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Golf: UL golf enjoying regional recruiting success

Dan McDonald, Special to the Advertiser, November 25, 2014

The health of youth and junior golf in the Acadiana area, and in the state of Louisiana, isn’t at its best. That’s not much different from most of the rest of the country when it comes to the numbers of younger players taking up the game.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of outstanding youth players in the region and the state.

UL golf coach Theo Sliman recently signed two of those for enrollment next fall, and he’s hoping they become a part of a continually strong local contingent on the Ragin’ Cajun squad.

Sliman signed a pair of Baton Rouge products, Triston Elston of Catholic High and Grant Welch of Runnels, during the early signing period.

"It’s really a good thing when we don’t have to go far on the recruiting trail to pick up a couple of high-quality players," Sliman said. "These guys will have the luxury of being able to get back home without much trouble, but they’re far enough from home to allow them to grow and mature."

It’s always special for Sliman when he can add a Louisiana player to his squad, considering that he was one himself not too many years ago.

"I’m very proud of our state, and that makes it even more special," he said. "These two are solid students and talented players, they’ve got a huge ceiling, and they fit our model and philosophy. I’m fully confident that their best golf is ahead of them."

Elston is ranked No. 106 in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) national rankings and has a 73.2 career average for Catholic High. He was runner-up in the LGA Junior Amateur last summer, posting a solid 67-67-69–203 score at the Links on the Bayou course in Alexandria.

He also had a 67 during the David Toms Foundation Shreveport Juniors this year in finishing sixth and was third at the Bubba Conlee National Junior Tournament. Elston goes into the spring with six rounds in the 60’s in his last eight events.

"Triston has had a very solid junior career, competing on a national stage and earning a strong national ranking," Sliman said. "He’s an extremely good ball striker and a gritty competitor, and that’s a recipe for success in Division I."

Welch is an all-around athlete, having helped lead the Runnels basketball team to a state playoff berth earlier this year. He also led Runnels to the LHSAA Division IV state tournament, where he finished sixth at 80-77–157 and the team finished seventh.

Welch was a top-25 finisher at the Arrowhead Junior at the Bluffs this summer and was third at the AJGA Junior at Steelwood in 2013.

"I’m really keen on him as a multi-sport athlete," Sliman said. "Grant’s a high accomplished basketball player and I anticipate him bringing that competitive edge to our program. His game is fundamentally sound and I think it will blossom once on campus here."

The two are part of a promising group of Louisianans currently playing junior golf, and that group includes several local youths. Drew Gonzales at St. Thomas More and Micah Goulas at Catholic-New Iberia are among several that are and will continue to draw notice from collegiate coaches.

"The quality of junior golf in the state is high right now, especially at the top," Sliman said. "Hopefully, Triston and Grant will be the first of more to come in the near future."