No matter how many tournaments Port Neches-Groves ex Braden Bailey plays in or wins, the next event on his schedule promises to be one of the most memorable of his life.
Coming off his first collegiate victory six weeks ago in Dallas, the Baylor sophomore is among 84 invitees to a unique and very special tournament Dec. 29-31 in Litchfield Park, Ariz. Called the Patriot All-America Invitational, it honors fallen military heroes in a way that can’t help but leave an indelible impression.
Each player in the field represents a fallen war hero by carrying a special red, white and blue golf bag bearing his name and the name of a solider either killed or seriously injured in war. At the conclusion of the tournament, the bags are sent to the golfer’s school to be auctioned.
All proceeds from the 84 bags go to the Folds of Honor Foundation, which was founded in 2007. Primary mission for the foundation is to provide educational scholarships to the children and spouses of those who died or were disabled while serving America.
Bailey has some idea what’s ahead because his Baylor teammate, Matthew Perrine, played in the Patriot All-America last year. He is well aware that this isn’t just another golf tournament.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity to be a part of this,” he said Monday from Waco, while preparing for finals. “It is going to be a great experience because of what the tournament stands for, and because my dad and his brother served in the military.”
While Bailey knows something special awaits at the Wigwam Resort’s Gold Course, the total impact won’t hit until he’s actually gone through the entire experience. Michigan golfer Chris O’Neal summed it up pretty well after taking part in the 2015 tournament.
“Playing in the Patriot has truly changed the way I look at the game of golf,” O’Neill was quoted as saying. “When you hit a bad shot, it’s not the end of the world. It was just a bad golf shot.
“I was truly honored to play in the event and to do my best for more than myself.”
Among Bailey’s experiences will be a tour of nearby Luke Air Force Base, jet and helicopter flyovers, ceremonies saluting fallen heroes and the presentation to him of a card with the story of the man he is representing.
That man is Capt. Timothy Moshier from Albany, N.Y. Moshier was a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. A helicopter pilot, he was deployed to Iraq in December of 2005 and died in a combat air patrol mission on April 1, 2006.
Moshier is survived by a wife and daughter who was 10 months old at the time of his death.
This will be the Fifth Annual Patriot All-America Invitational and the sponsor lineup from the golf world — PING, Titleist, Nike and Footjoy — underscore its relevance. Interestingly enough, there is a Lamar University tie of sorts to the tourney’s fund-raising concept.
Former LU golf coach Gregg Grost, who built the Cardinals into a power into the 1980s before moving on to Oklahoma, came up with the idea for the special golf bags to be auctioned. Grost is the Executive Director of the Golf Coaches Association of America.
Bailey will head to Arizona in three weeks eagerly anticipating the goose-bump experiences the Patriot All-America offers, and expecting to be a strong contender for the championship. As Baylor’s No. 1 player, and having finally broken through for that first victory in Dallas, he knows he belongs on college golf’s big stage.
Golfweek rankings back up his growing confidence. He is No. 56 in the magazine’s world amateur rankings and is No. 29 in its ratings of college golfers. Only two other players from the Lone Star State — Texas’ Doug Ghim (No. 14) and Scottie Scheffler (No. 50) are above him in the world rankings.
“I should be able to contend if my putts fall,” he said. “Winning that tournament at Royal Oaks was a big deal for my confidence, especially after coming so close in some tournaments during the summer and in a college tournament in Arizona in the fall.
“I had to shoot four-under the last day in Dallas to get the job done. It was such a great feeling.”
Win, come close or finish back in the pack at the Patriot, Bailey is certain to walk away with an equally great feeling.