I spoke with Vernon, B.C.’s Chris Baryla a week ago about his comeback from injury and playing his way onto the PGA Tour. The interview followed a terribly uninformative conference call where only three of my peers actually asked questions. Doesn’t leave me with a lot of faith in Canada’s sports media. For what it is worth, I think Baryla has a reallly legitmate shot at making a career on the PGA Tour. He’s long and good with the putter — a fine combination, and one we haven’t really seen from any Canadians at the Nationwide level in recent years.
Anyway, here’s a taste, while the whole column is online at my “3 Off the Tee,” site on Sympatico:
According to Chris Baryla, the highlight of his golf season last year was sitting on a beach with a beer in his hand.
Having hurt his back, having shot a score above 90 during a Nationwide Tour event, Baryla, from Vernon, B.C., wasn’t sure when he’d be able to play again. Fast forward to 2009, a year that saw Baryla make 13 of 14 cuts, finish in the Top 10 at the RBC Canadian Open, and finally gain access to the PGA Tour with a win on the Nationwide Tour.
“I have a real sense of accomplishment and a sense of opportunity,” says Baryla, who finished 19th on the Nationwide Tour’s money list. The Top 25 players gain access to the PGA Tour next year. “It is a big achievement in my career, there’s no doubt about it.”
Though he hasn’t reached out to anyone yet about the transition to the PGA Tour, it is clear Baryla, 27, is grounded enough and has the support structure to help make the move to the big tour. “Stephen and Mike have been great,” he says, referring to top Canadians Weir and Ames, adding that PGA Tour veteran JP Hayes is a friend who plays at the same club in Texas.
“I have a lot of good friends around who can help me,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll lean on them. I’m an information hound.”
It isn’t surprising that Baryla will put in some extra study hours. He has a reputation as a exceptionally clever kid, the type who excelled in school and on the course. His homework for the next month is prepping for the final stage at PGA Tour Qualifying School, which he’ll play in an attempt to improve his standing for next year as well as stay competitive during an otherwise lengthy layoff. As for his game, he says there isn’t any singular element he’ll be working on. Looking at his stats from this year, Baryla appears to have the entire package. He averaged more than 300 yards off the tee, was 5th in putting and 11th in overall scoring on the Nationwide Tour. He might be a little wayward with his driver “ but that’s the only glaring weakness. Baryla wants to take those skills and use them to turn him into a consistent PGA Tour pro, the type who has regular opportunities to win.