New Pal pair earn players of the year


Hancock County Boys Golfers of the Year, New Palestine’s Braeden Baker, left, and Matt Barada.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

NEW PALESTINE — One is a little more aggressive.

The other is a little more conservative.

One set a new school record.

The other was Hancock County individual medalist.

Both styles worked for New Palestine’s Matt Barada and Braeden Baker, the Daily Reporter Boys Golf Athletes of the Year.

When you put their styles and performances together, it made a great combination for New Palestine’s boys golf team.

“Matt and I, we called ourselves the 1-2 punch,” the more conservative, county champion Baker said. “We played a lot of golf together because, in our 9-hole matches, the No. 1 and No. 2 play together. We knew when the other was down. We knew how to help each other and build up our mentality to where we wanted to be.”

The pair led the Dragons to their first Hancock County Tournament championship since 2018. Baker shot a one-under-par 35 — a career-best round — in the 9-hole victory at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield. Barada and teammate Landon Beaty tied for second with 39s.

Barada shot a nine-hole school-record round of three-under-par 32 at Royal Hylands Golf Club in Knightstown.

“I’ve always liked that course,” Barada said of his school-record round in a regular season meet with Eastern Hancock and Shenandoah. “We got there late, so I hit like four or five putts and then we went out and played. My first couple of swings were really good and I just started making putts. I almost chipped in on No. 9 for a 31.”

“I’ve shot around par a lot, but I’d been waiting for that round to put everything together. It did that day, six pars, three birdies. That was fun.”

He also picked up a third-place finish — tops of any county golfer — with an 18-hole round of 75 (three-over-par) in the Greenfield-Central Sectional held at Hawk’s Tail.

The Dragons placed second as a team, best of any Hancock County school, and advanced to the regional.

Both golfers earned all-Hoosier Heritage Conference honors at Players Club at Woodland Trails in Yorktown. Baker placed fourth (77) and Barada tied for eighth (81).

“Matt was a little bit more aggressive player and Braeden was a little more conservative,” New Palestine coach Chris Story said of his team captains. “They play different styles of golf. Sometimes that would benefit one or the other, depending on the golf course. Both are veteran golfers that have been playing for a long time. They swing it a little differently, but have had very similar results and they both have great attitudes on the course.”

Barada had his highlight round at Royal Hylands, Baker’s best came at county, where the Dragons won bragging rights with a score of 157, 10 strokes better than second-place Greenfield-Central.

He just missed finishing two-under-par.

“I never could expect to shoot that well,” Baker said of his county tournament. “I was two-under after eight holes. I finished on No. 6, a par 3. I went into the hole whatever happens, happens and I would be proud of how I played. I put (my tee shot) in the front bunker. I had to get a bogey just to stay under par. It was my first under-par round of my career.”

Baker called it his best week as a high school golfer.

Prior to the county meet, the Dragons beat rival Mt. Vernon in a dual match. The year before they had beaten the Marauders in a dual, but lost at county.

The pair played well down the stretch of their final high school seasons.

In the sectional meet, Barada helped lead the way. At the regional, the final match of the year, Baker had the low score, a 79, just four shots off making it to the state tournament.

“Early in the season we couldn’t put it together on the same day. Finally, at county, we did. After that we played really well the whole season,” Barada said. “You could always count on Braeden coming in with a good score. At county, we both played well. We had some help from our No. 3 and No. 4 that day, too, but you know (Braeden) is going to come in with a good score. We definitely felt like a 1-2 punch.”

Even when they weren’t playing together, which was the case in most of the larger meets, Baker said he was still able to work off what Barada was doing elsewhere on the course.

“We fed off each other.” Baker said. “I would ask one of our coaches, ‘How is he doing on the course?’ If he’s doing well on the day, maybe I should be a little more conservative on the course and I’ll have a better score. We definitely feed off each other. I’m thankful for that.”

Story added, “There’s a golf term, Ham and Egg, one has a bad hole, and the other one picks him up. That’s kind of how it was on competition rounds. At county, they both clicked. Braeden won and Matt was close. He had one bad hole. It seemed to be if one wasn’t on his ‘A’ game, he had his ‘B’ stuff and the other was on his ‘A’ game. I think some of that is their style of play.”

Neither plan to play golf in college. Barada is going to Indiana University and study Economics and Political Science. Baker is going to IUPUI to study Business.

“We’re going to miss them a lot,” Story added. “We have some big shoes to fill.”