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BOB WEST ON GOLF: Bailey eager to take next golf step

With only a handful of college tournaments remaining, the countdown has begun on Braden Bailey’s dream of becoming the third Port Neches-Groves graduate to play on the PGA Tour. He plans to turn pro immediately after the NCAA tournament in late May.

The Baylor senior, who was hitting balls on the range at Babe Zaharias on Monday afternoon, says he’s excited about the challenging path ahead. The first step comes next Monday when he will register for Canada’s Mackenzie Tour Qualifying School.

There are six Q school options from late February through April, but not all of them are open to him due to Baylor’s tournaments. Bailey says he is leaning toward trying to play in the one set Feb. 25 to March 1 at TPC San Antonio.

The Mackenzie Tour’s most famous graduate is Tony Finau. It has become increasingly popular for young players. In 2018 it staged 13 events across Canada, operating from June through early September.

Its champion gains full access to the Web.com Tour and players who finish second through 10th advance to the final stage of Web.com Q school.

Players who finish 11-20 reach Web.com second stage.

“I’ve done my research and I think the Mackenzie Tour is the best way to go,” Bailey said. “The chances it offers for Web.com Q school are a big incentive.

“What I know for sure is that I am anxious to try to move on to the next level. My final college tournaments are very important to me, but I am really looking forward to going pro.”

Bailey understands the road to the PGA Tour is daunting and filled with potholes. All he has to do is look at at the struggles of his Pea Patch and PNG predecessors — Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry.

Stroud, who will be 36 on Feb. 3, turned pro in 2004 and bounced around mini-tours until he earned a PGA Tour Card by finishing tied for 16th at PGA Tour School in 2006. To keep his card, Stroud had to make it through the brutally difficult 108-hole Q School again in 2007 (third) and 2008 (fourth).

Reaching golf’s top level was a much bumpier ride for Landry. He turned pro after nearly helping Arkansas win the NCAA championship in 2009. It took him six years to make it onto the Web.com Tour and that led to him grabbing a PGA Tour card at age 28 in 2016.

Landry lasted only one year, had to go back on the Web.com Tour in 2017, quickly won a tournament, regained his PGA card and became an amazing success story by winning his first PGA Tour tournament and earning $2.5 million.

“I’ve talked with both of them and know they are going to be there for me,” said Bailey. “It’s going to help having guys with a similar background to seek advice from.”

Bailey’s final four months as an amateur begins in earnest when he competes in the prestigious Jones Cup in Sea Island, Ga., Feb. 1-3. Previous winners of that event include Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas and Beau Hossler.

Baylor’s spring schedule opens with the Feb. 17-19 University of Houston All-America Intercollegiate at the Golf Club of Houston. There will be four other tourneys, leading up the Big 12 Championships set for the historic Greenbrier in West Virginia April 26-28.

After that it’s the NCAA Regionals, hopefully followed by the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Because he took summer school courses, Bailey needs only one spring class to earn a degree, thus having extra time to hone his game. He’d like to finish off a sterling collegiate career, that includes two wins, the seventh best stroke average in Baylor history (72.0) and the seventh most top 10s, in style.

One thing that has not exactly been in his favor of late is all the wet, cold Texas weather. That’s why it was beneficial to have a girlfriend, Giovana Maymon, who also has pro golf aspirations and lives with her family on a course 20 minutes west of Mexico City.

Eight days of practicing and playing golf in a warm, dry Mexico climate over the holidays helped Braden keep his game sharp. If you happen to pass by the practice range at Zaharias, he’ll be the guy with the syrupy smooth swing and amazing power.

CHIP SHOTS
Andrew Landry wound up winning $82,500 after tying for 22nd in the Tournament of Champions. He also got some TV time for nearly breaking one of the USGA’s new rules — taking a drop from knee high, rather than shoulder high.

A shout of warning from his playing partner stopped Landry just before he dropped the ball. As it turns out, however, Landry would not have been penalized if he realized his mistake, picked up the ball and dropped it from shoulder high.

Had he dropped from knee high, then hit the ball it would have been a one-shot penalty …

Calvin Landry, 61, of Bridge City shot his best ever round of 74 Monday at Babe Zaharias. Landry’s previous best was 76. He shot the 74 without benefit of a birdie, making 16 pars and two bogeys …

Landry’s sterling play helped helped his team of Larry Johnson, Don MacNeil and Bob West tie the back nine at minus-1 in Monday’s Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias. Also finishing minus-1 on the back was the foursome of Bob Luttrull, Jimmy Cady, John Veillon and Cap Hollier as the ghost player.

On the front, the team of Bob Byerly, Tom LeTourneau, Roger Koch and Hollier won with minus-4 …

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of Bim Morrow, Rick Pritchett and Tommy Duhon win the front with plus 1. On the back, the threesome of Paul Flores, Earl Richard and Don Duplan prevailed with minus-1.

Golf news should be sent to rdwest@usa.net