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Golf - Making the Turn: US Amateur Championship to include Cajun flair + The Robe & Bill Bass Open

Dan McDonald, golfballs.com, The Advertiser, Aug. 7, 2019

The most prestigious event in amateur golf will have a Ragin’ Cajun flavor for the second straight year, and for the third time in the last four years.

When the 119th U.S. Amateur Championship tees it up next Monday-Sunday at the revered Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina, a current member of the UL golf program will be in the elite 312-player field.

Sophomore-to-be Charlie Flynn of Alexandria qualified for one of those coveted spots at a sectional qualifying tournament in New Orleans.

Flynn shot a 68-70—138 score in that early-July qualifying at the Bayou Oaks City Park South Course, one stroke off the top spot and good enough to make it into the national field.

“He’s plenty excited,” said Cajun coach Theo Sliman, who will head out Friday morning to join Flynn for practice rounds Saturday and Sunday over the famed No. 2 and No. 4 courses at Pinehurst. Flynn actually left Monday and will get a little bit of a jump on most of the field.

His mom Kristy has a good friend who works as a tennis pro at Pinehurst, and offered Charlie the chance to house there and arrive on-site early for pre-tournament preparation and to get comfortable at one of U.S. golf’s best-known venues.

“He called me Monday night,” Sliman said, “and he was very excited to be there. He sent me pictures of the trophies in the clubhouse and of Payne Stewart’s statue, so hopefully by the time I get there he’ll be used to the surroundings and we can get down to business.”

The first orders of business are the weekend practice rounds and the 36 holes of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday over the two courses. Players will have one practice round and one competitive round at each course, with those assigned by lot and matching up in Saturday-Monday and Sunday-Tuesday pairings. Sliman said they’ll try to get practice-round tee times at approximately the same time of day as the Monday-Tuesday stroke-play rounds.

“Theoretically you’ll play the course under the same conditions that way,” Sliman said. “He’s had a very productive summer, and wound up playing several rounds last week at the Cotton States, so that served a very good purpose for him. He’s got a lot of match-play rounds under his belt, and the goal will be to get to match play.”

The 312-player field will be cut down to the low 64 after Tuesday’s second and final round of stroke play, and the surviving 64 will go into a match-play bracket to be played at Pinehurst No. 2. That bracket will eventually whittle down to two players in the Sunday 36-hole championship match that will be played on both the Nos. 2 and 4 courses, a first in the tournament’s 118-year history.

If Flynn is fortunate enough to make it through the stroke play and get to the final 64, he could have an advantage with his recent tournament and match-play experience. At last week’s 68th annual Cotton States Invitational in Monroe, Flynn played two rounds of stroke play and shot 75-70 to qualify for the 32-player match-play segment.

Once there, as the No. 19 seed, Flynn won three straight close matches to reach the semifinals – beating Parker Jennings of Arkansas 1-up, Daniel Martinez of Austin, Texas, 2&1, and fellow former prep rival and current LSU sophomore Hayden White of Benton in a 22-hole marathon. Flynn fell in the finals of the Palmer Bracket to eventual tournament winner Charlie Miller of Mississippi in a 19-hole match.

A total of 7,191 entries were received for the 119th renewal of the Amateur, with 67 players fully exempt from previous tournament results and the other 245 spots filled through July sectional qualifying at 93 spots including Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The field includes 14 of the 15 amateurs who competed in the U.S. Open and 49 of the top 50 in the current World Amateur Golf Ranking. Entries were accepted from golfers from all 50 states and 60 other countries.

The Cajun program has been well represented in the U.S. Amateur in the last half-decade. Former UL standout Fernando Cruz Valle participated in the 2016 national championship at Oak Hills in Detroit, and senior-to-be Jack Tolson of Lafayette – a recently-named Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar -- earned a spot in last year’s national event held at Pebble Beach.

The difference this year is that both of those Cajun players had multiple years of college experience in their bag – three for Cruz Valle and two for Tolson – when they qualified. At this time last year, Flynn had never teed up a ball in a college event, although he did have a solid freshman season in 2018-19.

“With those two guys (Valle and Tolson) we’ve got a flag and a picture up on the wall in our building,” Sliman said. “I well remember at the start of the spring semester, Charlie said back in January that we’re going to be putting another picture up on the wall for this year’s U.S. Amateur. He didn’t say it in a bragging way, but in a confident way.”

Chip Shots

LAND IN SENIOR AM: Charlie Flynn won’t be the only player with local ties taking part in a USGA national championship this month, since for the second straight year, the Acadiana area will have a competitor taking part in the nation’s top amateur golf event for players age 50 and over.

Lafayette's Bill Land (right) took medalist honors and earned a spot in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championships by shooting a two-under-par 70 in last week's sectional qualifying at Oakbourne Country Club. LGA executive director Logan Ray (left) presented Land with the championship medal and his official invitation to the national tournament Aug. 24-30 in Durham, N.C.

Lafayette's Bill Land (right) took medalist honors and earned a spot in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championships by shooting a two-under-par 70 in last week's sectional qualifying at Oakbourne Country Club. LGA executive director Logan Ray (left) presented Land with the championship medal and his official invitation to the national tournament Aug. 24-30 in Durham, N.C. (Photo: Courtesy of La. Golf Association)

Lafayette’s Bill Land posted a two-under-par 70 at Oakbourne last Thursday to take medalist honors in a 20-player field and earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championships, scheduled for Aug. 24-30 at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C.

Land claimed the only spot available in the local qualifier by finishing one stroke ahead of Grady Brame of Hammond, the only other player to finish under par at 71. Brame is the first alternate and Gary Brewster of New Orleans, who shot even par 72, is the second alternate.

Youngsville’s Dennis Smith qualified for the Senior Amateur last year, carding a stellar 66 at Le Triomphe to make it to the national tournament held at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.

Land earned his second-ever berth in a USGA national championship with a three-birdie, one-bogey round, shooting 35 on each side of an Oakbourne course set up at 6,725 yards and playing longer than that after almost three inches of rain in the week preceding the tournament. Land birdies the par-five seventh hole on the front, and birdied the par-four 14th hole after his only bogey of the day at the par-four 12th.

Then, needing a birdie at the tough 430-yard 90-degree dogleg 18th hole, he rolled in a downhill 20-foot putt to get to two-under and claim the qualifying spot.

A total of 2,466 players attempted to qualify for the national-tournament field of 156 golfers, of which only 127 qualifying spots were available nationally (29 players were exempt courtesy of previous tournament results). The field will play 36 holes of stroke play on Aug. 24-25 before the low 64 advance to match play beginning Aug. 26.

Robert Shelton of Lafayette finished fifth in the qualifying with a two-over 74, while Ben Thibeaux of Lafayette was ninth with an 80 and Doug Hobbs of Lafayette was 15th with an 85.

LGA MID-AMATEUR: One of the Louisiana Golf Association’s premier events is scheduled Friday-Sunday, and more than a dozen Acadiana-area players will be taking part when the Squire Creek course in Choudrant hosts the LGA’s 28th annual Mid-Amateur Championship.

The state’s top event for amateurs age 25 and over will feature a capacity 144-player field with Hank Shaheen of DeQuincy, who won last year’s Mid-Am title at Le Triomphe, defending his championship. A total of 48 players were exempt from qualifying based on success in other tournaments, and the remaining 96 players having to qualify at regional sites around the state in June.

The field will include Ben Dupont, Clinton Shepard, Curt Arcement, Douglas Hobbs, John Pantaleo and Billy and Denny Guilbeau of Lafayette, Dennis Smith, Brad Landry, Jeb Buddecke and Scott Shea of Youngsville, Ben Badeaux and Joe Myhand of Carencro, Brett Guillot of Broussard, Larry Verret of New Iberia and Nick Blady of Breaux Bridge.

In addition, three former UL players – Andrew Noto of Metairie, Seth Dufrene of Luling and Trey Coker of Leesville – are in the field that will be cut to the low 60 and ties after Saturday’s second of three rounds.

The LGA still has events upcoming on its 2019 schedule, including the Net Amateur (both men and women) at English Turn Aug. 24-25, the LGA’s only championship event that utilizes handicaps with a deadline of next Tuesday, Aug. 13; the men’s Senior Four-Ball Sept. 21-22 at Koasati Pines in Kinder with an entry deadline of Sept. 10; the women’s Senior Amateur Sept. 19-20 also at Koasati Pines with an entry deadline of Sept. 10; and the women’s Four-Ball Oct. 8-9 at Squire Creek with an entry deadline of Oct. 1.

More information on all LGA championship events and USGA qualifying events is available online at lgagolf.org.

PGA JUNIOR LEAGUE: The Lafayette are PGA Junior League completed its regular season competition last week, and the team representing The Wetlands captured the overall title and went undefeated with a 6-0 record in its dual matches.

The team representing Le Triomphe finished second and two teams representing Oakbourne finished third and fourth in the full-season competition, which led up to the selection of an “All-Star” team that will represent the league in upcoming sectional competition.

Luke Baudoin, Dax Reaux, Drew Dronet and Christopher Cain will represent The Wetlands, Ben Blanco, Hayden Amy and Noah Chauvin will represent Le Triomphe, and Thomas Oubre, Tripp Bellard and Riggs Ryan will represent Oakbourne in the PGA Gulf States Section’s playoffs. That event is scheduled Aug. 17-18 at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss., with 12 teams from Louisiana and Mississippi taking part. The winner of that event will advance to the regional playoffs, also scheduled to be held in Mississippi.

WIN FOR ORTEGO: Broussard’s Eli Ortego, the reigning state prep Division III individual champion for Ascension Episcopal, turned in a solid nine-under-par 68-67—135 score to take top honors last week at the Louisiana Junior Golf Tour’s event at Oak Wing in Alexandria.

Ortego led three Acadiana-area players finishing in the top five in the boys’ overall division (age 13-18), with prep teammate Jay Mendell of Lafayette one of three players tying for second at five-under 139 and Matt Weber of Scott, the reigning state prep Division II champ and a UL signee, finishing in solo fifth place at 71-70—141.

Ortego’s final-round 67 over the 6,725-yard par-72 Oak Wing course was the low for the tournament and followed a bogey-free, four-birdie opening round. He had six birdies with a lone bogey in the opening round and never gave up the lead over the final 18 holes.

Four area players finished in the top 10 in the boys age 11-13 division, with Thomas Oubre of Lafayette posting a 78-76—154 score as the best of that group over a 5,819-yard layout. Christopher Cain of Lafayette and Dax Reaux of Breaux Bridge tied for seventh at 157 and Tripp Bellard of Lafayette was ninth at 158.

Other Acadiana-area players in the boys’ overall division included Bryce Sutterfield of Opelousas and Zach Hardy of Lafayette, tied for 18th at 152; Blake Marcelissen of Broussard tied for 28th at 161; Cooper Ware of Opelousas in 30th place at 165 and Adam Trahan of Crowley tied for 33rd at 172.

Weber moved from a tie for ninth into fifth place in the points standings for the inaugural Junior Tour’s Player of the Year, while Ortego made a huge jump from a tie for 39th all the way to 16th place with the win. The top 30 in the boys’ overall division will receive invitation to the Tour Championship Oct. 5-6 at Gray Plantation in Lake Charles.

“THE ROBE”: All of the 72 team and 288 individual playing spots are filled for “The Robe,” the Aug. 23 tournament at Les Vieux Chenes in honor of the late Ragin’ Cajun baseball coach Tony Robichaux. However, there are still ways for golfers and UL fans to participate and support the event that benefits the family of the late coach, who passed away July 3 at age 57.

So far, the most popular method for involvement is tee box sponsorship with personalized tee signs at $100 each. The standard tee signs will each include a unique “Robeism” that expresses one of the long-time coach’s canons and witticisms.

The other primary way to get involved is through the silent auction, which will be held throughout tournament day and will include UL items and memorabilia donated by former Cajun athletic standouts and other prominent pro athletes. The auction is open to all, not just tournament participants, and is not limited to athletic items.

Information on the tee box sponsorships and the auction, including those who would like to donate auction items, is available from Mike Strentz at (337) 356-5869 or at mikestrentz@gmail.com; Travis Guidry at (337) 258-8801 or at guidrygolfer@yahoo.com; Ken Meyers at (337) 257-7777 or at ken-meyers@att.net, or Todd Robertson at (337) 371-9084 or at trobertson@lafayettela.gov.

BILL BASS OPEN: It’s never too early to save the date for the annual Bill Bass Open, UL’s Homecoming golf tournament schedules for Nov. 1, at Les Vieux Chenes. The four-person scramble event is one day in advance of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Homecoming football contest against Texas State on Nov. 2 at Cajun Field.

The 1 p.m. tournament is open to all golfers, not just Cajun fans, but it does have a distinct UL flair with several special features unique to the Bill Bass Open. Players may make up their own four-person teams or may enter as individuals to be placed on a team. RCAF members will get a $25 price break on the $150 individual and $600 team entry fees.

Entry blanks will be mailed out to past tournament participants and to UL football season ticket holders in the near future and will also be available at all area courses.

ACADIANA PRO-AM TOUR: The Acadiana Pro-Am Tour expands to a new venue for its August event Thursday, and tour organizer Dawn DeClouet is hoping that regular players in the monthly competition will give the Belleview Golf Club in Franklin a chance – and sees a chance for some low numbers.

“The course looks great,” DeClouet said. “It’s got wide open fairways with little rough and very few hazards. Even though it’s a nine-hole course, they have a process to weave groups in that doesn’t hold up the course. We’re looking forward to having the pro-am there.”

Belleview, located at 157 Belleview Lane in Franklin, is a first-time host for the event, which is held monthly and sponsored by Community First Bank. Tour events are open to all golfers, men and women, and handicaps are used to equalize competition. Players may make up their own four-person tee groups and may call the course at (337) 828-2572 to make tee times. More information is available on the tour’s Facebook page.

VIEUX CHENES SENIORS: The Vieux Chenes Senior Men’s Golf Association will try once again to get its second July event in Thursday (tomorrow) at Les Vieux Chenes. The second monthly tournament had already been moved back one week due to greens aeration at the course, and last Thursday’s play was cancelled due to rain and wet conditions.

Thursday’s tournament will include burgers after play, and president/secretary Bill Harrington requests that players bring correct change ($6). Sign-in is from 7-7:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. The group is open to all senior players, and information is available at Les Vieux Chenes at (337) 837-1159.

ACES: Cheryl Neu of Lafayette posted the seventh hole-in-one of her long golf career on July 22. Neu used a 7-iron and a Wilson Duo ball to ace the 113-yard eighth hole at The Wetlands, while playing in a group with Ruthie Dugal and Debbie Haddad.

“Making the Turn” appears each 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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