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Golf: Young, inexperienced UL team to be put to the test + Chicken Classic Tournament Next Monday

Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, Aug. 22, 2017

UL golf coach Theo Sliman will have one of the smallest in numbers and least experienced teams in his career as Ragin’ Cajun mentor for the 2017-18 season.

But Sliman said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I remember four years ago we played a true freshman and four sophomores in the lineup, and we missed by only a couple of points getting into the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “I’m anxious to see if we have that same kind of competitiveness from these younger guys.”

This year’s version of the Cajun squad, which held its first team meeting this week and will begin practice for this year’s fall-spring schedule next Tuesday, will have only six players on the roster. Only two of them — junior Triston Elston of Baton Rouge and sophomore Jack Tolson III of Lafayette — have ever competed for UL in an official tournament.

The rest are newcomers, and it’s that group that will be thrown into the fire quickly. The Cajuns play their first tournament of the year in just more than two weeks when they head to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to take part in their traditional opener at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate.

Those new faces include junior college transfer Colin Troxler, who in May won the NJCAA junior college Division II national individual title while playing for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Troxler, a native of Luling and one of several Cajuns who came through Hahnville High, shot a two-under-par 282 in that four-round meet and won the individual title by four strokes.

He and Elston, who qualified for this summer’s Southern Amateur Championships, are going to be heavily counted on for leadership on a team that has no seniors.

“Those two have known each other for a while,” Sliman said, “so it’s not like they’re foreign to one another. I’m looking for those two to lead us, but there’s nothing wrong with a freshman stepping in and taking a leadership role. We’ve seen that in the past.”

The Cajuns have had two freshmen in the last seven years that have fit that leadership mold. Phillip Fendt (2009) and Fernando Cruz Valle (2014) were both honored as the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year, and both went on to solid careers that included multiple all-league and all-Louisiana honors.

Sliman said that Tolson, who played in six tournaments last year, and incoming freshmen Justin Caldwell of Ponchatoula; Peter Hinnant of Winston Salem, North Carolina; and Bjorn Gudjonsson of Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, could all be ready to make that leadership step.

“The freshmen definitely have a learning curve ahead of them,” he said, “and the hope is that myself and the upperclassmen can teach them that learning curve quickly. I’m a firm believer that good teams have a coach that motivates, and great teams have players that lead and motivate.

“That puts a lot on Triston, who’s been in the program for a while, and Colin. There’s a reason we brought him in as a transfer, to have that seasoning and leadership. The young guys are certainly talented, but it’s a matter of getting them comfortable at being uncomfortable.”

Troxler, in addition to the national title, was a top-10 finisher in seven of his 12 tournaments in his final junior college season including four individual runner-up finishes. Caldwell comes from a golfing family, with older brother, Blake, a senior and three-year letterman at LSU, and has won on the AJGT Tour along with three appearances in the state tournament.

Hinnant, a two-time All-State pick in North Carolina, was ranked No. 1 among North Carolina boys by Tarheel Youth Golf and finished fourth on the Hurricane Golf Tour in 2016. Gudjonsson, one of a long line that now numbers 11 Icelandic players that have been part of the Cajun program, is a member of that country’s Junior National Team and has won five times while a part of that squad.

That background will help, because with the small roster, virtually the entire squad will play in each of the 12 tournaments the Cajuns will play in the fall and spring seasons.

“The advantage is that the lineup will change, but it won’t change deeply and every player is going to get playing time,” Sliman said. “Being a smaller group, chemistry is of great importance and I think we’ll have that. Plus, this team is going to be able to compete together for two solid years. Obviously we’ll add to this team with the class of 2018, but we’ll have this core nucleus for two years.”

This group will also be the first to make full use of the Cajuns’ new home facility at Oakbourne, and Sliman said that the team meeting had a different look.

“In the past we’d met at E.K. Long Gym or at my house,” he said. “To send out a test that we’ll meet in the golf locker room, it was kind of a surreal moment. I had to do a double-take. But everything there and all of the technology we have, it’s going to be a great asset to us.”

‘Chicken’ Tournament

Speaking of the UL program, the Vermilion Links Club — the primary support organization for the Cajun team — will stage its second annual Jimmy “Chicken” Thomas Classic this Monday at Oakbourne.

The event has a two-fold purpose, helping raise funds for the UL program and providing a chance for Vermilion Links members and other participants to get to meet and interact with the players on the Cajun squad.

“Our players are hopefully going to be part of our community for many years, not just while they’re playing their collegiate seasons,” said Vermilion Links chairman David Church. “We think that giving our members and others the chance to meet the players and get to know them is really important in helping them know that we want them to be an integral part of our city and our area.”

Church said that 100 percent of the proceeds from the tournament will go to the golf team’s budget to support recruiting, travel, tournament and coaching costs. The group’s founding members contributed nearly $300,000 toward the construction of the new UL facility, which joined with a pair of $200,000 donations from Don Mosing and Brad Mosing that made the facility possible.

The two-day event will include a Sunday evening social and dinner at Oakbourne where the Cajun players will be introduced. Monday’s two-player scramble will begin at 1 p.m.

Entry fee for founding members of the Vermilion Links is complimentary, and spots in the rest of the field are $200 per player or $400 per two-player team.

More information is available from Church at 280-2961 or dchurch@dartenergyservices.com, or from UL coach Theo Sliman at 962-3348 or tsliman@louisiana.edu.

City Championships

The dates are fast approaching for the annual Lafayette City Championships, hosted by the city’s three municipal courses and set for Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 7-8, with the Saturday round to be played at Les Vieux Chenes and the Sunday finale at The Wetlands.

The event is open to all players, not just Lafayette residents, and will be flighted in the men’s division. Once again, the city champion will receive a fully paid spot in the Monday qualifying for next March’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

Entry forms are now available at all three city courses.

U.S. Kids Tour

The U.S. Kids Tour’s local Acadiana Tour held its tour championship event Sunday at Le Triomphe, and winners were crowned in eight boys’ and three girls’ divisions.

Taking top honors in the season’s final event were Jace LeJeune in boys 13-14, Leland Hawkins in boys 12, Connor Cassano in boys 11, Christopher Cain in boys 10, Luke Baudoin in boys 9, Noah Chauvin in boys 8, Elijah Trosclair in boys 7, Carter Bourque in boys 6-under, Raquel Guidry in girls 12-14, Anna Ware in girls 10-11 and Maci Williams in girls 7-under.

LeJeune and Canon Clark both shot 80 and Zach Hardy was at 91 in the oldest boys’ division, while Hawkins (100), Colin LeGrange (102) and Jude Bourque (105) led boys 12, Cassano (74), Trey Prince (92) and Bradford Cain (98) led boys 11, Cain (41), Tripp Bellard (49) and Drew Daigle (51) led boys 10, Baudoin (40), Jacques Fontenot (45) and Spencer Hagan (54) led boys 9, Chauvin (46), Henry Busch (47) and Grant Bellard (50) led boys 8, Trosclair (42) and Hayden Amy (43) led boys 7, Bourque (38) and Carson Guilbeaux (43) led boys 6-under, Guidry (93) and Corinne Landry (102) led girls 12-14, Ware (60) topped girls 10-11 and Williams (49) and Ella Baudoin (68) led girls 7-under.

Season-long tour championship winners included LeJeune in boys 13-14, Hawkins in boys 12, Cassano in boys 11, Bellard in boys 10, Baudoin in boys 9, Chauvin in boys 8, Amy in boys 7, Bourque in boys 6-under, Landry in girls 12-14, Ware in girls 10-11 and Williams in girls 7-under.

USSSA Junior Tour

Lafayette’s Christopher Cain was the only Acadiana-area player to claim one of the top spots last week at the USSSA Junior Golf Tour’s Louisiana Cup competition, held at the Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rouge

Cain posted a 93 score in two nine-hole rounds in the boys 9-11 division, posting a 93 score.

The next outing for the USSSA Tour will be a “first-time” event, with the Back-2-School Four-Ball marking the first-ever two-player team tournament hosted by the organization. That tournament is set Sept. 16-17 at Les Vieux Chenes in Youngsville, and just like other Tour events will be played in age groups. More information is available from Robert Boudreaux at (337) 278-8431 or at robert.boudreaux@usssa.com.

Titleist Promotion

Golfballs.com and Titleist have teamed up for a promotion that make personalized and logo golf balls available in the world’s best selling line of balls, as well as Titleist hats, logo gear, travel gear and gift sets.

The ball promotion includes personalized logos on ProV1 and the ProV1x as well as the NXT, Velocity and DT Trusoft lines, with prices ranging from $27.95 to $48.95 per dozen in lots of 24 dozen. Custom logo kits that include a sleeve of balls, a double-sided ball marker chip and personalized tees are also available, as are half-dozen logo and personalized sets and gift sets of varying types.

Logo hats, travel gear and bags are also available in quantity. Details are available online at golfballs.com or at the Golfballs.com Retail Center on Arnould Blvd. just off Johnston Street, or by calling 800-372-2557.

“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.