Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Mistras set for 28th renewal this week

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  • icon Tour event’s week-long activities begin Sunday, championship play begins Thursday

BROUSSARD – It has been Acadiana’s premier professional sports event for more than a quarter-century, maybe the state’s most prestigious outside the New Orleans area, and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS shows no signs of slowing down.

For the 28th year, the Tour brings high-level professional golf to Le Triomphe Country Club beginning Sunday with the finals of the Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Challenge. Practice rounds begin Monday afternoon as a field of 144 professionals takes aim at a $550,000 purse. More importantly for the Tour field, success at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open provides the opportunity for advancement to the PGA Tour in the near future.

Championship competition begins Thursday, March 21 over the 7,061-yard par-71 Le Triomphe layout, with the final round of the 72-hole event set for Sunday, March 24, when one winner will receive the $99,000 first-place check.

There are some new wrinkles to the Open this year, including the local event not in its typical spot as the first U.S. stop on the Tour. After four international events in The Bahamas, Colombia and Panama, the Tour staged the first of its 23 U.S.-based events Feb. 14-17 at the LECOM Suncoast Classic in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

However, with last week’s cancellation of the El Bosque Mexico Championships due to a gas crisis affecting parts of Mexico, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open will be the first Tour event in over a month.

“We’re going to have a really strong field because of that,” said Louisiana Open executive director Danny Jones. “But we know that’s always going to be the case since the players love coming here. They love the hospitality, they love the course and they love the fact that we can usually play here in mid-March without a lot of weather concerns.”

The Tour has already given away more than $3 million in prize money in its first five stops, and all five of the previous winners on Tour this year – Zecheng “Marty” Dou at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, Rafael Campos at the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, Mark Anderson at the Country Club de Bogota Championship in Colombia, Michael Gilgic at the Panama Championship and Mark Hubbard at the Suncoast Classic – are expected to compete next week. They are among dozens of players in the expected field who have found the winner’s circle on the Tour.

That field will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of 2016 Chitimacha Louisiana Open champion Wesley Bryan, who followed his 14-under-par 270 winning score by winning two more times on the Tour and earning the immediate “Battlefield Promotion” to the PGA Tour. Bryan was the Tour’s Player of the Year and the leading money winner for the 2016 season, and less than a year later he won on the PGA Tour when he captured the 2017 RBC Heritage title.

Maybe one of the 144 pros will find the score-friendly Le Triomphe layout to their liking as much as Casey Wittenberg, who became the Louisiana Open’s second-ever two-time winner two years ago. One of the Open’s most popular performers given his family’s Louisiana background, Wittenberg put up a strong four-round 65-64-65-69—263 total for the second-lowest 72-hole score in tournament history in 2017 – behind only his record 260 score in 2012. The only other player to win the Louisiana Open twice was former U.S. Ryder Cup player and 2006 Byron Nelson Championship winner Brett Wetterich.

Last year, Argentina’s Julian Etulain insured his return for a second stint on the PGA Tour by capturing the Open title by a two-stroke margin. He’s already had three top 40 finishes on the “big” tour this season.

“That’s the beauty of this tournament,” Jones said. “You see somebody playing here and having success, and by this time next year you see a guy like Wesley playing in major Tour events. You see a guy like Casey who has so many connections to Louisiana and loves this tournament, and a player like Julian who has so much talent and was just waiting for that breakthrough win.”

The Louisiana Open is one of only two PGA Tour-sanctioned events in Louisiana along with the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and has been a part of the Tour since 1992. Only four events have been on the Tour schedule longer, and Le Triomphe shares honors as the third-longest host course on Tour. Daily tickets for the tournament are $10 and are available until the day before the tournament at the Louisiana Open’s remote office next to the Le Triomphe clubhouse, and at the gate beginning Thursday. Sky box passes are available for $65 and clubhouse passes are $40 and are good for the entire tournameht.

Tournament activities begin Sunday with the finals of the Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout at 3:30 p.m. at Le Triomphe’s treacherous 8th hole. Approximately 40 qualifiers will take one shot at a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one.

The Lourdes Legacy Tournament is set for 9 a.m. on Monday with practice rounds scheduled for the field beginning Monday afternoon. A new event is set for Monday night when the Open hosts a Kickoff Bash featuring Rockin’ Dopsie at 7 p.m. at The Madison facility in Broussard.

Practice rounds continue Tuesday, along with the Eat Lafayette Taste of the South Party featuring Jaryd Lane beginning at 7 p.m. at Parc International in downtown Lafayette. The United Rentals Pro-Am and the Orbit Energy and The Grouse Room Pro-Am are at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20. The practice rounds are open to the public at no charge, and tickets to the Monday and Tuesday social events are available by contacting the Open office at (337) 593-8000.

Play will begin at approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday, March 21-22, with 128 players locked into the field courtesy of their Tour status and results of this year’s first five tournaments, and four players who have sponsor exemptions. One of those exemptions is a local favorite, with Lafayette’s Brian Rowell in the field. Twelve more spots will be filled by open qualifying Monday at Oak Wing Golf Club and Links on the Bayou in Alexandria. The field will be cut to the low 65 and ties for the final two rounds.

The Tour is the “Path to the PGA Tour,” and this year PGA Tour cards will be awarded to the top 25 finishers on the regular-season points list. Another 25 PGA Tour cards will be awarded through the three-event Tour finals in August, events that bring together the top 75 players on the Tour’s points list and players ranked Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings.

In addition to bringing championship golf to South Louisiana, the Louisiana Open is also one of Acadiana’s biggest supporters of local and regional charities. Nearly $5 million has been raised for charities and youth groups in the tournament’s 27-year history, and nearly 50 charities and groups are involved and will benefit from this year’s event.

“Our job is to put on a golf tournament,” Jones said, “but our mission and the reason we’re here is to help our community. There are so many groups that help us put on the event here for a couple of weeks, but those groups are out there doing great work all year long. It makes it very special for us when we can help them, and the Open makes that possible.”

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (events at Le Triomphe unless otherwise indicated)

Sunday, March 17
Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout, 3:30 p.m., 8th hole

Monday, March 18
Lourdes Legacy Tournament, 9 a.m.
Player practice rounds, afternoon following Lourdes tournament
Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel Tournament Kickoff Bash, 7 p.m., The Madison

Tuesday, March 19
Player practice rounds, all day
Tournament press conference/media availability, 10 a.m., adjacent to 18th green
“Eat Lafayette” Taste of the South Party, 7 p.m., Parc International downtown

Wednesday, March 20
United Rentals Pro-Am, 8 a.m.
Orbit Energy and The Grouse Room Pro-Am, 1:15 p.m.

Thursday, March 21
Championship First Round, approximately 7:30 a.m.

Friday, March 22
Championship Second Round, approximately 7:30 a.m.
Field cut to low 65 and ties following second round

Saturday, March 23
Championship Third Round, time TBA

Sunday, March 24
Championship Final Round, time TBA
Trophy and check presentations, 18th green following final round

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