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Former Cajuns golf standout the first player from Iceland ever in major championship

Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, July 25, 2018

Haraldur Magnus had a roller-coaster ride over the past weekend, when the former UL golf standout became the first Icelandic player ever to participate in a major championship.

The fact that it was the big one, the Open Championship, just across part of the North Atlantic from his hometown of Reykjavik, would have been enough to send shudders through most golfers. Add the fact that Magnus was carrying the weight of an entire country — one that surprisingly is crazy about golf, despite its unwieldy cold conditions –— and it would have taken a “major” effort to play well.

That Magnus did in last Thursday’s opening round, when he rallied back from a four-over 40 on the outward nine and posted five birdies on the inward nine and finished with a one-over 72, well ahead of the middle of the pack.

Friday’s second round wasn’t as promising when the weather turned sour. Magnus started with four pars before a triple-bogey at the par-four fifth hole and a double-bogey at the par-five sixth. Dropping five strokes to par proved too much, even though he posted three birdies the rest of the way. His final round 78 left him at eight-over 150 and outside the cut line.

The results, though, really didn’t matter.

“It was awesome to be in a major,” Magnus said. “I’m a bit of a loner and I keep to myself so I’m a little bit uncomfortable with it all, to be honest. I get a lot of coverage, but I really don’t care that I’m the first (Iceland native) to play in the Open. Whether there had been none, 15 or 100 before me, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Former Ragin' Cajun Haraldur Magnus of Iceland plays

Former Ragin' Cajun Haraldur Magnus of Iceland plays a shot off the 15th tee during the second round of the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland, on Friday.  (Photo: Alastair Grant/AP)

Magnus did have a large number of followers from the Acadiana area, the ones who knew that he was an All-Sun Belt Conference player three times during his Cajun career from 2013-16 after starting in college at Mississippi State. Many kept track of his scores online, and he was mentioned several times during the coverage provided by Golf Channel, NBC and by the Open’s own online webcast.

The 27-year-old Magnus is competing on the Nordic Golf League, a “third-tier” offshoot of European golf. He had just over 3,500 pounds in earnings on that tour entering this week, and despite missing the cut at Carnoustie he banked 3,790 pounds just for participating in the Open.

Magnus earned one of the coveted spots in the most worldly tournament on the planet in sectional qualifying competition held two weeks prior to the Open. He finished second in qualifying at Prince’s in Kent with a72-70—142 score, with three spots available there (two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen was third at that same sectional).

The country with a population of approximately 350,000 has more than 10 percent of its populations describing themselves as avid golfers. Magnus said Iceland has more golf courses than any country in the world per capita, with 20 18-hole courses and almost 50 nine-hole layouts.

“Golf in Iceland is hugely popular,” he said. “It’s the second most popular sport behind football (soccer here). I got introduced to golf when I was 12 or 13, and started playing for real when I was 15 when I quit football.

“It’s a five-month season to play, but for those five months it’s long days. There’s a month where it’s almost 24 hours of daylight. Those five months, you can really take advantage of practice.”

Magnus was a recent part of a succession of Icelandic players who have competed for the Ragin’ Cajuns. That total is now at 10 including current Cajun Bjorn Gudjonsson.

He’s hoping the numbers of Icelandics playing college golf in the U.S. will continue to increase, as well as the numbers who look to make a living from the game. Most importantly, he hoped his appearance in the Open will inspire more young players.

“We have a lot of good, young kids playing,” he said, “and I don’t think I’ll be the last one to play a major from Iceland.”

Tolson in Southern

Another Cajun, this  one a current UL squad member, had a solid weekend as Jack Tolson of Opelousas posted a top-25 finish in the Southern Amateur Championship played at Old Stone Golf Club in Alvaton, Kentucky, near Bowling Green.

Tolson made the cut with an opening 68-70, and followed with rounds of 73 and 76 on Saturday and Sunday to finish at one-under 287 and tied for 22nd in one of the nation’s elite amateur events. He was the top state finisher in the field, while Cajun teammates Triston Elston and incoming freshman Charlie Flynn both missed the cut — Elston by a lone stroke.

Tolson had seven birdies in his opening-round 68 when he was in the top 10, and added four more birdies in the second round before bogeying the 17th and 18th holes. He had three more birdies on Saturday, but ran into trouble in Sunday’s final round and was six-over-par through 12 holes before posting birdies on the 14th and 15th.

Both Tolson and Elston qualified for the event through a sectional held in June at Oak Wing in Alexandria, where they finished second and first respectively and claimed the only two available spots. Flynn made it in to the field by winning the prestigious Southern Junior championship in Birmingham earlier this summer.

The Southern Amateur isn’t the only prestigious event for Tolson this summer. The Opelousas native, who finished third in the LGA’s State Amateur at Oakbourne in June, qualified two weeks ago for the field in the U.S. Amateur Championship set Aug. 13-19 at Pebble Beach and Spyglass in California.

Tolson posted a 67-71—138 score at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport, one of more than 40 qualifying locations, to tie for top honors in a 36-hole one-day event that had 72 participants vying for only two spots. Shreveport’s Carter Toms, son of now-reigning U.S. Senior Open champion David Toms, also shot 138 to claim the other qualifying spot, one stroke ahead of two other players.

Because of newly relaxed NCAA regulations, the U.S. Amateur is one of three summertime tournaments that college coaches can travel with their players and provide coaching and/or caddie services (the others are the British Amateur and the Japanese Amateur.

Courtesy of funds raised by the Vermilion Links, UL’s official golf support group, Tolson and Sliman will be making that trip for Aug. 11-12 practice rounds and the start of 36 holes of stroke play Aug. 13-14. The top 64 of the 200-plus field qualify for match play beginning Aug. 16.

“I’ll be there to caddie, coach, help him,” Sliman said. “Jack’s really had a good summer and is really peaking nicely right now.”

“Making the Turn” appears Wednesday 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.

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