BOB WEST ON GOLF: PN-G grad Bailey aces classes, scores biggest victory

Published 2:59 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2016

With one semester and three collegiate tournaments on his resume at Baylor, Port Neches-Groves ex Braden Bailey has been sensational in the classroom and solid on the golf course.

Based on what happened last week in Lufkin, the arrow is pointing up on the golf part.

Following an exemplary academic performance that saw his worst grade an A-minus in English, Bailey entered the Crown Colony Collegiate Open to knock some of the winter rust off his game. The result had to leave Baylor coach Mike McGraw fired up about what his prize freshman is going to be able to contribute during the spring schedule.

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Bailey followed an opening 72 with a one-under par 71 for a 36-hole total of 143 over a tight Crown Colony layout that has long ranked as one of the best in Texas. Tied with Wisconsin’s Eddie Wajda for first place, Bailey earned the gold medal with a birdie 4 on the first playoff hole.

It goes down as his first significant victory beyond the junior golf ranks and served as a major boost to his confidence.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect because it had been a while since our last tournament,” he said. “I just wanted to get comfortable and try to compete. I surprised myself with how well I played. It wasn’t a super strong field, but I was able to beat some good college players.”

Bailey has been working hard on his short game and it paid dividends in Lufkin. So did the extra length he’s picked up from being on a weight program.

“I’ve worked out a lot, trying to get faster and stronger for the spring season,” he said. “Last time I saw the numbers, which was before Thanksgiving, I had added four miles per hour of clubhead speed. I’m 10 to 15 yards longer with my driver.”

Bailey played in all three of Baylor’s fall tournaments, finishing No. 3 on the team with a scoring  average of 73.67 in events played in Minneapolis, Chicago and Birmingham. He best finish was a tied-for-18th in the Fighting Illini Invitational in Chicago with a 54-hole total of 5-over-par 215.

His best rounds were a 70 in the Fighting Illini and a 70 at the Jerry Pate Invitational in Birmingham.

“I expect to play better in our spring tournaments,” said the ultra-competitive Bailey.

Baylor’s upcoming schedule includes the UTSA Invitational Feb. 8-9 at Oak Hills in San Antonio, the University of Houston’s All America Intercollegiate at The Golf Club of Houston Feb. 19-21. and the Aggie Invitational April 2-3 in Bryan.

Folks who like to watch high level amateur golf might want to circle April 29-30 and May 1 on their calendars. Bailey and the Bears will be playing in the Big 12 championship on those dates at Whispering Pines in Trinity.

Whispering Pines, the No. 1-ranked course in Texas, is a little over a 2-hour drive from Mid-County. Attending that tourney would be a good chance to measure Bailey against some of the best players in college golf.


After another lights-out display by Jordan Spieth in the limited-field Tournament of Champions last week, the 2016 portion of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule shifts into high gear this week with the Sony Open in Honolulu.

Lamar University will be well represented, with Chris Stroud, Shawn Stefani and Dawie van der Walt in the field. The last competitive event for all three was the Nov. 22-25 RSM Championship at Sea Island, Georgia. Of the three, only Van der Walt made the cut. …

Stroud enters the Sony No. 85 in Fed Ex Cup points, with $156,731 in earnings for the 2015 portion of the new season. He opened strong with a T10 at the Open, was T38 at the Shriners in
Las Vegas, then missed cuts at the OHL and RSM. He is coming off a 2014-15 season that saw him win “only” $746,814.

That amounted to his lowest PGA Tour earnings since making $735,019 in 2009. He made the cut in only 14 of 28 tournaments, with two top 10s and five top 25s. In addition to trying to win his first PGA Tour tourney this year, Stroud is within striking distance of surpassing $10 million in official tour earnings. He’s at $9,175,097 going into the Sony. …

Stefani is coming off his most successful season, having won $1,757,803 in 2014 while finishing No. 54 in Fed Ex points. The former Barbers Hill bomber made 21 of 26 cuts, had a second and three top 10s. But he got off to a slow start in the fall tournaments, missing three of five cuts, with a best showing of T25 at the OHL. His career earnings are $3,732,534. …

Van der Walt will be playing his first full season on the PGA Tour, having earned his card through a third place finish on the Tour last year. He won two tourneys and also has two European Tour victories to his credit. In his five PGA Tour events last fall, Van der Walt missed cuts in the first two, then finished T33, T17 and T58. That earned him $118,366. He’s currently 102nd in Fed Ex points. …

Ralph Childress of Nederland scored the first reported hole in one of 2016 last Wednesday at Babe Zaharias when he sank a 7-iron from 130 yards on the second hole. The ace, Childress’ second
to go with a double eagle, helped him shoot a best ever score of 78. The 78 also matched his age. Witnesses were DogFight teammates Mike Lansford, Dillard Darbonne, Ray Trahan and Bud Auffurth. They finished tied for first at 17 points with the team of Buddy Sepeda, Ivory Hatch, Bill Draughon and Brad Royer. Closest to the pin winners were Childress (No. 2), Tom LeTourneau (No. 7), Jim Cooper (No. 12) and Gene Hardy (No. 15). …

The Friday Game at Zaharias was played in a two-ball format. On the front nine, the team of Earl
Richard, Rick Pritchett, Darbonne and E.T. Robicheau won with minus-1.

The back was won in minus-2 by the team of Javier Torres, Bob Wactor, LeTourneau and Tommy Duhon. …

The Super Saturday Game at The Babe was also played in a 2-ball format. On the front, the team of Paul Flores, Cap Hollier and LeTourneau won with plus-2. The back was also won in plus-2 by the foursome of Adam Noel, Troy Touchet, Don Duplan and Wes McGuire.

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