written by Scott Kramer
Former LPGA Tour winner Marisa Baena is determined to make it back to the circuit. Her injured hip has finally healed – after roughly 20 years – and was hopefully the final obstacle in her comeback attempt.
Now a 45-year-old mother of two, Baena lives in Plano, Texas where she can often be found grooming her game at Watters Creek Golf Course. But up to this point, she was focused on helping others. “I've been a full-time mom and, on the side, and I've been coaching,” she says. “I was helping mostly male golfers from my native Colombia make the change from being an amateur to professional. After the pandemic, things changed a little bit. I decided that I wanted to get back to playing. So, I've been concentrating more on getting healthy and seeing if I can play again. And I'm coaching more teenagers now, but I initially retired because of injuries, so it's been a long recovery.”
Her first hip surgery in 2007 did not go well. She followed that up with another one in 2018. “Fortunately, that one went much better,” says Baena, who’s also been nursing a sore left shoulder since college that has claimed some of her mobility. “I’m trying to get balanced again, because from playing so much my body got rotated to the left. But thankfully, things are going well. I've been working really hard and getting stronger, and starting to hit balls again. And that's how I kind of got connected with Honma clubs.”
To help spur the competition within her, Baena has joined a local group that plays skins games at different courses every week. She recently built a soft, synthetic putting green in her backyard. As a result, she feels her putting and chipping are “very, very good” while her driver needs some work. “I'm not 20 anymore – I always tried to go after it on the tour,” she says. “So now I need to work on that. When I left the tour, I was very injured – which was difficult, especially as I had full status. And I missed it way too much. It was a part of my life. I could only play like eight times in a 10-year stretch. I think it will be fun for my kids to watch me compete. I hope my experience teaches them how much you have to work to get what you want, because they're seeing everyday how much effort I’ve been putting into my health.”
Baena’s ultimate goal is to play in the 2027 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, after she turns 50. And while that remains five years away, she’s been planning her comeback the past nine years. And she’ll be trying to get in some LPGA Tour events along the way, as well.
Thankfully for Baena, she’s paving the way with Honma clubs in her bag. First and foremost, she plays the TR20 P irons, which she loves. “So easy to hit,” says Baena. “The ball flies super high with ease. I was very surprised how easy they were to hit. I love the high trajectory. With my previous irons, I’d have to help the ball up because I needed trajectory. It was bad because of the injuries. So, I had to stay back in the swing, which made it even worse. But with the Honmas, my shots go so high. Before, I tended to hit it more on the low side with low spin, so shots tended to kind of die. Now I feel that I get more speed, and get a penetrating flight like against the wind. The thing I notice most is that the ball stays longer in the air with less effort.” Baena also plays Honma’s TW 757 driver and hybrid. “Love them,” she says. “That hybrid goes forever and straight. It just flies really nice. And the driver I really, really like, too, because tee shots stay in the air longer. I’m very surprised at how long I can hit the ball with it. When I compete, lengthwise I'll be okay.”
When not playing golf, Baena enjoys reading, playing tennis and volleyball, and watching sports on TV. But her real passion is cooking. “I’m a pretty good cook,” she says – adding that she makes anything from salmon to Colombian food, creole and paella.
Speaking of, she offers amateur golfers a recipe for success: “A lot of people are very hard on themselves and put a lot of pressure to play well instead of relaxing, enjoying the day and setting achievable goals. Thus, they don’t have fun and everything starts going the other way during their round. So, set more specific goals for yourself. You’ll enjoy playing more and get better faster. Pinpoint where you’re losing strokes and spend time working on those specific things. You won’t lose interest during your round or get frustrated.” And the way she’s quickly successfully overcoming severe frustration to get back to the tour, you can take her advice to the bank.