Bailey Tardy joins Mizuno's talent party
How Tardy called for a job and finished with a sponsorship and LPGA Tour card
Mizuno has announced that LPGA rookie Bailey Tardy (26) has joined it’s expanding ranks of emerging talent. The signing is part of Mizuno’s ‘Next Gen’ project to regenerate itself across the world’s professional tours, with a younger group of players – playing fuller bags, including metalwoods, irons and wedges.
Tardy’s route to signing for Mizuno was less conventional than most – initially contacting to ask for an off-season job and career opportunities away from playing.
A standout player at the University of Georgia – Tardy looked fated to golfing stardom from the start. Named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2016, winning the 2018 Georgia State Amateur Championship, qualifying for the US Women’s Open in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and being a member of the 2016 Curtis Cup – Bailey was expected to quickly work her way onto the LPGA Tour upon turning professional.
Yet after qualifying for the 2019 Epson Tour, Tardy unexpectedly missed 14 cuts. A combination of wrist and knee injuries stalled her rush to stardom. Tardy returned in 2020 only to have COVID-19 shorten the season and cut the number of qualifying spots. In a typical year, 10 LPGA Tour cards are handed out at the end of the Epson Tour season. When 2020 came to a close, the number had been cut to five. Tardy finished sixth – missing by just $343.
Tardy was back for the 2021 Epson Tour season, where she finally won again at the Copper Rock Classic. Yet when the final putt fell at the season-ending Epson Tour Championship, Tardy had missed her card again, finishing 12th on the money list.
Back for one last push in 2022, Tardy played 21 events, the most starts of any player on Tour. Going into the final event, the Epson Tour Championship at LPGA International, Tardy was still 10th but dropped a spot to 11th and again missed an automatic LPGA Tour card. The very last chance was Q-Series. After eight gruelling rounds in drizzly Alabama, Tardy was -27 and alone in second place, finally claiming an LPGA Tour card on the 4th attempt.
Tardy’s introduction to Mizuno was equally unconventional. The first contact was a call from Tardy to Mizuno’s Lauren Smith – enquiring about a job in the Epson Tour’s ‘off-season’.
I needed to fill the time, earn some money and I was also wondering if i needed to open another door career-wise. Nothing was certain with the injuries, but I knew that I wanted to stay in golf and Mizuno was in my hometown, Atlanta. So i got in touch with Lauren Smith through a friend and we talked – the feeling i got from Mizuno was completely different from what i was used to. There was just a different level of care – it felt like i was part of their family. Soon i was back to focusing on playing and we ended up looking at equipment instead. Lauren sent me a set of Mizuno Pro 223 irons, which i loved, but having just returned from knee surgery I decided against making any equipment changes. I was lacking confidence in the knee and that was enough of an adjustment. I’ve never been someone to change equipment if i can avoid it.
I’d put the Mizuno’s to one side, but in the middle of 2022 i realised that i wasn’t getting the equipment support i needed from my equipment supplier. Coming back from knee surgery was when i most needed the support and i wasn’t getting what i needed. I wanted to work with people who were proud to be with me. I knew that Lauren and Jeff Cook at Mizuno were the people i really wanted to work with. That stayed with me and when i earned my Tour card, there was only one manufacturer i wanted to represent. Lauren had gone above and beyond to get me on board from day one – she was amazing.
Everyone knows that Mizuno irons are the best. When i got my first hole in one with them, it was a sign that i’d made the right choice.
Like all of Mizuno’s new signings, Tardy also switched driver – to the ST-Z 230, with encouraging returns. Tardy currently sits 2nd on the 2023 LPGA stats for average driving distance at 285.3 yards (25th April 2023)
The driver was definitely more of a nice surprise. I met up with Jeff Cook at the Arnold Palmer, tried a few different combinations and was shocked at how long and stable it was.
As for goals and objectives, Tardy’s unexpected struggles to reach the LPGA Tour have forced a slightly different perspective. Perhaps more prepared for the trials that lie ahead.
I’m more mature as a golfer because of the challenges i’ve been through – there was a lot of grind. I know now that the fight is in me when times are difficult. I know that i can fall back on my experiences to overcome the difficult moments.
As well as her Mizuno mentor Lauren Smith, Tardy also relishes having fellow Mizuno ambassador and Solheim Cup Captain, Stacy Lewis to call upon.
I met Stacy at the Mizuno booth at the Orlando Golf Show. She told me she knew how overwhelming the LPGA Tour could be at first and gave me her number. I really respected that someone to elevated in the game would do that and mean it. I’ve already texted her a couple of times.
For all her struggles Tardy exudes a quiet confidence.
Anyone who gets to this level wants to be #1 in the world, but winning a tournament is a start. That opens a lot of doors.
Tardy is currently playing ST-Z 9.5 driver, JPX923 Hot Metal Pro (3&4 iron), JPX923 Tour (5-9 iron), T22 wedges (46/50/54).