BROUSSARD – Acadiana's premier professional sports event begins its 21st year of competition Sunday when the Chitimacha Louisiana Open returns to Le Triomphe Golf Club and brings the world's second-best pro golf tour to local fans.
And this year's event may be the best yet, judging by the field and the numbers.
When the $500,000 Nationwide Tour event kicks off four days of championship play Thursday, seven former Louisiana Open winners will be in the field including the last four winners. That's never happened in the Open's 20-year history.
The field also includes:
· Two former U.S. Ryder Cup Team members;
· A former winner of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic in New Orleans, one who has won over $11 million on Tour;
· Two former Nationwide Tour Players of the Year; and
· Two players who have already won this year on the Nationwide Tour.
"We're going to have a lot of recognizable names, and more importantly some names that you're going to see playing on TV later on this year," said Open executive director Danny Jones. "That's one good thing about having a Tour event this year in the year. Our fans get a chance to follow these guys for the entire season after they leave here."
The quality field and the history of the event should be enough to make the Open an attraction for local golfers and fans when play begins over the 7,061-yard par-71 Le Triomphe course. Daily tickets for the event are $10 and are available through Wednesday at the Louisiana Open's remote office next to the Le Triomphe clubhouse, and will also be available at the gate beginning Thursday.
Championship play runs Thursday-Sunday, with the 144-player field cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's second round. Play is expected to begin at approximately 7:40 a.m. on Thursday and Friday with morning and afternoon waves.
Tournament activities, though, begin Sunday with the finals of the Cypress Bayou Casino $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout at 3:30 p.m. at Le Triomphe's eighth hole, where more than 50 qualifiers will take one shot at a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one.
The Dwight Andrus Insurance Pro-Am is Monday at 9 a.m., and following a Tuesday player practice round the AT&T Pro-Am and the Grey Goose Pro-Am are set for Wednesday at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. respectively. The course is closed to participants only on Monday and Wednesday, but Tuesday's practice rounds are open to the public.
Fans not at Le Triomphe for the championship action can follow the tournament on the Open's Facebook page by searching "Chitimacha Louisiana Open."
A total of 130 players are already in the field, with 14 spots still to be filled by open qualifying Monday at The Wetlands and Les Vieux Chenes.
Among those already in the field is Brett Wetterich of Jupiter, Fla., the 2011 champion and the only player ever to win the Open twice after taking the 2003 title. He claimed the Byron Nelson title on the PGA Tour in 2006, the same year that he was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Chris Riley – an adopted Acadian through his marriage to Lafayette native and former LPGA player Michelle Louviere – also was a member of the Ryder Cup team in 2004 and is in this week's field as one of several players with local ties.
Wetterich is joined by 2010 winner Fabian Gomez, 2009 champion Bubba Dickerson and 2008 winner Gavin Coles, providing a rarity on the Nationwide Tour – the last four champions all in the field. They are joined by former Open winners Steven Alker (2002), Paul Claxton (2001) and Paul Stankowski (1996), giving the event its most returning champions in tournament history.
Another player in the field has a Louisiana PGA Tour title on his resume'. Tim Petrovic, whose $11 million career winnings on Tour includes the championship of the 2005 Zurich Classic in New Orleans, is making only his second Nationwide Tour start since he earned his PGA Tour card in 2001 when he was seventh on the Nationwide money list.
Veterans Carl Paulson and Jason Gore both earned Nationwide Player of the Year honors in 1999 and 2005 respectively and are in the field, as are two winners on the Tour's season-opening international swing. Edward Loar captured the Panama Claro Championship in the Tour's second outing of the season, while Paul Haley II won the Chile Classic last week in his third career Tour outing after turning pro last September.
In addition to Riley, there is a local flavor to the event with Lafayette's Michael Smith and Acadiana native Brent Delahoussaye in the field. Smith, who won the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier in Dallas last summer and participated in last year's U.S. Open, is making his fourth Louisiana Open appearance as a sponsor exemption following a stellar career with UL's Ragin' Cajun squad.
Delahoussaye, a native of Breaux Bridge and a veteran of both the PGA and Nationwide Tours, is also a sponsor exemption. The former Clemson standout is also making his fourth Open appearance including two top-25 appearances in 2008 and 2010.
The Chitimacha Louisiana Open is the first of 23 domestic events on the Nationwide Tour this year, following three earlier events in Colombia, Panama and Chile (the Tour also has an event in Mexico later this season). The Open is the fifth-oldest event on the Nationwide Tour, and the 7,061-yard par-71 Le Triomphe layout ranks as the third-longest-running host course on Tour.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (events at Le Triomphe unless otherwise indicated)
Sunday, March 18 Cypress Bayou Casino $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, March 19 Dwight Andrus Insurance Pro-Am, 9 a.m.
Cypress Bayou Casino Pairings Party, 7 p.m., Cypress Bayou Casino (tickets required)
Tuesday, March 20 Player practice rounds, all day
Capital One Bank Taste of Acadiana Party, 7 p.m., Parc International (tickets required)
Wednesday, March 21 AT&T Pro-Am, 8 a.m.
Grey Goose Pro-Am, 1:15 p.m.
Thursday, March 22 Championship First Round, approximately 7:40 a.m.
Friday, March 23 Championship Second Round, approximately 7:40 a.m.
Saturday, March 24 Championship Third Round, time TBA
Sunday, March 25 Championship Final Round, time TBA
2012 CHITIMACHA LOUISIANA OPEN FIELD
(NOTE: The final 14 spots will be filled through open qualifying on Monday, with seven qualifying at The Wetlands and seven qualifying at Les Vieux Chenes to finish filling the 144-player field.)
Steven Alker (2002 champion)
David Berganio, Jr.
D. J. Brigman
Michael Clark II (sponsor exemption)
Paul Claxton (2001 champion)
Gavin Coles (2008 champion)
Brent Delahoussaye (sponsor exemp.)
Bubba Dickerson (2009 champion)
Fabian Gomez (2010 champion)
Jason Gore (2005 Tour Player of Year)
Paul Haley II (2012 Tour event winner)
Reed Hughes (sectional qualifier)
Edward Loar (2012 Tour event winner)
Carl Paulson (1999 Tour Player of Year)
Philip Pettitt, Jr.
Phil Schmitt (Sectional qualifier)
Michael Smith (sponsor exemption)
Paul Stankowski (1996 champion)
B. J. Staten
Travis Wadkins (sponsor exemption)
Brett Wetterich (2003/2011 champion)
Tim Yelverton (sectional qualifier)
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