In the next of part of our ‘Meet the Rookies’ series, we introduce Englishman Matthew Baldwin, who will be looking to emulate his grandfather by achieving sporting stardom after he earned a European Tour card for 2012 courtesy of a tenth place finish in the Challenge Tour Rankings.While Matthew Baldwin’s grandfather Ronald Ryder was a famous British sportsman, it was in the environs of a much different sport to the one within which the young Lancashire man is developing his name.
Ryder was an international rugby player in the 1950s and once won the Challenge Cup final with Warrington in front of a record crowd of over 100,000.
Baldwin may not have experienced such fanfare in his short golf career thus far, but after earning his card for The European Tour 2012 International Schedule thanks to an tenth place finish in the Challenge Tour Rankings this year, he will be hoping that kind of adulation is all ahead of him.
Baldwin, who was introduced to golf by the same grandfather at the age of three, certainly displayed signs of a man with team sport in his blood in a distinguished amateur career, captaining the England Boys’ team before playing in the Home Internationals at Senior level in 2007.
The following year he turned professional and after two years on the Alps Tour, his career took flight in the 2011 Challenge Tour season.
In his first year on the Challenge Tour, the 25 year old hit the ground running with two top ten finishes in his first two tournaments.
A fourth place finish at the ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes Benz in August then kicked off a good run of form which culminated in his first win as a professional, at the Fred Olsen Challenge de España in October, when he beat Julien Gurrier in a play-off.
It was something he admits he will never forget, especially given the company he was in during that particular week.
“It was amazing,” he beamed. “It was special because my girlfriend was there, it was the first time she came out to a tournament for the whole week so it was really good.
“I didn’t have much time to sit down and enjoy it, I literally flew home and then straight to Lyon, then Rome and then I had a two week break, but I was preparing for the Challenge Tour Final.
“It has all been quite sudden, this year I was just trying to improve my category, but when I won that tournament it changed everything really.”
That win, as well as the third place finish the previous week in France, meant Baldwin collected a tidy €34,400 in just two weeks, a spell which ultimately sealed his berth in The European Tour for 2012.
Mixing it with the big boys for the first time in his career is something which the Royal Birkdale man is relishing, but he insists he is not getting too carried away with the prospect and is keen to focus on the challenges ahead.
“It’s nice to have made it alright,” he smiled. “I've not really thought about it, I have always had it rammed into me that I’m only as good as my last round so I've forgotten about my win and qualifying for The European Tour and now it’s a case of moving on to the next thing.”As he awaits the most exciting chapter in his career, Baldwin has plenty to look forward to as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and plot a path to sporting stardom.