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UL golf team has enjoyed the fall season

Defending their Sun Belt Conference championship figured to be a big challenge for UL’s golf team this season, but the loss of two all-conference players from last season apparently hasn’t hampered the Ragin’ Cajuns that much.

In fact, UL wrapped up one of its most consistent fall seasons in recent years last week with a second-place finish in its own Battle on the Bend Tournament at Cypress Bend Resort near Toledo Bend. The Cajuns missed out on the team title by one stroke, and junior Devin Carrey also tied for individual medalist honors after setting a tournament record in the opening round.

The fall finale was a continuation of what happened the whole fall season, according to Cajun coach Bob Bass.

"As a team, we played solidly the whole fall," he said. "We’d like to have won all those tournaments where we were close, but we put ourselves in a position to win and that’s what you have to do in collegiate golf."

The Cajuns had more than their share of close finishes in their five fall tournaments with last week’s runner-up finish at the Bend, a third-place finish only two shots out of first place at North Texas’ Mean Green Invitational and a fifth place finish five shots back of the lead at the Louisiana Tech Squire Creek Invitational.

"When you have five guys out there playing three days, it’s not a lot to make up two, three, five shots," Bass said. "That’s pretty easy to do. The idea is to get everybody in there and playing quality golf and count them up at the end, and we had a number of guys that did that."

That’s what UL did at the end of the 2007 spring season, when the Cajuns won the league title in a sudden-death playoff with Middle Tennessee after tying for team honors. UL won its first Sun Belt title since 1997 and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001.

However, two main cogs are gone from that team. Consistent senior Peter Badawy finished his career and all-league pick Justin Lowe did not fulfill team academic requirements and did not return this season.

"That’s two pretty big sets of shoes to fill," Bass said. "That’s why we’ve been trying to play quite a number of different players. We played nine different guys in the fall, and that’s a lot more than we normally play, just to try to have those guys get some experience and let them play with the heat on."

Carrey, a product of Surrey, British Columbia, opened his season with an individual win in the North Texas meet with a 70-69-139 showing. He then opened at the Bend meet with a tournament-record six-under 66 before finishing in a three-way tie for medalist honors at the end of three rounds. He finished second on a tiebreaker – low score in the final round – but the finish counts as another win for individual NCAA selections.

Senior and Lafayette product Michael Smith also had a solid fall, posting a three-under 69 in the opening round at the Bend, and fellow senior and Lafayette product Morgan Landry tied for fourth individually in the North Texas meet and had one of the low rounds of the day (72) in brutal conditions in the final round at Toledo Bend.

Bass said he was encouraged with the play of newcomers Seth Dufrene, a redshirt freshman from Luling, Canadian and true freshman Thomas Petts, junior college All-American Dustin Petit and now-sophomore Kyle Pritchard during the fall.

"Some of the guys, especially Seth, played very well in practice and qualifying and then couldn’t quite make that transition to bringing it to the tournaments with him," Bass said. "He’ll work on that because he’s a talented player and he’s extremely strong. We had so many of the newer guys and a completely new mix in there, and that’s why I was pleased with how solid we played."

The Cajuns played solid in each of the three tournaments held on familiar Bermuda grass surfaces. When they ventured off that surface, though, they ran into trouble at the Adams Cup in Newport, R.I. (12th of 15 teams) and the Memphis Intercollegiate (11th of 15 teams).

"The other three were on our type of courses," Bass said. "The two that we felt like we played poorly, we just didn’t adjust our short games to the bent-grass greens. You have to do that, at the end, if you want to be a terrific team, and we’re working on that. That’s certainly not an excuse, it’s just one of those things we have to do."

Bermuda will probably be the surface of choice most of the spring season, since UL goes north of its home turf only twice in seven spring tournaments including the February Gado Invitational opener in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. UL defends its league title April 21-23 at Muscle Shoals, Ala. on The Shoals’ "Fighting Joe" course, one of the nation’s longest at 8,092 yards from the back tees.


Chip Shots

STERLING WEEKEND: Baton Rouge’s Scott Sterling, who one week ago earned his PGA Tour card for the 2008 season with a top 25 finish on the Nationwide Tour money list, had a productive outing in last weekend’s HSBC Championships in Shanghai, China.

Sterling, who qualified for the limited-field European Tour event by winning the Australian stop on last year’s Nationwide Tour, finished tied for 27th in an 80-player field with a 69-73-74-75-291 score. That earned him 30,902.65 in Euros ($45,317 in U.S. dollars) for his second-biggest payday of the season.

That also came against the toughest field he faced all season. Phil Mickelson won the event in a three-way playoff with Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher of England, all at 278, and the top 10 finishers also included Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey.

AMATEUR TOUR: Louisiana was well-represented, numbers-wise and results-wise, at the 13th National Amateur Golf Tour’s Tour Championship held last week in Hilton Head, S.C.

Two state players, Kirk Kleiser of Broussard and William Duncan of Baton Rouge, took national titles in the "B" and "C" flights respectively. Kleiser shot 80-82-162 in the "B" flight for a one-shot victory over Ron Hensley of the Tennessee Tri-Cities Tour in the "B" flight, and Duncan shot a 91-84-175 to win the "C" flight national title by two strokes over John Holland of the Asheville, N.C., Tour. Both won a $750 gift certificate, the maximum allowed to retain amateur status, and a crystal trophy.

State players also had seven other top-10 finishes in the national meet, including Lafayette’s Nick Blady finishing fifth in the "A" flight, Lance Halsell of Lafayette finishing seventh in the "B" flight and Mister Estes and Tommy Gaudin, both of Lafayette, finishing third and 10th respectively in the "D" flight.

The Louisiana team also won the national tournament’s team title with a 1,292 score, winning the cup away from defending champion Orlando (1,306).

Over 550 golfers from 33 local tours too part in the event, making it the largest-ever single event ever held at Hilton Head Island with competition held on six different courses. A total of 57 players from Louisiana made the trip to the event. More information and a link to the national event is available at the Louisiana Amateur Golf Tour’s site, www.laagt.com.

LAST CHANCE AT WETLANDS: The second annual Fall Four-Ball Tournament at The Wetlands is scheduled for a noon shotgun start Friday, and noon Thursday is the deadline to sign up for the event.

The two-man-team event is limited to 50 teams and will be flighted by combined handicap with no more than a nine-handicap difference between players. Entry fee is $150 per team including lunch, gumbo after play and awards to the top three teams in each flight, with flights determined by total entries.

The event was at near-capacity last year, so interested teams should contact The Wetlands pro shop as soon as possible at 291-7151.

HELPING OUT: Entries are still being accepted for a special Thanksgiving two-man scramble set for Sunday at The Farm d’Allie, an event to benefit course staffer Howard Dunham who is battling cancer treatments and also awaiting a kidney transplant.

Hole sponsorships and all donations will go toward medical expenses as well as much of the $80 per-player entry fee. That fee also includes a turkey dinner post-play.

Entries are due Friday, and information is available from Lou Theriot in the pro shop at 886-2227 ext. 5 or e-mailing thefarmgc2@yahoo.com.

AT THE TRAIL: Spence Girouard carded a 68-74-142 score to claim the club championship at Spanish Trail, finishing two strokes ahead of runner-up Mike Emerson and three ahead of Brian Popp in the championship flight.

Phyllis Douglas won a playoff over Marcelle Gonzalez to win the ladies’ club championship while Bill Butcher carded a career-best 80 to claim the seniors club title. Dave Theriot, Greg Porter and Kevin Landry were the top three finishers in the net division of the championship flight.

Other flight winners included Bobby Delaunay (gross) and Sully Barras (net) in the president’s flight, Harold Gerac (gross) and Al DeMoss (net) in the first flight, and Toby Blissett (gross) and Bill Butcher (net) in the second flight.

VIEUX CHENES SENIORS: Joe Murphy, Jim Huval, John Simon and Virgle Skinner posted a 10-under-par 62 to win top honors at the Vieux Chenes Men’s Senior Golf Association monthly tournament last Thursday. Jim Kerin won closest-to-the-hole honors with a shot 11-3 from the pin on the seventh hole.

The next monthly event is set for Dec. 13 which also includes a spaghetti dinner for all association members taking part. Information on the group is available from the Les Vieux Chenes pro shop at 837-1159.

ACES: Walter Kremheller of Lafayette used a Cobra 18-degree Baffler and a Titleist ball to record the fifth hole-in-one of his golfing career last Monday, acing the 190-yard 17th hole at the Farm d’Allie Golf Club. Cliff Malbrough was witness to the shot.

LAGNIAPPE: Ladies area play on the Southwest Ladies Golf Association schedule is today at Bayou Bend in Crowley, the final scheduled tournament of the season … Spanish Trail has its Golf Association Turkey Scramble at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, with a $5 entry fee and turkeys to the winners. Call 364-2263 for information … Oakbourne’s Women’s Golf Association holds its Turkey Tournament today, and Oakbourne also holds its shop turkey tournament Sunday … The Farm d’Allie also has a Turkey Shoot Tournament Sunday.