The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
If Port Neches-Groves’ rising star Braden Bailey doesn’t follow in his footsteps at Lamar, it won’t be because Indian ex Chris Stroud hasn’t made a strong recruiting push on behalf of Brian White and the Cardinals.
Bailey, whose accomplishments as a junior put him ahead of where Stroud was at a similar point, has been recruited by schools all over the country. If he were a football or basketball player, he’d be labeled a four-star prospect. He’s reportedly narrowed his choices to three in-state programs — North Texas, Baylor and Lamar.
Stroud, who helped return Lamar golf to national prominence, very much wants Bailey to play for the Cardinals. Because White has played such a key role in his PGA Tour success, and his teaching skills are so respected he currently works with a handful of tour players, Chris is convinced Braden’s best route to the tour is with the guy everybody calls “Whitey” as his swing coach.
To reinforce that point, he came to Beaumont a week ago to play 18 holes with Bailey and three strong LU boosters — Terry Garth, Bryan Blevins and Chris Davis. He felt it went well, was very impressed with much of what he saw out of Bailey and went back to Houston more convinced than ever that he needs to be in a program with a real golf coach.
Stroud, however, did offer one qualifier on Bailey’s ultimate choice of a school. He only wants him to go to Lamar if that’s what’s in his heart. He clearly understands that being happy is an integral part of success. If Braden opts to go elsewhere, he’ll have Chris’ support, friendship and advice if he wants it whenever they can touch base.
Bottom line, though, he strongly feels Lamar is the best option. Especially when the benefits of playing for the Cardinals are weighed against Baylor and North Texas. Based on accomplishments over the past decade, he feels like the differences are like water to wine or a BB gun to a rifle.
“I love the kid. He’s awesome,” Stroud said. “He’s a phenomenal player. I think his short game and putting stroke are better than most of the Lamar golf team. Actually, his putting stroke may be better than mine when I was coming out of college. He’s just incredibly talented. What I really liked was that gritty look in his eye, how serious he takes the game and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get better.
“If he goes to Lamar, he’ll have not only have Whitey, but access to me, Dawie Van der Walt (European Tour) and Casey Clendenon (Web.com Tour). I can tell him things he won’t learn anywhere else, things I had to learn the hard way because I didn’t have somebody with experience to lean on. The entire Lamar golfing family is close and has so much to offer.”
Stroud said he was amazed at how quickly Bailey picked up on a shot he taught him called “cutting the legs out” during the round at Beaumont Country Club.
“It’s a shot where you put the ball back in your stance, hit the ball low and just cut the legs out from under it,” Stroud explained. “We were about 115 yards and he hit it to two feet. I thought ‘wow, he’s a quick learner.’ And that’s a key point. As good as he his, he still has so much to learn. He needs to be very sure he’s playing college golf at a school where there is knowledgeable teaching by a qualified coach.”
Stroud also made it a point to shoot down what some consider a bit of a negative for Lamar golf — access to great facilities.
“A young player can get everything he needs at Beaumont Country Club,” he insisted. “They keep that place in such great condition. The day we played, the greens must have been rolling around 14. I play at lot at Lochinvar, which is one of the best in Houston. On the day we played, it could keep up with BCC’s greens. Since they redid the layout, that place has a lot of offer.”
Stroud liked the point Terry Garth made to Bailey after their round.
“Terry talked about what it would mean to have me taking Braden under my wing. He told him that at the end of the day, if you want to get to the PGA Tour you go to a place that will prepare you for it, and there’s no better place for him than Lamar. He pointed out the golf community here is so solid behind the Lamar program and that guys like him and Bryan Blevins are at the beck and call of the LU golfers.”
Since Bailey’s a junior, he doesn’t have to make a decision for at least a year. Indications are, however, that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. Maybe real soon. But as of today even his dad doesn’t know the outcome.
To his credit, Brad Bailey is letting his son call the shot on what will be the most important decision up to this point in his young life.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at usa.net