NELKE: Bayley sets his sights on turning pro

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  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Former Lakeland High and Washington State golfer Derek Bayley takes a swing during a recent long drive competition at Prairie Falls Golf Course in Post Falls.

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  • LOREN BENOIT/Press Former Lakeland High and Washington State golfer Derek Bayley takes a swing during a recent long drive competition at Prairie Falls Golf Course in Post Falls.

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Derek Bayley is in the midst of his usual busy summer schedule of high-caliber golf events.

The Sahalee Players Championship this week in Sammamish, Wash.

Perhaps the Rosauers Open next week in Spokane.

Trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.

And several other top amateur events on the West Coast — and beyond.

It’s the fall — or perhaps the winter — where things will start getting real interesting for the former Lakeland High and Washington State standout.

“I have tentative plans to turn pro in November, or December, or January,” Bayley said the other day. “It’s kind of time to face reality. I’ll be done with school and it’s time to go for it.”

ONCE BAYLEY, 22, completes his golf schedule for the summer, he’ll head back to Washington State in late August for a 10-week internship to complete his sports management major.

After that, it should be time to turn pro.

He’s still researching the different avenues for beginning his pro career.

There are various “Q” schools out there — the Tour qualifying school and the Mackenzie (Canadian) Tour Q school the more notable ones.

He can can try to qualify for the Mackenzie Tour, and try to advance to the Tour and ultimately, the PGA Tour.

There’s also pro tours in Europe and Asia, among other places.

But, first things first.

A strong showing this summer could lead to big things — such as sponsorship offers once he turns pro.

Also, a top-two finish at the U.S. Amateur would earn him a berth in The Masters.

“We’ll see how this summer plays out,” Bayley said.

BAYLEY WON a pair of state 4A titles at Lakeland.

He ended his WSU career with the all-time scoring average record of 73.04.

Two years ago, in a field of mostly pros, he won the 54-hole Rosauers by eight shots, helped by a 59 shot in the second round at MeadowWood Golf Course.

He’s also taken home a handful of titles from Idaho and Washington amateur events.

“I’m very excited,” Bayley said of the prospects of turning pro. “I’m not going to treat it any differently than a tournament, even though it really is. You’re going to play for money now. It was basically my job already, minus making the money. So I’m not going to treat the preparation any different, or put any more pressure on myself, because at the end of the day it still is just golf, and if you don’t have fun with it, then I don’t think you should be playing.”

Bayley said what’s he’s most proud of from his time at WSU “is how much I grew as a golfer and as a person. Basically the goal of college is to get yourself ready for the next level and I feel like I did that. By the end of my four years, I feel like I’m ready, and I feel I’ve matured enough, I can go out there and compete with the best in the world.”

Bayley already has.

As a freshman, he played in the Pac-12 tournament with Jon Rahm, currently fifth in the World Golf Ranking. He says he’s played with Aaron Wise of Oregon, a recent winner on the PGA Tour, perhaps a half-dozen times.

“I think early in my career, it was really a wakeup call, how much better they were and how much better I needed to get, and am still getting,” Bayley said. “It just keeps in perspective how many good players there are out there, and really how hard it is to make it.”

A couple years ago, when Bayley competed at a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Ohio, he played with PGA Tour members Michael Kim and Sung Kang.

“I’ve at the stage where I’ve been there and done that. Nothing really has bothered me.,” Bayley said. “When I get to the pros, and get to whatever tour I play on, it’s not going to be any different. I’ve already played with some of the best players in the world.”

Bayley is entered in the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men’s Amateur, scheduled for July 9-14 at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. The Rosauers is slated for July 13-15 at Indian Canyon. How long he lasts in the PNGA event (the first two days are stroke play; the top 64 advance to match play, which could last up to four more days) will determine whether he can play in the Rosauers.

ASKED HOW his game has improved in recent years, Bayley talks more about what goes on between his ears than anything physical.

He talks about how much he’s learned by playing at a high level, how much he’s learned playing with others who play at a high level, worrying about his game, not how others are playing.

“I’ve realized in golf there’s only so much that you can control,” Bayley said. “You can’t control how Luke Donald hits the ball, and how Rory hits the ball, how Jon Rahm hits the ball. The only thing you can control is yourself.

“People say golf is 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental, and I think I’ve grown mentally enough. I’ve always had the ability, it’s just being able to put it all together. The ability and athleticism is there; the only thing you can control is the next shot. The last couple years, last couple months, I’ve realized if you only worry about the next shot, you’re going to be a lot better off.”

Bayley has a couple good sounding boards in Steve Prugh of Spokane, his swing coach, and Dustin White, his coach at Washington State.

White, in particular, has been through what Bayley is hoping to experience soon. White played on the Gateway and Nationwide (now tours, and qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open.

IF THERE was one area Bayley thinks he needs to improve to make the jump from top college and amateur golfer to playing at the professional level, he said it would be putting.

“Making a few more 10- or 15-footers,” he said, “because the guys that are really good on tour, are the guys that make the most putts and have the best short game.”

He noted Dustin Johnson, the World No. 1, hits it a mile. But the last 2-3 years, his wedge game has gotten better, he’s hitting the ball closer to the hole and making more putts.

Bayley’s parents, Mike and Teresa, gave him a most practical graduation gift recently.

Early last week, Derek traveled to San Diego to meet with Dave Stockton Jr., who along with his brother, Ronnie, and his father, Dave Sr. comprise a putting instruction business called Dave Stockton Signature Putting. Stockton family clients include Stockton family clients include Phil Mickelson, Rory Mcllroy, JB Holmes, Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie.

“I got to meet with him, and got to pick his brain a little bit,” Bayley said of Dave Jr.

Stockton and his father, Dave Sr., played on the PGA Tour, and dad was a U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 1991.

“He just kinda changed my setup a little bit, and focused on how important speed is to a putt, and how speed is more important to a putt than the line,” Bayley said of the meeting. “As time goes on, I’ll work on more of things he talked about.”

Figures. Derek Bayley has spent a long time preparing for this moment, and his success could hinge on how he improves at some of the shortest shots in golf.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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