One of the nation’s oldest collegiate golf tournaments will once again have the nation’s top-ranked team in the field beginning Monday when Louisiana-Lafayette hosts its 31st annual Louisiana Classics at Oakbourne Country Club.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will welcome 11 other teams for the 54-hole event that has a 36-hole marathon beginning Monday at 8 a.m. and a final 18 holes on Tuesday over the 7,098-yard, par-72 Oakbourne course.
The team to watch in that group is defending Classics champion Illinois, ranked No. 1 in this week’s GolfStat collegiate rankings. The Illini, making its spring stroke-play debut, won by an impressive 22-stroke margin last year and returns last year’s individual champion in senior Thomas Detry.
“This golf course is a perfect test for us this time of year,” Illinois coach Mike Small said. “You have to drive it straight and think your way around the course. If you miss your drives on certain parts of this golf course, you can’t make pars. There’s a premium on driving the golf ball, which is very important to me this time of year.”
Two other ranked teams, Texas A&M and Kansas, are also in the field along with Illinois State, Kent State, Middle Tennessee, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Texas-Arlington along with the host Cajuns.
The hosts will be making their only home appearance of the year and are looking to use the Classics to turn around what has been a dismal spring season. After finishing in the top five team-wise in each of their first four fall events, UL-Lafayette has finished 15th and 12th in 15-team fields in its two spring tournaments. The Cajuns were 12th in last week’s Mobile Sports Authority tournament in their last event.
“Those results are unacceptable,” Cajuns coach Theo Sliman said. “We know that we’re a much better team than we showed in those two tournaments, and we really need to have a good outing here to get some confidence going. We can do that ... we’ve always played pretty well in the Classics.”
The Cajuns finished third in last year’s event behind Illinois and Texas State, and could have finished second except for a 13-over -par 301 score during a wind-blown final round that allowed TSU to pass them for the runner-up spot.
UL-Lafayette senior Haraldur Magnus finished seventh individually last year with a two-under 214 score and leads a Cajun lineup that also includes two other top-25 finishes from last year in junior Fernando Cruz-Valle and senior Christian Verrougstraete. Newcomers Andres Navarrette and Ragnar Gardarsson round out the Cajuns’ lineup.
One special feature of the tournament is a live webcast from the course beginning at 9 a.m. each day and running until the end of play, available through www.ragincajuns.com.
“For this to be the 31st, that’s hard to wrap your head around,” Sliman said of the long-running event. “It’s always been an honor for us to have this event, and the visiting teams always want to come back. Some tournaments come and go, so to have one that’s been going for 31 years, that’s pretty special. We just need to play well to make it even more special.”
Illinois’ Charlie Danielson, who finished in last year’s individual top five, and Nick Hardy are both ranked in the nation’s top 10 individually going into the Classics.