Feb 28, 2013 11:15 AM by MELISSA CANONE
BROUSSARD - The Chitimacha Louisiana Open golf tournament has set its schedule for the 22nd renewal of Acadiana's premier professional sports event, with the PGA Tour's Web.com Tour headed back to the Le Triomphe Country Club course for its traditional late-March stop.
The tournament, which will award a tournament-record $550,000 purse with $99,000 to the winner, is scheduled for Thursday-Sunday, March 21-24, and a field of 144 professionals will take part in the first U.S. stop on the Web.com Tour's 25-tournament schedule. The Web.com Tour opened its 2013 season last week at the Panama Claro Championship in Panama and will also make stops in Colombia and Chile before coming to Acadiana as one of only two PGA Tour-sanctioned events in Louisiana (the other is the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic in New Orleans).
The Chitimacha Louisiana Open is the fifth-oldest tournament on the Web.com Tour schedule, coming into existence two years after the Tour was founded as the Ben Hogan Tour in 1990. In that time, the Open has become the region's biggest sports event and has become one of Acadiana's leading benefactors to charity and youth organizations. Since its inception, the Open has raised over $4 million for charity including over $1.8 million in the past nine years.
At the same time, the Louisiana Open has paraded some of the world's best golfers in front of area sports fans at the 7,069-yard, par-71 Le Triomphe layout. The Web.com Tour serves as the official proving ground of the PGA Tour, and as of the end of February a total of 350 PGA Tour titles have been won by former Web.com Tour players. Three out of four current PGA Tour players have Web.com roots.
The Web.com Tour is also strengthened by this year's restructuring of qualifying methods for advancement to the PGA Tour. Instead of players being able to qualify through "Q-School," beginning this year all 50 new PGA Tour cards for the following season will come through the Web.com Tour.
"Our goal is to bring world-class golf to Acadiana," said Open executive director Danny Jones, "but our main focus has always been to assist and benefit the charities and youth groups in the area, and give them a vehicle to raise support and charitable dollars. Lafayette and the area have been great to us over the past years in enabling us to provide both of those, and we think this year's event is going to be just as successful."
Championship competition begins on Thursday, March 21, with the first of two full-field rounds over the Le Triomphe course. The field will be cut to the low 60 and ties for the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
The field will not be locked in until the Friday before the tournament, but six former Chitimacha Louisiana Open champions are in the preliminary field list - 2003 and 2011 champion Brett Wetterich, 2009 winner Bubba Dickerson, 2008 champion Gavin Coles, 2007 winner Skip Kendall, 2001 champion and two-time runner-up Paul Claxton and 1996 winner Paul Stankowski.
Another former champion, former Lafayette resident and 2005 winner Ryan Hietala, will be playing as one of four sponsor exemptions. Also in that group are Lafayette products Michael Smith and Brian Rowell - both of whom have qualified for the U.S. Open in the past two years - and Chris DeForest of Jupiter, Fla.
Baton Rouge native Heath Slocum, a four-time PGA Tour winner and a member of that tour for the past 11 seasons, is also on the preliminary field list along with Baton Rouge product and PGA and Web.com Tour veteran Scott Sterling, Acadian-by-marriage and 2012 runner-up Chris Riley, Baton Rouge native and 2012 top-15 finisher Andrew Loupe and former LSU standout and 2011 NCAA champion John Peterson.
Tournament activities actually begin on Sunday, March 17, with the finals of the Cypress Bayou Casino $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Le Triomphe's eighth hole.
The Dwight Andrus Insurance Pro-Am is scheduled for Monday, March 21, as the first of three pro-ams scheduled for the week. The Nacher Corporation Pro-Am and the Knight Oil Tools Boy Scout Pro-Am are Wednesday.