BROUSSARD — A pair of players with Acadiana ties are looking for a breakthrough week when play begins Thursday at the $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
Michael Smith and Devin Carrey have also both played more rounds at Le Triomphe Golf Club than they care to remember and are hoping that knowledge will help earn them more regular status on the Web.com Tour.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” said Smith, who is making his eighth Louisiana Open appearance. “It’s not often you get a home game in golf. ... A lot of people never get a home game in golf, so it is a lot of fun to play here.”
Both had solid collegiate careers at Louisiana-Lafayette, Smith in his hometown and Carrey coming to the Ragin’ Cajuns from Langley, British Columbia. Both have battled to make it professionally after finishing their collegiate careers.
“It’s definitely great to be back,” said Carrey, who is playing in the Open for the second time after playing on the PGA Tour Canada (now called the Mackenzie Tour) from 2010-14. “It’s been a long time since I graduated (in 2009), a lot’s changed in Lafayette for the better, and I’m happy to be back at Le Triomphe and get another opportunity out here.”
Smith has made the cut twice in his appearances, in 2010 and last year, while Carrey missed the cut in 2014.
Smith came within a shot of advancing to the finals of the Tour’s “Q-School” in December, which would have given him status on the Web.com Tour for the entire season, while Carrey played most of the Mackenzie Tour for those five seasons, getting three top-10 finishes.
Carrey said that the Mackenzie Tour remains an option this year, especially since that tour kicks off in late May in Vancouver, not far from his hometown. But he’d rather be locked in on the Web.com Tour.
“I’ve prepared as much as I could and as well as I could’ve,” he said. “That tour is a secondary plan. ... If this doesn’t work out I’ll see if I can get some spots up there. But being a Web.com member is what I’m shooting for right now.”
“I’ve had a lot of close calls in the second stage of Q-school,” said Smith, who Monday qualified for last April’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans and went on to finish tied for 36th and take his biggest professional payday. “I know my game can compete from playing in a couple of PGA Tour events. It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it.”
Carrey is hoping that course and city familiarity will help this week.
“Logistically wise, just knowing where to eat, where to go, that helps,” Carrey said. “I’ve probably played out here (at Le Triomphe) a hundred times. It does help the more you get around events you’re more familiar with the territory and surroundings. I’ve had the chance to visit people that I haven’t seen for a while.”
For Smith, the hometown tournament is a mixed blessing.
“As a pro golfer, you’re a creature of habit,” he said. “You get used to being on the road, you get to your hotel and you go and do your thing on the course. At home, you have your home life and then you go play in the tournament as well. It can be unusual, but it’s hard to call it a problem.
“The desire to do well may be higher than other weeks because you’re playing in front of friends and family.
Ethan Savoy of Broussard, another former UL-Lafayette player, is in the field on a sponsor exemption and making his first Louisiana Open appearance. The former St. Thomas More standout graduated in 2012 and has been playing on the Adams Tour for the past two years.
At least two other players in the field have strong Louisiana ties. Curtis Thompson, who led the season-opening Panama Claro Championships after 36 and 54 holes and finished tied for third, was a standout at LSU and turned professional after his junior year in 2014.
Michael Arnaud, who played fulltime on the Web.com Tour last year after making it through the tour’s “Q-School” in 2014, currently lives in Covington. His wife Ashley Rodrigue is a reporter for a New Orleans television station. Arnaud had 17 starts on tour last year, making 11 cuts with two top-10 and three top-25 finishes.
Second-year pro Trey Mullinax of Birmingham, Ala., who tied for fourth in the Web.com Tour’s last stop at the Club Colombia Championships in Bogota, led his team to a one-stroke victory in Wednesday morning’s Coca-Cola Pro-Am.
He and amateur teammates Sammy Hebert, Sr., Sammy Hebert, Jr., Quinn Hebert and Chris Krampe combined for a 25-under-par 46 score in the modified scramble. A total of 27 teams took part in the morning event.
The team of pro Kyle Thompson of Panama City, Fla., the runner-up in the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, and amateurs Robie Darden, Bret Senette, Kelly Louviere and Jay Trahan finished in second place at 47. Pro Jason Allred of Ashland, Ore., and amateurs Steve Brignac, Tony Cormier, Anthony Lewis and Jesse Reagan also shot 47 for third, and pro Wesley Bryan of Columbia, S.C., and amateurs Glen Fritscher, Lane Parker, Phil Devey and Don Parker shot 48 for fourth.
In the afternoon, Tathata Golf Pro-Am, tour rookie and Baylor product Kyle Jones and amateurs Corey Hulin, Nicky Melancon, Dennis Sweeney and Jason Tatum took top honors with a 24-under 47. Former Ragin’ Cajun and now pro Devin Carrey and amateurs Eddie Dore, Paul Landry, Eddie Martien and Scott Marcantel also had a 47 for second place.
Veteran pro Chris Smith of Indianapolis, Ind., and amateurs Bill Kallam, Clay Fasnacht, Tim Ryan and Herb Schilling -- who helped found the original Louisiana Open before it became part of a pro tour -- finished third at 49, and pro Greg Eason of Liecester City, England, and amateurs Danny Duplantis, Shane Ardoin, Nick Sowa and Matt Arceneaux were fourth at 49.
“We’re very appreciative of all of our pro-am players, and the volunteers that came out to help us,” said tournament director Danny Jones. “We couldn’t have an event like this without either one of them.”
Wednesday’s pro-ams were played in good weather conditions, with mostly cloudy skies and not much wind. The forecasts for the first two days of championship play aren’t as promising.
Overnight thunderstorms are predicted and are forecast to last most of the day Thursday. After an overnight break, more storms are in the forecast during the day Friday.
“As of right now, all systems are go,” Jones said. “The PGA tour meteorologists are on site and will continue to monitor the patterns, and we’ll hope we get lucky. If we have to adjust on the fly, we will.”
The last weather issues at the Open were in 2014 when a half-inch of rain fell overnight between Friday and Saturday, but play was not delayed. A Wednesday thunderstorm forced cancellation of the pro-ams in 2012 and lift-and-clean conditions were used for the first two rounds that year, but the last delay in a championship round was in 2010 when opening-round play was delayed for over an hour with thunderstorms.
“The PGA Tour people are the professionals in getting these tournaments in around weather,” Jones said. “They know how to get it done.”