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Former Golf: Zurich Classic 2015 – Lafayette’s Michael Smith enjoys his largest golf payday Sunday

Trey Iles, NOLA.com, The Times Ticayune, April 27, 2015

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Michael Smith, from Lafayette, earned a spot in the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans in the Monday qualifier. He went to finish tied for 36th place and earn a check for $31,099, his best as a professional golfer. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Michael Smith got a taste of golf’s big time this week at the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans and did pretty well. Smith, 26 and from Lafayette, earned a spot in this week’s tournament in the Monday qualifier then tied for 36th place to earn his biggest payday playing golf.

The former University of Louisiana-Lafayette player, who completes on the Adams Tour, picked up $31,099. He was 12-under-par 276 for the week, which actually started the previous week for him in a pre-qualifier at English Turn.

Smith moved on to Monday’s qualifier, where he fired a 67 at English Turn to tie for medalist honors.

This was his second PGA Tour event and the first in which he made the cut. Smith played in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional near Washington, D.C., and missed the cut.

"My main goal was to make the cut first off,” said Smith, a St. Thomas More High graduate. "But then after that, you want to play as well as you can. It was a good week for me. Four rounds out here, which was a lot of fun.”

Smith found himself only four shots off the lead when play was stopped Saturday because of darkness in the midst of the third round.

He shot 67 in the third round, which he completed Sunday morning, and was 11-under at that point, five strokes back the leaders. In Sunday’s fourth round, he shot 71 in a rollercoaster round that included six birdies and five bogeys.

"I didn’t hit the ball very well,” Smith said. "I really kind of struggled with ball striking all week. I putted really well, incredibly well. That bailed me out and had me finish where I was. If I would have hit the ball normal, I would have had a really good week. Made for some tough and up downs.”

Smith hit 39 of 56 fairways (70 percent) and 47 of 72 greens (65 percent) but needed only 106 putts, including 24 in the second and third round. He was tied for eighth in the field in putting.

His next tournament may come next week at the Adam’s Tour event in Baton Rouge. But for now, he’ll enjoy one of his best golfing experiences on the short drive back to Lafayette.

A LOT OF RAIN: Considering the amount of rain TPC Louisiana, site of the Zurich Classic, got in the last two weeks that this year’s tournament was able to be contested at all was impressive.

A total of 9.5 inches of rain fell on the course in the week before the tournament. Another two inches of rain fell during the event, meaning the course got 11.5 inches total.

TOUGH DAY FOR TIGERS: Former LSU golfer John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA individual men’s golf champion, shot 3-under par 69 on Sunday and finished tied for 48th place at 10-under 278, good for $16,991. That puts Peterson at more than $610,000 in winnings for the 2014-15 PGA Tour season.

Peterson played the first and second rounds in 6-under but never could get much traction in the final two rounds. He was 1-under in the third round, which spanned Saturday and Sunday and included a nearly six-hour rain delay Saturday. He shot 3-under 69 in the final round.

David Toms, the 2001 Zurich champ, finished 69th after firing identical 73s in the third and fourth rounds and was 3-under 285 for the tournament.

LEE GETS WEEK’S ONLY ACE: South Korea’s D.H. Lee recorded the only hole-in-one of the week when he aced the par-3 17th Sunday afternoon. The hole, which played third hardest of the day, was set up at 211 yards.

Lee finished tied for 33rd place at 13-under 275. He shot 5-under 67 on Sunday.

Lee is a regular on the Web.com Tour. He finished tied for second at the Louisiana Web.com Tour event, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Lafayette, in March.

HOLE OF THE DAY: The long par-4 fourth hole at TPC Louisiana can be difficult any day and it certainly was in the fourth round with a back left pin placement.

The hole was the toughest of the day in the fourth round and had a scoring average of 4.183, playing 477 yards Sunday.

It yielded just nine birdies, 44 pars, 14 bogeys and four double bogeys.

Champion Justin Rose was one of the nine competitors to tame the hole with a birdie. His tee shot was 287 yards and his approach landed six feet from the hole. He then knocked in the putt for the birdie.

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