Life has come full circle for Natalie Baylock when it comes to the First Tee of the Tri-Valley.
Baylock, formerly Natalie Bodner, started in the first year of the program around the age of nine, and now, about to turn 24, Baylock is a full-time employee for the organization, working as the office manager, as well as a teacher/coach.
“I can’t believe how much it’s grown,” said Baylock of the First Tee of the Tri-Valley program. “There used to be just one class. I think of all the time everyone has put into it and that’s what makes me full.”
Life certainly has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for Baylock, more than someone of her young age should have to deal with.
In her early career she found success as a junior golfer, twice playing in what started as the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach where the juniors are teamed with golfers from the PGA Tour Champions.
The first time she played in the tournament, she had to go all the way to New Hampshire to qualify. It was more than just golf as all the players had to go through two interviews and two tests in addition to playing well.
She got the chance to meet President Bush and his wife as they came to visit the golfers. She made it to the tournament in 2009 at Pebble Beach and was paired with a Monday qualifier for her first start.
In 2010, she again made the field just before she turned 16 and this time she was paired with Bill Glasson, a PGA player from Fresno.
“The whole experience was great,” said Baylock. “Getting to meet the President and his wife, as well as playing at Pebble was awesome. It was cool to know what it was like to be inside the ropes. I also got meet some the legends of golf like Tom Watson.”
It was just the beginning for Baylock as she went on to star at Amador Valley High before getting a scholarship to Sacramento State after graduating in 2012. She enjoyed her college career and graduated in 2016 with a degree is Communications and Public Relations.
She took a job as a tech recruiter in San Jose to be with her boyfriend Nick. The two moved in together and even though the job was not Baylock’s ideal occupation, life was pretty good.
It all began to unravel a short time later when Nick was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The two owned a home in Belmont and decided to get married. Natalie quit work and focused on taking care of Nick full time. In March of 2017, Nick passed away and it left Natalie alone.
“I was in Belmont and my family and friends were back in Pleasanton,” said Baylock, who shows amazing maturity and grace. “I needed to come home.”
She was all of 22, coming off the horrific tragedy of losing her husband and having her life shattered. She needed comfort and was able to find it with both her families – nuclear and the First Tee.
“I came back and ran into Jill (Womble, a former Foothill star),” said Baylock of the First Tee Program director. “She told me I was always welcome here. I used to come back and help during the summer, so I came back in the summer of 2017. This has always been home to me – I know everyone here. It was a traumatic and confusing time for me, but everyone knew my story and it was not going to be an issue if I was having a bad day.”
By January of this year Baylock was a full-time office employee, something she really needed.
“It was helpful being around everyone,” said Baylock of the First Tee family. “It made dealing with it a lot easier and helped a lot.”
Baylock has jumped into the First Tee of the Tri-Valley with both feet, including donating to name the organization’s spring break camp the “Nick Baylock First Tee Spring Golf Camp. The first one was held in April and drew 40 junior golfers.
“I know how precious life is,” said Baylock. “Golf is the greatest sport and the life skills you can learn are so important. There are so many different things you can learn in the sport and the First Tee.”
Currently Baylock is working towards becoming a member of the PGA. Looking forward she knows she always will want to work with junior golfers to help grow the game and enrich the life of the kids in their formative years.
“I feel like there is nothing else I want to do,” said Baylock. “The game has given me so much and has shaped me into the person I am today.”
For more information please see: First Tee of the Tri-Valley
By Dennis Miller