been plenty of mediocre results in between. Adam Scott reached world number one, but Baddeley's highest ranking was 17th in the world back in 2008. Earlier this year his ranking languished in the 400s.

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Baddelely made a lot of faces like this in 2015.

But there are strong signs of a resurgence. Baddeley won his first tournament in five years on the PGA Tour this July. And now, here he is, at the 2016 Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club, the site of that famous 1999 win.

Now 35 (even though he doesn't really look it), Baddeley said some interesting things at the pre-tournament press conference. We reckon there's something in this for all of us, and although this writer is not prone to writing life advice stories, we'll make an exception.

You can watch the presser here if you like. But if you don't have 13 minutes, jump down below the video where we've extracted a few highlights. Because we like making stuff easy for you.

DON'T TINKER WITH YOUR STRENGTHS

Asked what advice he'd give to young players, Baddeley said "understand what you do well and just keep doing that". Which we liked.

"I guess what I've learned over the years is to understand what you do, and when you do it well. When you're a youngster growing up you're always building your game, always making changes to try and improve and get better. And then when you get to [the top] level, they're not really working on their game in the sense of making changes all the time, they're just getting good at what they do. So if I understood that when I was younger, it would have been a lot different. I think that's why I've been a great putter pretty much my whole career, because I understood what I did well, so I just did that every day."

STOP LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER

Baddeley spoke of how he focused only on his own game in winning the Australian Open as an 18 year old, ignoring other players around him

I didn't really think of Greg [Norman] at all that week because I was so focused on what I do. I remember I had a little motto that I said to myself that week which was "one shot, one hole, one round", just to keep me focused in the present. I remember the only time I thought about what someone else was doing that week was when I walked from 17 to 18 [on the final round] and I asked a commentator what Nick O'Hern [who was running equal second with Greg Norman] had done on the last hole. He said 'oh just keep going, you're fine'. So that's the biggest key, don't focus on what other people are doing."

ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE UPS AND DOWNS

These little sub-headings might all sound cliched, but they're coming from a guy with real experience. Baddeley lost his PGA Tour card, which meant he had to play lesser tournaments for lesser money to claw his way back to the big time. And you know what? He wouldn't change a thing.

"I definitely feel like I've learned a lot. My story is what it is, I wouldn't change it. Surprisingly enough I was like super relaxed and calm about losing my card, a few people around me were stressing but I was like 'it's OK, relax. Everything's going to be OK."

Baddeley then spoke of how Jesus was the "rock in his life". He has long been an open Christian. He also reiterated that it remains a goal to be number one in the world.

"I don't see any reason why my goals should change just 'cause I'm a little older," he said. "I know where my game is at, I know the guys working with me believe I can do it, and people might think 'hey it's a bit crazy, but honestly I believe it's very attainable."

Hear, hear.

AND LASTLY, NEVER BE AFRAID TO SEEK HELP

Baddeley sought help from fellow golfers and even went to YouTube for golf tips. He called it "torture", but it helped. Pain generally does that.

We wish him well this week.

You can follow the tournament scores here. And if you'r feeling nostalgic, you can watch an extended highlights package of the 1999 Australian Open here.

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