BOB WEST ON GOLF: Braden Bailey building toward Q school at The Woodlands

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Having come out with arguably the most accomplished class of college golfers in history, and watched a couple of them win PGA Tournaments in the past month, Braden Bailey is not putting any limitations on himself as he strives to build a career at golf’s highest level.

Hence, he showed up for his first tournament on the All Pro Tour (formerly Adams Tour) last week thinking there was no reason he shouldn’t have a good chance to win. Bailey missed his lofty goal by a single stroke, finishing in a tie for third after failing to birdie the par-5 finishing hole.

“I felt going in that I had a good chance with the way my game is trending,” he said. “My confidence has been growing with every round this summer. I didn’t have a good first round in Colorado, but other than that I have been pleased. My game is in a pretty good place.”

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Bailey, as he builds toward trying to earn a spot at the Korn Ferry Q School in December, has played 12 competitive rounds — four in Monday qualifiers for the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, four in the Colorado Open and four in the APT Taco Bell Natchez Classic. Only once has he been over par — a 75 in that opening round in Denver.

Even with that, his stroke average as a pro is 69.3. He finished T35 in the Colorado Open, then T3 in Natchez. He’ll play two more APT events — next Tuesday through Friday at Lufkin’s Crown Colony, then Sept. 11-14 in Victoria.

After that, comes the most important event of his professional life to date — a first stage qualifier for the Korn Ferry Q school Sept. 24-27.

“Everything is geared toward getting reps for Q school,” he said. “The Monday qualifiers in Canada were difficult but they were a positive learning experience. I found out pretty quick how important every shot is, how a shot here or there can be the difference in qualifying or not qualifying. It opened my eyes to how pro golf works.”

Bailey’s ultimate goal is to join Port Neches-Groves exes Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry on the PGA Tour. Part of his mental preparation has been conversations with Landry on his approach to being competitive at a high level.

“Andrew has so much self belief and confidence,” he said. “He and Chris are both that way. Their short games are incredible. They manage their games so well. With Andrew, I think it really kicked in when he was leading the U.S. Open a few years ago at Oakmont after 54 holes. He built on that.”

One of Landry’s points that resonated with Bailey was that the Baylor ex has the game to play at the highest level, but it would only happen with the right mind set.

“Andrew said he had played enough golf with me to know that I had the game to play and compete with anybody, but it was so important for me to believe in myself. He told me that as a pro, it’s my career, I’m the boss and I need to do what makes me happy, what I think is right. Above all, have that self belief.”

Bailey said he was not at all surprised when a couple of his collegiate peers — Matthew Wolff of Oklahoma State and Collin Morikawa of Cal — stunned the golf world by winning so quickly on the PGA Tour. A third member of the class of 2019 — Viktor Hovland of Oklahoma State — almost won. Morikawa, despite his late start, is still alive in the FedEx playoffs.

“I was competing against those guys a couple of months ago,” he said. “I knew they were great players and would be able to contend right away on the PGA Tour. They are not scared at all. Neither am I. I believe I can play with them. What they have done lets me know I can be very competitive. I’ll say this. Collin is the best ball striker I’ve ever seen.”

Working in Bailey’s favor as he strives to earn a spot on the Korn Ferry Tour, which was twice Landry’s stepping stone to the PGA Tour, is golf course familiarity. He won an amateur tournament as a college freshman at Crown Colony and he qualified for the U.S. Amateur on The Woodlands Gary Player course hosting the stage one Korn Ferry qualifier.

“Both of those courses fit my eye,” he said, “and that makes a difference. If I advance to the stage two qualifier, I will play at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, and that one fits my eye also. I am excited about what’s ahead.”

Coming up: Bob West’s Chip Shots