Chitimacha Louisiana Open -- Wednesday notebook
BROUSSARD, La. -- Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee began pitching the idea of expanding his tour's role in advancing players to the PGA Tour several years ago.
Now that's a reality, with last year's announcement that all 50 available PGA Tour cards would be awarded through the Web.com Tour – 25 through the regular-season money list and 25 through a series of four "finals" events at season's end. That move established the Web.com Tour as the path to the PGA Tour.
"It was in the works for several years," Calfee said Wednesday following his arrival on the eve of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. "It's been growing for some time, but the change in structure is a big step and it's exciting for us. It's certainly going to elevate the stature of this Tour."
Calfee said the new structure makes for a better proving ground for players as compared to the earlier formula, which awarded PGA Tour cards both from the Web.com Tour and from "Q-school" final stage.
"There's no question this is the best way to identify players who should go on to the PGA Tour," he said. "There's an increasing understanding that these guys out here have the game to play on the PGA Tour. We just don't have the room for them there. This is a solid tour that stands on its own merits."
The Louisiana Open has 18 PGA Tour winners in its field, that group having combined for 39 PGA Tour wins, and 54 previous Web.com Tour winners are in this week's field.
"This may be a little unusual, and we've got a few more recognizable names because of playing opposite the Bay Hill event," Calfee said of the Open's pairing with the PGA Tour's restricted-field Arnold Palmer Invitational. "But generally, that's going to be a trend. You're going to see more and more major champions playing out here. The fields are tough ... every year they're getting stronger."
FIRST-TIMER: Former LSU All-American and 2011 NCAA champion John Peterson is making his first Louisiana Open appearance, and has conditionally exempt status after finishing in the top 200 on last year's PGA Tour money list. He did that by getting into nine PGA Tour events and making the cut in six.
So far this year, he's made the cut in all three of the Web.com Tour's Latin America events at Panama, Colombia and Chile, including a tie for 16th in Santiago two weeks ago when he had four sub-par rounds. Still, he wasn't happy with his play below the border, especially his putting.
"Maybe being back in the states will spark some better scores," he said. "But I really just didn't get much out of it down there. I'm rolling it fine, I'm just not making anything from 12 to 15 feet."
Last year's PGA Tour success and his start to this season have him in solid early-season position, especially with the newly-expanded advancement format from Web.com to PGA Tour. That's good for him, since the old "Q-school" system wasn't kind to the Fort Worth, Texas, native.
"I love this," he said of Web.com being the route to the PGA Tour. "I hate Q-school. I didn't make it through one stage in my two tries. I never advanced. That's just one week and it's all or nothing. I didn't like that. Here, you have a whole year, you get to play in a schedule, and you know where you're going to be."
CARRYING FOR BIG JOHN: Lafayette's Bruce Sawvel had the rare opportunity caddy for John Daly during Wednesday's Nacher Corporation Pro-Am ... at least for a couple of holes.
"That thing's heavy," Sawvel said. "I told him (Daly) he had too many golf balls in there."
Sawvel won the chance to walk with Daly during the pro-am – and take over the bag for a hole or two – in an auction held Monday night at the Open's annual Player Party at Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel.
"I figured the proceeds go to charity," Sawvel said, "and with all the charitable things the Open does, I just said, here we go, let's do this. I was a little apprehensive, but he (Daly) and his regular caddy couldn't have been nicer.
"We talked about all sorts of things ... how proud he is of his son, about the tour, about the golf course he owns up in Arkansas. And he was very supportive of the rest of his (pro-am) team. He is really every man's golfer."
The high point of Sawvel's trip around Le Triomphe with Daly? "I actually bummed a cigarette off him once," Sawvel said. "That was pretty cool."
SPECIAL FOR BERRY: The PGA's Gulf States Section gets three spots in the Open's field for its players, and two of them were determined two weeks ago at Les Vieux Chenes in the section's Closed Qualifier for its membership. That turned out to be a special day for Lafayette's Matt Berry, as he earned one of those slots and will go off the No. 1 tee at 2:20 p.m. today.
"It definitely feels special," said Berry, a former member of the professional staff at Le Triomphe. "I'm just going to enjoy the experience."
Berry had to survive a three-man playoff with Jake Daniels of Metairie and Phillip Wright of Gonzales for the two available spots after all shot a four-over 76 in brutal wind conditions in the qualifier. Wright had a one-stroke lead before bogeying the 18th, allowing Berry and Daniels to tie for the top spot. Daniels hit a stellar shot from the left rough on the second playoff hole to earn his spot, and Berry got in with a par on the third playoff hole. Berry had to birdie the par-four 17th to get within striking range.
He also has the honor of having Todd Robertson, the pro at Les Vieux Chenes and the vice-president of the Gulf States Section, on his bag as caddy this week.
PRO-AMS: It took a 22-under-par 49 score to win Wednesday morning's Nacher Corporation Pro-Am, with the Lamar Advertising team of pro Chris Wilson and amateurs Glen Fritscher, Phil Devey, Lane Parker and Don Parker posting that score and winning by a two-stroke margin.
Three teams tied for second at 20-under-par 51, with the Web.com team of pro Brett Stegmaier, Lafayette city-parish president Joey Durel, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rob Guidry, Louie Lowry and Guy Rials taking second place on a scorecard playoff. The team of pro Aaron Goldberg and amateurs Lee Murphy, Russ Mercke, George Faust and Ricky Broussard was third, and the team of pro Scott Harrington and amateurs Gary Miller, Mike Gaspard, Terry Guidry and Ronnie Ratcliff finished fourth.
The afternoon's Knight Oil Tools Boy Scout Pro-Am boasted an even better winning score, with the Acadiana Dodge team of pro Will Wilcox and amateurs Glen Fritscher, Chip Billeaud, Mickey Comboy and Lane Parker sporting a 24-under 47 total to win by three strokes over the field.
Three teams tied at 21-under 50, with the Premium Distributors team of pro Alex Aragon and amateurs Bobby Crockett, Scott Poynot, Barrett Thomas and Shawn Bernard winning on a scorecard playoff. Third went to the Pro-T team of pro Ryan Hietala and partners Jon Bellamy, Al Taylor, Russ Bellard and Jim Parvino, while fourth went to the Schilling Distributing team of pro Chris Tidland and amateurs Buddy Schilling, Kody Thompson, Andrew Grady and Jeremy Theriot.
CHITIMACHA LOUISIANA OPEN
The 22nd annual Chitimacha Louisiana Open is set Thursday-Sunday, March 21-24 at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in Broussard. The Web.com Tour event is Acadiana's premier professional sports event, and has a $550,000 purse with $99,000 to the winner. Championship play begins at 7:40 a.m. Thursday off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees. Tickets for the tournament are $10 for daily passes and are available at the Le Triomphe main gate.