Jim Meehan: Former Washington State golfer Derek Bayley makes inroads early in pro career
Derek Bayley had a few things to tidy up before he turned pro, ending his impressive run in amateur golf.
He claimed two Idaho 4A State titles at Lakeland High. He had a solid four-year run at Washington State University while collecting loads of hardware at various amateur tournaments.
Bayley is the only two-time amateur champion in the Rosauers Open Invitational’s 31-year history, turning down $22,000 in first-place checks to retain his amateur standing. Along the way, he posted memorable rounds of 59 at MeadowWood and 62 at Indian Canyon.
Bayley returned to WSU last fall to finish his degree in sport management and assist with the golf team.
Finally, it was time to chase his dreams.
“The Web.com Tour qualifying school is in the fall, but since I had to go back to school it didn’t work out with my schedule,” Bayley said.
Bayley, with considerable logistic help from his dad Mike, mapped out a plan and so far he’s on schedule. He’s 2 for 2 at tour qualifying schools.
First up was the LatinoAmerica Tour qualifier in late January. He shot 64-68 on the weekend to earn exempt status. He played in four tournaments, finishing with three missed cuts and a tie for 11th, good for $4,375.
Bayley always intended to keep his options open, which meant taking a swing at Mackenzie (Canadian) Tour Q school three weeks ago. He posted four under-par rounds, including a closing 68 to share sixth, guaranteeing entry in six tournaments.
“The best-case scenario was qualifying for both (tours),” said Bayley, who hopes to stay on the Mackenzie if he plays well north of the border. “Now I have a place to play and multiple sources of income if I play well, and both lead to the Web.com.”
Bayley has only been at it four months, but he’s already been to Panama, Argentina, Chile, Jamaica and Canada. The road to the PGA Tour is arduous and typically requires numerous pit stops. The Web.com is roughly the equivalent of Triple-A baseball.
Bayley said it was cool to visit new places but also a challenge with the different languages and currencies. In one country, the only rental cars available were stick shifts.
“Tried that when I was younger with my dad teaching me and I didn’t have the patience,” Bayley said. “Luckily, I’m a pretty stress-free guy. That helps. That helps on the golf course when you get in a pressurized situation.”
He’s been in a few of those over the last four months. Q schools are pressure cookers, with the outcome determining career paths for players. Bayley has worked hard on his mental approach, trying to be in the right frame of mind when he encounters on-course stress.
“No matter who you are, you’re going to have some bad thoughts,” Bayley said. “It means more and (the goal is to) get it to where it means a little less in your mind. When I go down the stretch, that’s what I try to think about. It’s not going to be the final round of my career. There’s always going to be another tournament.”
His current tourney is the Canada Life Open in Vancouver, British Columbia. Bayley is tied for 23rd after rounds of 71 and 68 in his Mackenzie debut. The field includes former Zag Sean Walsh; former Vandal Ryan Porch; Spokane’s Eric Ansett, who played at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee; and Jared du Toit, a Canadian native who began his career at Idaho before finishing at Arizona State.
“I’ve played a couple of practice rounds with Eric and it’s pretty cool to see how far his game and his mind have come,” said Bayley, whose former WSU teammate, Zach Anderson, has conditional status on the tour. “We’ve had some good discussions about how to get better.”
Bayley knows nothing is going to come easy. Whether it’s the Mackenzie or LatinoAmerica, he’s playing unfamiliar courses often against competitors with 3-4 years on that particular tour.
His journey might require patience.
“Hopefully, I won’t have to find out (his level of patience), but that experience will help me as well,” Bayley said. “The longer I’m out here, the more experience I gain on these golf courses and also just the experiences that I’m going through. I’m sure it helped those guys” that have made the PGA Tour.