After practice rounds Tuesday, participants in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will have a chance to get in a leisurely round of golf Wednesday before the start of the $6.9 million PGA Tour event on Thursday.
Two pro-ams are scheduled to wrap up the pre-tournament festivities Wednesday with the Classic Pro-Am at TPC Louisiana, the tournament site in Avondale, and the L’Auberge Pro-Am of Baton Rouge at University Club.
The Baton Rouge pro-am, which begins with an 8 a.m. shotgun start, will have a different format this year. Nine pros will join nine local celebrities to play a scramble with four amateurs in an event that benefits area charities.
Each pro and a celebrity will play nine holes with one group and then trade places for the final nine holes.
Pros expected to play are Chris DiMarco, John Peterson, Andrew Loupe, Curtis Thompson, Tommy Gainey, Derek Fathauer, Cameron Smith, Eric Axley and Mark Anderson. Peterson, Loupe and Thompson are former LSU stars.
Celebrities set to play are LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones, former Lady Tigers golfer Tessa Teachman, former LSU baseball star Kurt Ainsworth and six former LSU football players — Tommy Hodson, Alan Risher, Matt Flynn, Jarrett Lee, Drew Alleman and Greg Bowser.
The Zurich Classic has three of the world’s top nine players in its field, according to the official world golf rankings.
Jason Day is ranked sixth, while Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose are seventh and ninth. Two weeks ago, Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, tied for second in the Masters.
Two other players ranked inside the world’s top 10 — Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel — will also play. Fowler is currently ranked 13th and Horschel, the 2013 Zurich Classic champion, is 19th.
Seven players with ties to the state are in the 156-man field.
Leading the way is former LSU All-American David Toms, who will make his 22nd start in the only PGA Tour event played in his home state. Toms won the title in 2001 when the tournament was known as the Compaq Classic.
Peterson, Loupe and Thompson are also in along with Baton Rouge native Heath Slocum, Michael Thompson (Tulane), Michael Smith (UL-Lafayette) and Ponchatoula’s Jake Narro, who is the Country Club of Louisiana assistant pro and Gulf States PGA Section champion.
Rose and Fowler will be joined by Steve Stricker to form one of the featured groups for the first two rounds.
They’ll go from the 10th tee at 7:40 a.m. Thursday and the No. 1 tee at 12:40 p.m. Friday. That group will be followed by Johnson, Day and Ben Crane at 7:50 a.m. Thursday and 12:50 p.m. Friday.
Defending champion Seung-Yul Noh, former PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Harris English will go from the first tee at 12:40 p.m. Thursday and 7:40 a.m. Friday.
Crescent City champs
One other featured pairing will have three past New Orleans champions playing the first 36 holes together.
Toms (2001), Nick Watney (2007) and Horschel (2013) will follow Noh, Bradley and English off the No. 1 tee at 12:50 p.m. and 10th tee at 7:50 a.m. Friday.
Making an impact
Zurich North America honored two community leaders Tuesday for their work in improving the lives of New Orleans children.
Melissa Sawyer, executive director of the Youth Empowerment Project, and Gerald Williams, CEO of Directed Initiatives for Youth/Excite! All Stars, each received a Zurich Classic Community Impact Award.
Established in 2011, the award recognizes individuals for their contributions to building resilient and sustainable communities and ability to enact change.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.