PN-G’s Braden Bailey is headed back to the 4A state tournament in Austin, but he’ll be making the trip alone this time and he’ll be doing it with a haunting memory of how the Region III individual championship was snatched from his grasp in stunning fashion on the final hole.
Huntsville’s Chandler Phillips, who is several notches above Bailey in the national junior rankings, finished birdie-birdie Wednesday at River Ridge Golf Club to edge standout by a stroke with a 36-hole score of one-over-par 143. Phillips capped a closing 69 by slam dunking a 30-foot putt from the fringe of the 18th green.
Onlookers estimated the putt would have been at least 10-feet long if the ball hadn’t hit the cup dead center, jumped in the air and landed in the hole.
“I had a feeling he was going to make it, but I didn’t think he’d hit it as hard as he did,” said Bailey, who was watching from behind the green. “When I congratulated him, he said he was either going to win by one or I’d probably win by one because he wasn’t going to leave it short.
“We’ve had some great battles over the years. I’m looking forward to the next one in Austin.”
Bailey, after an opening round 71, led Phillips by three shots. He came back with a 73 on Wednesday, in a round that saw him make only two birdies against 4 bogeys. He made the turn in even par after a birdie at 1 and a bogey at 9 and got to one-under with a birdie at 10.
Three bogeys over the next four holes, however, opened the door for Phillips, who repeated as the Region III champion.
“I played pretty good, I just didn’t make enough birdies,” Bailey said. “I was just a little bit off when it came to hitting my targets. But I still thought I was going to win. You have to give Chandler credit for finishing the way he did.”
Bailey’s other disappointment Wednesday was PN-G coming up short in its bid to make a second consecutive trip to state. The Indians took a step back in the final round, adding a 326 to a first-day 320 to finish fourth at 646. That was nine strokes too many.
Montgomery won with a 633 (314-319). George Ranch and Friendswood tied for second at 637.
Brandon Soileau backed Bailey’s effort with a 78 for a 159. Other PN-G scores included Tyler Rawson’s 167 (84-83) and Bradley Stone’s 178 (84-94). Cameron Keith shot 183 (91-92).
“I disappointed for our seniors (Rawson and Stone),” said Bailey. “I really wanted it for them. But I’m proud of all the guys. Everybody gave it there best.”
Nederland’s boys managed to shave 10 shots off their first day score with a 330 that gave them a 670 total and ninth place. Michael Glover once again led the way for the Bulldogs, shooting 78 for 160. He was followed by Thaine Tillie’s 166 (86-80), Avery LeBlanc’s 173 (84-89) and Hunter Huff’s 174 (91-83). Cole Trevino shot 1984 (88-96).
PN-G’s girls, led by Karlei Hemler’s second consecutive solid round, improved by one shot with a 370 for 741 and seventh place. Hemler shot 81-163 to finish T16. Brynna Bailey had 177 (82-95), Railie Guidry shot 196 (103-93) and Oxy Benites was a 205 (104-101). Rian Weatherford carded finished at 241 (127-114).
Nederland’s girls also improved on their opening day effort, adding a 397 to a 405 for 802 and 13th place. Reagan Bodin led the way with 195 (103-92). She was followed by Reid Whaley’s 196 (96-100), Brittany Leatherwood’s 205 (101-104), Deanna Rich’s 206 (105-101) and Tobi Hebert’s 236 (124-112).
Bailey, meanwhile, won’t be the only Southeast Texas golfer headed to Austin. LC-M’s Lauren Cox, the District 20-4A girls’ champion, grabbed one of the three individual spots available to players not on the top three teams. Cox added a 76 to her first-day 74 for a 150. — BOB WEST