Humid, sticky conditions are sure to be a major player this weekend as local golfers compete for top honors at the Baton Rouge Amateur golf championship.
Held at BREC’s Santa Maria Golf Course, the annual tournament is a showcase for local golfers of all ages who can manage their games and the heat.
Paul Castro, who won last year’s event, returns as the top seeded player in the field of 64. Play begins at 7 a.m. Saturday with players required to win two rounds of match play to advance through to Sunday.
A third round of match play Sunday morning will whittle the field to a final eight, and that group will then compete in an 18-hole, stroke-play final round.
“Match play is fun,” Castro said. “It’s not quite as grueling as a medal play tournament. You have to really grind in a medal play tournament because one mistake can cost you the tournament. One shot or one hole in match play doesn’t do that.”
Castro played in the Baton Rouge Open last month, a tournament also played at Santa Maria, but a forgettable back nine in his opening round kept him out of contention.
Despite that, Castro said his game is ready.
“My game’s coming around,” he said. “I’ve been practicing the last week and a half or so, and I’m playing pretty well.”
After Castro, reigning BREC player of the year Donny Schmitt is seeded second, and is followed by Russ Gaudin, Scott Wilfong, Emmett McKnight and Can Le. Former amateur champions Gayle Sanchez and Scott Haynie are seeded eighth and 10th.
Baton Rouge Open champion Brett Baker will not be in the field, but Santa Maria director of golf Boyd Kernan is pleased with the final list of golfers.
“Overall the field may not be as top-heavy as normal, but I think that’s a reflection of our seeding system,” Kernan said.
Kernan shot 70 at last week’s Webb Park qualifier to earn his spot. The top 36 automatically qualified, but “as usual,” Kernan said, “a lot of those guys got in.”
The Baton Rouge Amateur will also be the final regular tournament in the BREC player of the year race.
Local golfers can sign up for any of or all nine tournaments during the year to earn points toward the player of the year standings. The most points are awarded to the top finishers as golfers are not guaranteed a spot in the final tournament of the series, the BREC Player’s Championship.
Only the top 40 players following this week’s tournament will qualify for the Player’s Championship held Aug. 13-14 at Beaver Creek Golf Course.
Schmitt, who played at Nicholls State, said the overall championship is on his mind as he prepares for the amateur.
“Of course, you know about it,” Schmitt said. “I think this is one of the best things BREC has ever done. Most of the guys I play with are out here so it makes it fun. It’s something to talk about, and it gives you a reason to do your best in every tournament.”
It also give golfers a chance to tee it up with peers of all age groups.
“It’s a fun format. It’s a long tournament, especially if you continue to win,” Schmitt said. “It can be an endurance challenge, but then you see guys like Gayle Sanchez and Scott Haynie doing well. It’s not always the younger guys that win.”