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Golf: Former Cajun ties for eighth

Sonnier’s first time to make Nationwide cut

BROUSSARD – Greg Sonnier more than reached his original goal at this weekend’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

The Lake Charles resident and former collegiate standout at UL had never made a cut in a Nation-wide Tour event. He accomplished that on Friday, narrowly getting in on the cut line, and said his goal was to finish in the top 25, which would insure him a spot in next week’s Nation-wide event.

His stunning nine-under 62 on Saturday and a follow-up one-under 70 on Sunday left him tied for eighth in the field at 11-under 273, earning him $14,000 – easily his biggest-ever pro check.

"I’m hoping I can build on this," Sonnier said Sunday. "Every year there are one or two guys that get out here (on the Nationwide Tour) through an exemption and play well enough to stay out here. That’s what I’m hoping for this year."

Sonnier got a spot in the Louisiana Open as a sponsor’s exemption, and made that pick look good with the tournament’s low round Saturday on his 30th birthday.

Sonnier entered the day five strokes behind front-running Skip Kendall, and finished up five back after Kendall and Claxton tied at 268.

Sonnier had to make some difficult choices during Sunday’s final round that included 15 pars and two birdies with a lone bogey on the 10th hole. He obviously wanted to be in the hunt, but he also didn’t want to jeopardize a top-25 finish and a spot in the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championships beginning Thursday near San Francisco.

"I knew I’d have to go around five-under to be in contention," he said. "There was pressure to catch them, but I didn’t want to take too many chances and go crazy and not finish in the top 25."

And when was he comfortable knowing he was in that 25-player group?

"When I hit it in the middle of the fairway on 18," he said.

SHOWING THE WAY: Sonnier may have indirectly helped a former Louisiana Open champion come close to being the tournament’s first two-time winner.

On both the 17th and 18th holes, Sonnier and Claxton each had birdie putts. Both times, Sonnier was outside of Claxton’s ball but on a similar line including a very close line on the par-four 18th hole. Sonnier missed his two putts, but Claxton rolled in a six-foot birdie on the 17th hole and a twisting 22-footer on the 18th to eventually put him into the playoff.

"Greg was right on my line both times," Claxton said after the round. "I had a good feeling about both putts and seeing Greg’s putts confirmed what I thought. But it was nice to see one on a similar line."

LOCAL UPDATE: Each of the five Open players with local ties that made the cut finished in the top 40 out of 81 cut-makers, the most upper-division finishers by local players since the event became part of an established pro tour in 1992.

Baton Rouge’s Scott Sterling, a winner already this season on the Nationwide Tour in the Jacob’s Creek Open in Australia, finished 26th at seven-under 277 after a 68 Sunday.

Lafayette native Kris Cox, Open runner-up in 1999, and Chris Riley each finished at six-under 278. Cox had a strong five-under 66, one stroke off the day’s low round, and Riley had an even-par 71 on Sunday.

Lake Charles resident, Rayne native and former UL player Mike Heinen was one more stroke back at five-under 279. Heinen, who had an even-par 71 Sunday, played in the only other playoff in Open history in 2002 when he lost to Steven Alker in a two-hole playoff.