BOB WEST ON GOLF — Astros helping Braden Bailey navigate through golf limbo

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Well aware of the struggles fellow Port Neches-Groves alums Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry had to fight through on their way to a place on the PGA Tour, Braden Bailey now finds himself in that same limbo confronting so many aspiring young golfers.

He’s on the outside looking in, needing a competitive battlefield to hone his game.

Stroud, from the time he turned pro, needed two years to earn his PGA Tour card. He spent much of that time on what was then known as the Adams Tour. The breakthrough came when he survived all three stages of PGA Tour Q school in 2006, then did it again in 2007 and 2008.

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It took even longer for Landry, who turned pro in 2009 and battled on mini tours until 2015 before claiming a spot on the then Tour. That tour twice proved to be a stepping-stone to the PGA Tour — once in 2016 and again in 2018. With a recent victory in the America Express, he has job security through 2022.

Bailey, meanwhile, is looking to make a second bid at qualifying for the Mackenzie Tour, which is the Canadian PGA Tour. After coming up short last year in a Mackenzie Tour Q school in California, he’ll try to earn a spot March 31 through April 3 on the Wigwam Gold Course in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

To prepare for that Q school, Braden is taking advantage of the hospitality of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and Crane’s general counsel, Giles Kibbe, and setting up camp at the Floridan National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla. Crane owns the course, Kibbe is club president and the facilities are eye popping.

Bailey has been on Crane’s radar since Kibbe extended the Baylor grad a sponsor exemption into the Houston Open last fall. He promptly fired a 67 in the opening round and went on to tie for 51st. It was an impressive performance for a player competing at golf’s highest level for the first time.

While at the Floridian, Bailey will have lodging on the premises and full access to all its golf amenities, including Butch Harmon’s son Claude’s academy.

During his stint there, he plans to attempt to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open (Feb. 20-23) and the Honda Classic (Feb. 26-March 1). He may also get a chance to play a practice round with a high profile member like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kopeka or Rickie Fowler.

“I am so blessed to be able to spend time at The Floridian working on my game, and so thankful to Mr. Crane and Giles for making that available to me,” said Bailey. “We played in a college tournament at The Floridian while I was at Baylor. It’s just an awesome facility.”

Getting his game sharp enough to land a full-time spot on the Mackenzie Tour is vital to Bailey. He needs regular tournament competition to prepare for his next shot at the Korn Ferry Tour School in the fall. Absent a full-time stint in Canada, about his only other option is the APT Tour.

Bailey played three APT events last fall and finished T3, 4 and 3. He’d much prefer the Mackenzie Tour because of the higher level of competition.

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