Former Golf: Perseverance pays off for Lafayette golfer in ‘Q’ school
Dan McDonald, Nov. 14, 2017
Perseverance usually pays off. Just ask Michael Smith, whose professional golf career got a major boost last week.
It’s not like the Lafayette product and former UL standout hasn’t had some measure of success. After all, he’s played in the U.S. Open, he’s been a regular in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open field and made the cut there, and he’s hit the winner’s circle on regional mini-tours.
But last Tuesday-Friday may have been the most significant rounds of his pro career, especially with the opportunities he’ll have moving forward.
Smith was one of the 22 players advancing out of the second stage at Plantation, Florida, one of five second-stage sites in the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament — otherwise known as “Q” school.
As at each of the five sites — Dothan, Alabama; Murrieta, California; McKinney, Texas; and Brooksville, Florida, were the other four locations — the top 20 players and ties from a huge field earned the right to advance to the final stage. That 72-hole event is scheduled for Dec. 7-10 at the Whirlwind Golf Club’s Devils Claw and Cattail courses in Chandler, Arizona.
“It felt really good, a lot of relief,” Smith said this week after carding a 71-66-71-68—277 score over the par-71 course. “I’d gone into the last round a few times in good position, and to be able to break through and play well was a really good feeling.”
Smith had made it through Q-school’s first stage seven different times and had come close to advancing through the second stage and to the final segment on a couple of occasions. This time, is three-under final round was enough to give him no worse than conditional status on the Web.com Tour for the 2018 season.
In effect, he’s a Web.com Tour player now, and now the task is to do well at the final stage and guarantee himself playing spots in Tour events next year. The top 45 players in the finals are exempt through the Tour’s first of a series of “shuffles,” which determine eligibility and the “pecking order” for the field in each Tour event.
“Basically, the higher you finish, the better your chances of getting into events,” Smith said. “Then, if you play well, the shuffle’s not a big deal since the more you play well in tournaments, the more you’ll get into.”
Making it through the second stage was pivotal before any of that could happen, though, and Smith battled his way through a rugged Tuesday first-round 71.
“I really didn’t play well, I was a couple over early in the round,” he said, “but I kind of hung around and got a score done and got in at even. That was big, if your bad rounds can stay around even. Being there before and knowing that you have four rounds to play helped.”
A second-day 66 set the stage and set up a weekend in which he only needed solid rounds to advance.
“Each day it was 2-under, 4-under, 6-under for the number, it was moving that way,” he said. “I was pretty confident going into the last round that 8-under would get it done.”
That’s the number he was at late in Friday’s final round after a birdie at the 14th hole, his third on a par-four in the final round. He had his first bogey of the day at the par-three 15th, but still came to the par-four 17th and the par-five 18th standing at 7-under.
“I knew if I could get one more going to the last hole, a par would get it done,” Smith said. “You don’t have a leaderboard to really know what’s going on, but I was pretty sure 8-under would get it done.”
His drive on 17 found the rough, but he hit a “flyer” 9-iron to 20 feet and rolled in the birdie putt, meaning that if he found the fairway on the water-lined 18th, he was headed to the final stage. His drive was down the middle, and he made a no-drama par.
“It always feels good when you feel like you need a putt or a shot and you hit it,” he said. “That gives you a lot of confidence.”
Smith had played second stage at Plantation the previous year, and chose that site mostly because of the weather and course familiarity. “It’s a good golf course, and in November you don’t have to worry much about cool weather in South Florida. I’m not saying I hate cold weather, but not a lot of pros really like the cold. It was in the 40s in McKinney last week, so I wanted to go back down there and not worry about it.”
Approximately 140 players will be in the final-stage field, 108 who advanced through second stage and nearly three dozen who were exempt to the finals because of finishes on the Tour money list or other tours. A finish in the top third in December would be huge in getting into Web.com events next year, but at worst he has conditional status.
“That’s big for me in any sense,” he said. “I’ve taken a glance at when the early events are next year (the Web.com Tour has two events in the Bahamas and three international events before next March’s Louisiana Open), but there’s no need to get too much into that until I take care of business. It’s kind of complex figuring out how they do the fields, but the cure for all that is to play good golf. If I do that, that will take care of all of that.”
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
Bill Bass Open
There’s still time for last-minute entries into the Bill Bass Open, UL’s annual Homecoming golf tournament that helps raise funds for the Ragin’ Cajun golf team. The tournament is this Friday at its traditional Les Vieux Chenes home, and a limited number of spots in the field are still available.
The four-person scramble has a single flight this year, with registration and lunch starting at 10:30 a.m. and a shotgun start at noon. The tournament is open to all golfers, not just Ragin’ Cajun fans, and players may make up their own foursomes or may enter as individuals to be paired up with other players.
Entry fee is $150 per player, with members of the RCAF and the Vermilion Links getting a $25 discount on entry fees. Players receive a jacket, a souvenir Homecoming T-shirt, logo towels, balls, tees, ball markers and other items along with lunch before play, and drinks will be available on the course.
Players and teams seeking to last-minute register may call (337) 857-8754 for information.
Hebert Club Championship
A total of 45 players took part in last weekend’s Hebert Municipal Club Championship sponsored by the Lafayette Men’s Golf Association, and David “Magic” Duhon came away with top honors.
Duhon posted a 10-under-par score for the weekend with rounds of 65-69—134 to claim the championship flight, winning by three strokes over Cade Hebert (69-68--137). Thad Weber finished third with a 69-70—139 score and James “T-Boy” Hamilton was fourth at 66-75—141.
In the handicap net division, Thad Weber took top honors with a plus-7 score above assigned handicap points.
The tournament was highlighted by a rarity, with holes-in-one posted in back-to-back groups playing in separate foursomes. Kyle Broussard started the streak when he holed out on the 140-yard second hole, and Preston Vincent matched that feat in the very next foursome.
UL announced the first of its golf signees for 2018-19, with Hudson Dubinski of Columbia, Missouri, inking in last week’s early signing period. The three-time All-State pick at Rock Bridge High was the No. 1-ranked recruit in Missouri and has twice finished in the top five in the Missouri state high school championship going into his senior year, including finishing second as a freshman.
He also placed third in the Midwest Junior Championship this year and had a career-low 66 in the Bubba Conlee National Junior Tournament. He’s the youngest-ever play to win Columbia’s city championship, having won it in both 2016 and 2017, and qualified for the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur in a sectional qualifier here at Oakbourne, the home course of UL’s new golf facility.
“He’s the epitome of what we look for in a student-athlete,” said Cajun coach Theo Sliman. “He excels on the course and in the classroom. He comes from a strong athletic family with three older brothers who have competed in collegiate athletics, and any time you have a No. 1 recruit from a state, you know he’s capable of competing on a high level.”
USSSA Junior Tour
The USSSA Junior Tour will stage its next event Nov. 25-26 with the annual Gobbler Tournament at Southern Trace in Shreveport.
The event features boys’ and girls’ play in three age groups, with boys and girls age 12-14 and 15-18 divisions playing 18 holes daily and boys and girls 9-11 playing nine holes per day. Deadline to enter is Nov. 22 and more information is available from Robert Boudreaux at (337) 278-8431 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vieux Chenes Seniors
The rain-delayed first November tournament for the Vieux Chenes Senior Men’s Golf Association still drew a field of 29 players Thursday, and the team of Richard Laughlin, Ron Breaux, Curtis Stewart and Morris Hoagland turned in a seven-under-par 65 to take top honors at Les Vieux Chenes.
Don Everett, Glenn Morales, Allen Menard and Butch Babin finished second at 66, Mike Menard, Bill Parrott, Gerald Latiolais, Bucky Ware and Ken Guilbeaux finished third also at 66, and Glenn Biro, Mike Landry, Raymond Gaudeet and Robert Barrilleau finished fourth at 67.
Glenn Morales took closest to the hole honors on the 17th hole.
The group will hold its second event of the month one week early on Thursday so as not to conflict with the Thanksgiving holiday, and will also stage a final event of the year on Dec. 7. Registration each week is from 7-7:30 a.m. with play beginning at 8 a.m. The group is open to all senior players, and information on the group is available at Les Vieux Chenes or by calling 837-1159.
As mentioned above, there were back-to-back aces in consecutive groups Saturday at the Hebert Club Championships on the 130-yard second hole.
Kyle Broussard of Carencro was first up, used a pitching wedge and a Callaway “SuperSoft” ball. The 35-year-old Broussard, a zero-handicapper, had his first career ace while in a group with Thomas Brown, Damon Lacombe, Carroll Robicheaux and Ryan Hornsby.
Minutes later, Preston Vincent of Carencro jarred his second ace of the year and the fourth in his 60-year playing career. The 72-year-old 8-handicapper used a pitching wedge and a Callaway “SuperSoft” ball while playing in a group with Bill McFarlin, Jerry Spurgeon and Dale Menard.
Clyde Briley also got into the hole-in-one ranks last Wednesday, using a 5-hybrid and a Wilson Staff ball to hole out on the 144-yard eighth hole at The Wetlands. The 75-year-old legendary local high school basketball coach was in a threesome with Chuck Duhon and Chip Williams.
“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 email@example.com, FAX to (337) 857-8763 or call (337) 857-8754 and leave a message with phone number.