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Golf: Cajuns take first title since 1997

UL’s Smith hits birdie putt in league playoff

UL’s golf team was the picture of frustration two years ago when the Ragin’ Cajuns had the Sun Belt Conference title pulled from under their spikes by a late South Ala-bama charge.

Michael Smith remembered the feeling of that one-stroke loss well when he stood over an eight-foot birdie putt during a sudden-death playoff for the league title Wednesday.

"When we lost by one my freshman year, it hurt a lot," Smith said.

Smith made sure he and his teammates wouldn’t feel that way again, rolling in a birdie on the par-four playoff hole Wednesday. That putt, and clinching par putts by Peter Badawy and Justin Lowe, gave the Cajuns their first Sun Belt title since 1997 with a playoff vicory over Middle Tennessee at the Walt Disney World’s Magnolia course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"We’ve been so close for so many years," said Cajun coach Bob Bass. "This bunch of guys has been working to get better and to get tougher, and it’s paid off for them. I couldn’t be happier."

UL, now bound for the NCAA Championships in May with the Sun Belt’s automatic bid, finished tied with Middle at five-over 869 for the three rounds. Both were one stroke ahead of first and second-day leader New Orleans (870) and put the teams into a sudden-death playoff.

Middle, which had the day’s low round with a seven-under 281 team score, recorded four pars on the playoff-originating 16th hole. UL, playing behind the Blue Raiders, picked up three pars along with Smith’s birdie putt to claim its third Sun Belt crown.

Smith, a Lafayette product, hit his second shot from the left rough within eight feet. Three other Cajuns were anywhere from 18 to 30 feet away.

Devin Carrey had a tap-in two-putt par from 18 feet, Badawy rolled his 30-footer within two feet, and Lowe narrowly missed his 18-foot birdie putt. That left it to Smith.

"We both looked at it and decided it was perfectly straight," Bass said. "That can be a hard putt to hit, but he hit it dead center."

Badawy then made his two-footer, capping a strong par, and Lowe’s 12-incher clinched the title.

Badawy finished with a second straight 69 to finish at four-under 212 for the tournament, but it was his par in the playoff that may have saved the title. His tee shot rolled through the left side of the fairway and into a high-lipped bunker 132 yards from the green.

"To get that onto the green was just a terrific shot," Bass said. "His par from the sand was critical."

Submitted photo

UL’s Peter Badawy shoots out of the bunker on the playoff hole to save par during the Sun Belt Golf Championships on Wednesday.

Athletic Network Footnote:  Chris Whitehead, Sports Information,  provided the Final Round Results, as follows:
1. Louisiana-Lafayette** 297-290-282–869
Middle Tennessee 298-290-281–869
3. New Orleans 285-297-288–870
4. Denver 297-294-287–878
5. North Texas 296-294-291–881
6. Western Kentucky 303-294-296–893
7. Troy 307-304-287–898
8. South Alabama 304-303-296–903
9. Arkansas State 308-303-294–905
10. Louisiana-Monroe 308-305-306–919
11. UALR 318-308-298–924
12. Florida Atlantic 311-310-306–927
** – won in a playoff

Ragin’ Cajuns Results
2 Peter Badawy 74-69-69–212
T-6 Justin Lowe 74-72-70–216
T-16 Michael Smith 76-72-74–222
T-16 Devin Carrey 75-77-70–222
T-24 Morgan Landry 74-77-73–224