When Braden Bailey upstaged Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry in the 2019 Houston Open, enroute to a T51 and a check of $18,263 in his first ever PGA Tour start, the obvious thinking was it’s not a matter of if but when folks in Southeast Texas would have three Port Neches-Groves exes to follow at the top level of professional golf.
Twenty-six months later that is no longer the case. It has become a matter of if not when, as Bailey struggles for a breakthrough that proved to be equally difficult for Stroud and Landry. Complicating Braden’s situation are ongoing COVID issues that have severely limited opportunities on developmental tours.
Bailey, among other things, is learning the hard way that so much in life deals with timing. He seemingly couldn’t have picked a much worse time to put an outstanding collegiate career at Baylor in the rear-view mirror and dive head-first into the uber-competitive world of professional golf.
“The way things have worked out certainly isn’t ideal,” he reflected from his parents’ home in Groves Monday afternoon. “Not having status has made it really difficult. I thought it would happen with the Mackenzie Tour, but COVID changed that. It really hurt when I missed by a shot at the Korn Ferry Q-school qualifier in Houston.
“It’s been tough to deal with. It sucks. I have times when I wonder if I even want to do this anymore. I know I do, but it has been really, really frustrating. I talk a lot to Andrew and he keeps telling me about the struggles he went through. He says you just have to keep working, to keep believing in yourself. He is a great example of that.”
Indeed, he is. From the time Landry turned pro in 2009, it took him six years to get status on the Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry). Once there, he won and played his way onto the PGA Tour in 2016, lost his card, played his way back and has since hoisted two championship trophies.
Stroud, on the other hand, needed two years to make it to the PGA Tour through Q school, lost his card twice and twice more made it through Q school. He’s won a tournament and made over $12 million. Yet, this deep into his career he’s scratching and clawing, after injury setbacks, to again keep from losing his card.”
Bailey’s frustrations are enhanced by how well he’s played at times, starting with that Houston Open he was in via a sponsor exemption, and the near misses.
There was the Korn Ferry Veritek Bank Monday qualifier in Dallas last spring with eight spots open to 143 players. He eagled the par 4, 18th hole to get into a four-way playoff for the final spot, then lost out to a couple of birdies. He missed by one at the Korn Ferry first stage qualifier in Houston. He earned conditional status with a T14 in the Mackenzie Q school, then saw COVID cancel most of the tournaments.
“It is a fine line between making it and not making it,” he says. “I know I have the game, although I have not played as well since COVID hit. I just keep telling myself I have to be patient. I have to stay positive. I have to build back my confidence.”
Bailey’s next real opportunity comes up in late March when the Mackenzie Tour tries to make its own comeback with another qualifying school.
He’ll be playing in a qualifier near Phoenix, seeking to put COVID roadblocks behind, striving to earn regular status in an atmosphere conducive to traveling the long, winding road Stroud and Landry navigated before him and searching to find that guy who was so impressive in the not-so-long ago Houston Open.
CHIP SHOTS: Cold and rain once again limited senior games at Babe Zaharias, with no action since last Thursday. In that Thursday 2 ball, the team of Bob West, Rick Pritchett, Don MacNeil and Richard Menchaca won the front with minus 5. That was also the winning score on the back for the team of Doug LeBlanc, Jeremy Hemler, Art Turner and Harrell Guidry.
The Wednesday, Jan. 5 Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points count format. Winning with 28 points was the team of LeBlanc, Gary Fontenot, Dwayne Benoit and Dan Flood. The foursome of Ed Holley, John House, Ron Mistrot and Paul Duplantis placed second with 26 points.
Closest to the pin winners were Gary Anderson (No. 2), Gary Whitfill (No. 7, No. 12) and James Johnson (No. 15).
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