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Golf: UL’™s Elston qualified for Southern Amateur – Cruz Valle Honored – Hall of Fame Golf Postponed

Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, June 28, 2017

Anyone who’s been wondering if the new golf facility for UL’s Ragin’ Cajun squad can make a difference in the team’s performance had that question answered earlier this week.

UL junior Triston Elston has been using the practice bays in the new facility, and credited that work on his game with him earning one of the coveted spots in the prestigious Southern Amateur Championship field Monday. Elston fired a four-under-par 68, tying the best round from a talented group of amateurs from three states and one foreign country, in the New Orleans qualifier to claim one of the four available spots.

Elston, a native of Baton Rouge, shared medalist honors with LSU player Blake Caldwell – older brother of incoming Ragin’ Cajun signee Justin Caldwell – and England’s George Toone atop the 23-player field at the new Bayou Oaks at City Park course in the Crescent City. Baton Rouge’s Trey Winstead, son of LSU head coach Chuck Winstead and a three-time state prep champion at the Division III boys’ tournament played at The Farm d’Allie, posted a 69 to claim the fourth and final spot.

“It means a lot to me to qualify for such a huge tournament,” said Elston, who finished his sophomore year ranked fifth on the UL squad with a 75.3 average and led the team with three eagles during the season. “I’m very excited to be able to compete at such a prestigious tournament that has over 100 years of history. I really feel that working with coach (Theo) Sliman and the new technology at the golf facility helped to fix my game and allowed me to finally put it all together.”

Elston posted five birdies and a lone bogey during his Monday round and wrapped it up with a strong final nine that included a birdie on the difficult 18th hole that assured his qualifying slot. The 68 was his first competitive round in the 60’s since he joined the UL squad.

The 111th Southern Amateur Championship is July 19-22 at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, N.C. The group of former Southern Amateur winners includes PGA Tour standouts Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Webb Simpson, Justin Leonard, Harris English, Kyle Stanley, Len Mattiace and Michael Bradley as well as two-time Chitimacha Louisiana Open champion Casey Wittenberg and Louisiana Open champ Edward Loar.

Elston has been among the first to use the technology-loaded practice hitting bays at UL’s new team facility located at Oakbourne Country Club. The facility is still in the final stages of completion and is not “officially” open, but the hitting bays are now available for the Cajun players and those that are in the area are already making Oakbourne a regular part of their daily routine and putting the state-of-the-art facility to good use.

“The cameras don’t lie,” Elston said. “The new hitting facility gives me and our program something that we’ve really needed to bring our game to the next level. I can’t wait to get into it a lot more, and I can’t wait for the Southern Amateur and hopefully I can carry over the success I had in qualifying.”

Speaking of that UL facility, a formal ribbon-cutting had been scheduled for this Thursday but was delayed because of conflicts and some delays brought on by tropical storm Cindy. It has now been rescheduled for Thursday, July 13, at 4 p.m.

“Really proud of Triston,” Sliman said. “Having the new facility available has obviously helped him, and I expect it “to help a lot of our players not only with the physical part of their game but with their confidence. They know that they are getting the best help technology can give them.”

Cruz Valle Honor

Speaking of UL, departing senior Fernando Cruz Valle was named last week to his third All-Louisiana men’s golf team by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Cruz Valle was a first-team selection on the six-man squad.

“I’m very proud to see Fernando get yet another honor as his college career ends,” head coach Theo Sliman said. “He gave everything he had in his four years here with the program, and it’s good to see that hard work and effort recognized with this honor.”

Cruz Valle, a product of The Woodlands, Texas, was named to the first team this year after being picked to the second team in both 2014 and 2016. He had a 72.80 stroke average in 30 rounds this season, the fourth-lowest average for a UL player since 1993. He also had 13 rounds of par or better including three rounds in the 60’s, and had six top-25 tournament performances with three top-five finishes during the 2016-17 season.

He also earned his second All-Sun Belt Conference honor during his senior season.

Hall of Fame golf

This year’s Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Golf Classic was postponed last Friday due to heavy rains at Oak Wing in Alexandria, but the tournament has been rescheduled for Monday, July 10, and will give state and area sports fans one more opportunity to take part in the event and meet up and possibly play with some of the state’s sports legends.

The 36-team field will likely have openings with the rescheduling, and more information is available online on the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website at www.lasportshall.com.

(“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.)