ST. FRANCISVILLE — Michael Smith had a good reason for missing last week’s Adams Pro Tour tournament in Houma.
The 29-year-old from Lafayette was in Avondale, competing in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Smith made his first PGA Tour cut, and he finished at 12-under-par 276, good for 36th place. More importantly, he earned the biggest check of his career: $31,099, twice what Dustin Morris earned for winning the Adams Pro Tour’s Fakier Open.
This week, Smith is in the field for the Adams Pro Tour’s Merrill Lynch Open at The Bluffs, which begins Wednesday with one wave of tee times in the morning and another in the afternoon. Smith is part of the afternoon contingent.
The Merrill Lynch Open, which benefits Our Lady of the Lake’s Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, is the fourth stop on this year’s 14-tournament Adams Tour schedule and offers the tour’s richest purse: $120,000 in prize money, including $20,000 to the winner.
The tournament is similar to a PGA event, with the field for the 72-hole tournament cut after Thursday’s second round to the low 35 percent of scores and ties. The final two rounds will be Friday and Saturday, with awards presentation scheduled for the clubhouse area at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tee times begin at 8 a.m. all four days. Attendance is free.
Like its bigger brother, the Web.com Tour, the Adams Tour is a proving ground for young golfers to improve their games. Since the prize money is much smaller, golfers travel by car from event to event, and most do not have caddies.
Smith had a caddy last week at the Zurich, but this week, he’ll be lugging his own bag around. He has been on the Adams Tour for six years, and his goal is to earn a PGA Tour card. He was one of four Monday qualifiers for the Zurich field, so that he made the cut and earned a nice paycheck was proof that he can play with the best.
“It was really an amazing week, playing on the weekend,” said Smith, whose wife and two small children were waiting for him when he returned to Lafayette on Sunday night. “The fact I played well and earned a check was a bonus. It was a great experience.”
Smith, a former Louisiana-Lafayette standout, has played in only one other PGA event: the 2011 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut. He has gone through the grueling qualifying school several times, but “I haven’t played well at the right time,” he said.
Luckily he can continue to hone his skills in Adams Tour events while he continues to pursue his PGA Tour dream.
“The competition is very good out here, and a lot of guys are capable of playing very well,” said Smith, who plays out of Oakbourne Country Club. “It’s smaller, and you get to know all the other players. I’ve made a lot of good friends here, and we travel around, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Morris also is in the field this week, as is Michael Arnaud of Covington, who finished second at the Fakier Open. Other Louisiana golfers in the field: Neal Ajubita of Metairie, Matt Berry of St. Francisville, Greg Berthelot of Baton Rouge, Lucas Black of New Orleans, Brandt Garon of Baton Rouge, Daniel Keeton of Shreveport, Blake Kelley of Mandeville, Tyler Ledet of Lafayette, Ross Menard of Lafayette, Brian Rowell of Broussard, Ethan Savoy of Broussard and Travis Wilmore of Alexandria.
Louisiana amateurs Jack Maxwell and Jason McKenzie also are slated to compete.