Bailey Cocca is only 23 but she’s already working on her second act – golf pro.
Recently hired at Normanside Country Club as an assistant pro, she’s working alongside new head pro Brian Hampson. In a sense, it’s getting the team back together again, but with a twist.
Bailey took lessons from Hampson as a kid at Shaker Ridge Country Club, the course she grew up on. She knows she’s fortunate to have this opportunity and thanks Hampson for helping open the door.
Bailey was just three when her dad, Jimmy, put a club in her hand and introduced her to the sport. Despite her immense talent, she would walk away from the game when she was 16. And it wasn’t because she was struggling with her game. She’d played in the Futures Tour stop in the Capital Area when she was 13, 14 and 15 and won the Junior Amateur tournament at age 15 and 16.
“It wasn’t a love affair with the game” she told me. Moreover “I wanted a social life. I wanted to hang out with my friends. I just didn’t want to play golf every day. I was burned out,” she explains.
It’s a story one hears often from kids who, as young phenoms, feel they’re missing out on what their peers are enjoying.
After graduating from Shaker High School in Latham, she went to UAlbany and played one semester. But she needed knee surgery – a meniscus transplant – and she just didn’t connect with the coach. She knew she needed a change of scenery, a change of coach and a chance to jumpstart her golf life. By then her dad was living in South Carolina and Bailey asked him to make a call to the coach at Coastal Carolina. The coach had shown interest in Bailey while still in high school.
Technically a walk-on at Coastal Carolina, the coach was thrilled to have Bailey on the roster. She didn’t play that first fall because her knee wasn’t fully healed. But when she picked up the clubs again it began what she describes as “the best three years of my life.” She explains the Chanticleers’ coach helped keep her grounded, provided structure, motivated her and helped her organize her school work and team work. In short, she’d found the winning combination to bring her best to the team and improve her game. Click here for a profile from her college years.
“We practiced six days a week, four hours a day, pretty much year round,” says Bailey. And with specific goals to reach, those sessions were invigorating. And she was winning.
In her last season at Coastal Carolina, she posted her best round at the All-conference tournament. But when graduation rolled around, playing professionally wasn’t what interested her. Side note: Bailey won the NYSGA Women’s Amateur last year but will not defend her title this summer. She has moved on.
She wants to teach other young players and help them develop their game. Her voice takes on an added edge of excitement when she tells me she wants to be able to encourage and help talented kids, like she was, develop their game.
I asked her about three wishes she has and she gets quiet for a moment and says: to head south, to be a teaching pro, and to be a good teaching pro. As for the third wish, a wisdom older than her years takes over and she says, to go with whatever comes her way.
On her “play” list this summer: thanks to a sponsor’s exemption she’ll be playing in the Symetra (Futures) Tour stop here next month. It’s June 2 at Capital Hills @ Albany so you can head over to cheer her on.
Then the U.S. Open Qualifier is June 6th in Massachusetts. If both events go better than anticipated she may take a swing at playing professionally but right now she’s preparing to take the test to become a teaching pro.
And one more thing, she wants her dad, Jimmy, to caddy for her at the Futures but he’s demurring. So if you talk to him give him a nudge. After all, he’s the one to ‘blame’ for hooking her on the game and Bailey says, her favorite golfing partner.
P.S. Her best round is a 67.
P.P.S. Just like most of us, she loves driving the golf ball but says the shot she dreads the most is the chip shot.