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Golf: Making the Turn – Chip Shots – Blackjack Tourney Set For Friday, March 27

Dan McDonald, golfballs.com – The Advertiser, Feb. 25, 2015

Unlike most of UL’s sports teams, the Ragin’ Cajun golf team doesn’t get many opportunities to compete at home. In fact, that only happens once a year, and that comes this week when the Cajuns host the 30th annual Louisiana Classics tournament at Oakbourne Country Club.

“For this to be the 30th one, that’s hard to wrap your head around,” said Cajun golf coach Theo Sliman, who will welcome 13 other collegiate squads for the three-day event. “It’s always been an honor for us to have such a great event here. For the team and the program, and for our supporters, it’s really nice to have the opportunity to play at home.

“Some tournaments come and go, so to have one that’s been going 30 years. We have been fortunate to play in some long-running tournaments like the Tucker and the Border Olympics, and we’re right there with them.”

The Louisiana Classics kicks off with a college-am tournament that pairs local players with the collegians on Sunday beginning at 12:30 p.m. Tournament competition begins in earnest early Monday morning with two rounds set for the first day and a final 18 holes Tuesday.

The Classics annually draws a high-profile list of teams, and this year is no exception since the nation’s top golf team is in the field. Perennial power Illinois, currently atop the GolfStat national rankings, leads a field that includes Mississippi State, Kansas, Kansas State, Northwestern, Illinois State, Texas State, Kent State, Southeastern Louisiana, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee and Texas-San Antonio along with the Cajun squad.

If a lot of those teams sound familiar, there’s a reason. Many teams in the field are regular Classics participants, and Sliman said that’s because of the course, the competition and especially the hospitality.

“I can’t tell you how many times guys come up to me during the season, players on other teams, and ask if we’re going to have that jambalaya at the turn, or looking forward to going out to eat with their hosts,” he said. “A lot of schools across the nation are eager to come and play here.”

Each team has a host or hosts while in town for the event, and many of those have hosted the same team for several years. The only official requirement for a host is to take the team and staff out for dinner on the Monday following the 36-hole day, but most are much more involved with their designated squads.

“They go above and beyond to show the Cajun culture and hospitality to these teams, and the teams love it,” Sliman said. “I’m a big advocate of relationships, and to see these evolve over the years is special.

“We’ve had hosts who have developed relationships with players, guys who have gone on to the pro ranks or gone into business, that have lasted for years. Mark Tolson has had relationships with guys from Colorado’s team into their 40’s, and Ben Thibeaux and Jeff D’Amico keep in touch with the Illinois guys all year long. It’s really neat to see that.”

Oakbourne has been the tournament course since its inception, and the field has lived up to the course’s tough standards. Over the last four years, the Classics has had three NCAA individual national champions in Illinois’ Scott Langley and Thomas Pieters and LSU’s John Petersen. All are on either the PGA or European Tours.

Sliman’s time is divided between tournament host duties and taking care of his own squad, one that he admits has not performed up to expectations through two spring tournaments. The Cajuns finished 13th in the UTSA/Oak Hills event and 12th in the Bayou City Collegiate in Houston in 15-team fields over the past two weeks.

That followed a strong fall when UL had one tournament win at McNeese’s Moe O’Brien Match Play, and three other top-four finishes.

“We had a chance coming out of the spring to make a big jump in the rankings,” Sliman said. “I’m hoping the chance to play at home will give us a kick-start, because we can still finish up strong at the conference tournament and get to the post-season. That’s our goal.”

The Louisiana Classics is open to the public on both Monday and Tuesday at no charge. Play will begin at approximately 8 a.m. each day with Tuesday’s final round scheduled to end at approximately 1 p.m.

Chip Shots

The UL Gridiron Alumni chapter will hold its annual Bill “Blackjack” Landry Alumni Golf Tournament on Friday, March 27, with a 1 p.m. shotgun start at Les Vieux Chenes. The tournament is annually held in conjunction with the conclusion of Ragin’ Cajun spring football practice.

Funds raised by the tournament aid the Gridiron Alumni in its year-long projects, which include providing meals, equipment and other support for the UL football program, as well as tailgating activities and support of the RCAF.

The event will feature many former Cajun players and staffers but is open to all golfers. Entry fee is $600 per team or $150 per player, and players are encouraged to enter early since a full field is expected. Information is available online at GridironAlumni.ning.com or from Clarence Glenn at clarenceglenn@cox.net.

“Making the Turn” appears each Wednesday from February-November in the Daily Advertiser. Clubs, courses and individuals with information about local golf events may email Dan McDonald, editorial director at Golfballs.com, at danmcdonald@cox.net, FAX to (337) 857-8763 or call (337) 857-8754 and leave a message with phone number.