BOB WEST ON GOLF — Cook’s instruction starting to pay off for Bailey

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Braden Bailey came oh-so-close to authoring what could have been an enduring golfing memory Monday in the qualifier for the Korn Ferry Tour’s Veritex Bank Open in Dallas. Ultimately, however, he was left with a reminder of how difficult it is to Monday qualify your way into a Korn Ferry or PGA Tour event.

Battling for one of four spots available in a 143-player field at the Trophy Club, the Port Neches-Groves ex came to the 330-yard, 18th hole 4 under and knowing he needed to get to six under to have a chance. Convinced that reaching 5 under would not be enough, he pulled driver and took the gamble of going for the green.

Lo and behold, the gamble paid off. Bailey’s booming drive landed on the putting surface and stopped 20 feet from the pin. He followed up by sinking the putt for an eagle, a 66 and, two hours later, what would be part of a seven-way tie for the fourth and final spot in the Korn Ferry Field.

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“I didn’t think I could get there,” Bailey said of the drive on 18. “But I knew I had to take the chance. I had to go over some trees and some houses on the corner. I hit it as good as I could. The ball ended up about a foot from the pitch mark. I had to make the putt and did. It was an exciting way to finish.”

There would be no fairy tale ending. Bill Sargent of Georgetown, Kentucky birdied the first playoff hole and left Bailey thinking about what could have been. On the other hand, the former Baylor All-America was left with growing confidence that his game is getting closer and closer to putting him at golf’s next level.

A look back at what went into Bailey’s 66 is in order at this point. He made not one, not two, but three eagles in an amazing round. The other eagles came on the par 5, first and the par 5, sixth. He also added four birdies. Unfortunately, four bogeys marred what would have been a lights-out round.

Typical of a Monday-qualifier, he needed a 65 to avoid a playoff for the final spot. Ahead of him were a 62 by Toni Hakula of Austin and two 65s.

Bailey had arrived in Dallas riding momentum from last week’s APT tournament in Brownwood. On rounds of 65-72-68-66, he’d finished at 17-under 271, which earned a tie for 11th. His final nine holes produced a 6-under 31. The second-round 72, following lengthy rain delays, a 6:20 p.m. tee time and finishing up early the next day, proved costly.

All in all, he labeled the recent results a step in the right direction. Making it even sweeter was the fact his dad, Brad, saw it all up close and personal as his caddie in both Brownwood and Dallas.

“I struggled for a while with some swing changes,” Braden acknowledged. “I’ve been working with Chuck Cook, Andrew Landry’s teacher, for 8 to 10 months. The swing changes are starting to click a little bit. I’m happy with where my game is. It was nice to feel some pressure again. I think I’m finally making some good progress.”

CHIP SHOTS: Bailey wasn’t the only PNG ex to have a good week. Landry snapped a string of three consecutive missed cuts by finishing T33 and winning $37,867 in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. Landry made the two-under cut on the number, then moved up the leaderboard with rounds of 70-67 on the weekend.

The closing 67, his low round of 2021 by two shots, included a five-under 31 on the front and seven birdies. Overall, he made 112 feet of birdie putts. Landry is teaming with former Arkansas teammate Austin Cook in this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans two-man event.

Port Neches-Groves tees it up today in the 36-hold Region III, 5A tournament at Texas A&M Golf Club. In addition to the Indians’ five-man team than won District 21-5A two weeks ago, freshman Jaxon Wolf and sophomore Jeremy Wolfe will be competing after qualifying as medalists.

LCM Jack Burke, as expected, dominated the Region III, 4A tournament at Raven’s Nest on Huntsville that wrapped up Tuesday. Burke led the Bears to the team championship with a 36-hole total of one-under-par 141 (69-72) to win by a whopping 17 strokes.

Coach Aaron Burke’s team, with a two-day score of 660 (332-328), prevailed by 38 strokes over runner-up Lake Belton. In addition to Burke, Bears’ scores that counted Tuesday included an 84 by Wyatt Wozniak, an 84 by Will Van Pelt and an 88 by Travis Love. On Monday, Timothy Weaver had a counting score of 93.

Also making it to the May 17-18 state tourney at Plum Creek Golf Club was Orangefield’s Xander Parks. Parks goes as a medalist after finishing tied for third at 159 (78-81).

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Ron LaSalle, Ted Freeman, Steve Wisenbaker and Rusty Hicks won the front with minus 5. On the back, the foursome of Doug LeBlanc, Lee Bertrand, Rufus Reyes and Jerry Watson placed first with minus 1.

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw a three-way tie on the front at plus 3 among teams captained by Russ Gloede, Ed Holley and Price Youngs. On the back, the team of LaSalle, Danny Robbins, Evert Baker and Stuart Ellis prevailed at plus 2.

In the Friday 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Cap Hollier, Joe Gongora, Brad Royer and Ellis won the front with minus 1. The back ended in a tie at minus 3 between the team of Gloede, Rick Pritchett, Don MacNeil and Dwayne Benoit and the foursome of James Shipley, Gene Jones, Hicks and Randy Trahan.

Entries are still being taken for Saturday’s Groves Knights of Columbus Scramble benefitting the Estelle and Allen Fetters Center for Mentally and Physically challenged adults. Cost is $60 per player or $240 per team. To enter call the Zaharias golf shop at 409 722-8286, Leroy Falcon and 409 960-2475 or Mike Melancon at 409 289-1781.

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