May 16, 2012 10:19 PM by Release
Eric Richard of Loyola Prep and Jennifer Nguyen of Salmen captured individual championships Wednesday in the boys and girls divisions of the state's premier high school golf event, the 10th annual Louisiana Champions Invitational played at Tamahka Trails Golf Club at Paragon Casino Resort.
Richard posted a 6-under par 65 to set the invitational low-round record and win the state's official "all-star" event for prep golf, while Nguyen shot a 2-under 33 on the back nine to claim the title with a tournament-record score of 73.
The limited-field event was open only to the top finishers from the LHSAA's state championship events held last week (boys) and three weeks ago (girls). The top five finishers in each of the six boys classifications and the top three finishers in the LHSAA's two girls classifications were eligible to participate.
The course was set up at collegiate levels for the tournament, with the boys playing the par-71 Tamahka layout at approximately 6,800 yards and the girls at nearly 5,600 yards - both significantly longer than the average prep layout.
However, the longer distance didn't seem to be a problem for Richard, who made four straight birdies on the front nine and made the turn with a two-stroke lead over Alexandria Senior High's Chuck Spears.
"I got off to a good start with four birdies in a row," said Richard, who tied for sixth place in last year's event. "And I was just really consistent after that. I was just hitting the ball really good and just really wasn't making a lot of mistakes."
Richard, the Division III state champion, pulled away from the field early on the back nine when he birdied four the first five holes.
"That just really set the tone for the rest of the round," said Richard.
Richard, who was teamed in the final pairing with Spears (Division II champion) and Zachary's Drew Patin (Division I champion) was virtually flawless on the day with his only setback being a bogey on hole No. 17
"There was a lot of pressure playing with those guys," said Richard. "They are two really good golfers and I think that really bought out the best in me."
Spears struggled on the back nine and shot a 41 to finish the round in seventh place with a total of 75.
Barbe's Shane Fontenot was the early leader in the clubhouse after firing a round of 70 earlier in the day. His lead stood until the final pairing closed out the tournament.
"I had my hopes up," said Fontenot, who finished second behind Richard. "I knew I was right there in the mix because no one else was shooting real low. But I heard a little while later that someone was six or seven-under and I knew it would be tough for him to not shoot below 70."
Fontenot got off to a rocky start with a four-over par 40 on the first nine holes but the junior turned it around on the backside and fired a 33 to finish the event.
"I putted better on the back nine," said Fontenot. "And I hit a bunch of better shots on the back. That started to get it going and everything kind of came together and I put up a good number there at the end."
On the girls' side, Nguyen, playing in the first pairing of the morning with Dominican's Elizabeth Borda, struggled early in her round.
"I was just kind of hanging in there at first," said Nguyen, a Southern Mississippi signee. "But I was having trouble with pulling my shots. I was doing fine until the last three holes of the front nine. I started bogeying and I was chipping and two-putting which killed me."
The backside for Nguyen was a different story.
The Division I state runnerup hit every green in regulation on the back nine and pulled off an eagle on hole No. 13 that really got her going.
"I went to the back nine not thinking about anything and just playing my game," said Nguyen. "And that green on 13 was crazy. They put it (pin) on a really crazy spot so if you hit behind the hole, you were going up and back to it. It was really crazy. All I had to do was chip on so I was trying to do a bump-and-run. And then it went in the hole and I was like ‘yes, I don't have to put'.
Nguyen's total of 73 is the lowest round shot in the girls' portion of the invitational since it originated 10 years ago.
Louise S. McGehee eighth grader Angelica Harris finished in the second place, seven strokes behind Nguyen with an 80. Harris actually led the field with a 36 on the front side but shot a 44 on the final nine holes.
"I really putting well on the frontside and that was the difference," said Harris, the state runnerup in Division II. "What got me on the backside was my drives were going straight but I wasn't hitting any greens. If you're not hitting any greens, you're not going to get up-and-down every single time and it was just bogey after bogey and that added up."
Mandeville's Elise Bradley finished third in the girls' division with an 81 and Ouachita's Lana Hodge was fourth with an 84.
The Louisiana Champions, which is sanctioned by the LHSAA as its official "all-star" event for prep golf, awarded a total of $2,350 in scholarships to the top finishers, including a $750 scholarship to both the boys and girls champions.
LOUISIANA CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL
Wednesday, May 16, 2012, Tamahka Trails Golf Club, Marksville
Player, High School, Score
Jennifer Nguyen, Salmen 40-33-73
Angelica Harris, McGehee 36-44-80
Elise Bradley, Manderville 41-41-81
Lana Hodge, Ouachita Christian 43-41-84
Player, High School, Score
Eric Richard, Loyola Prep 32-33-65
Shane Fontenot, Barbe 37-33-70
Taylor Billings, Jesuit 37-34-71
Nick Hollier, Vermilion Catholic 35-37-72
Peyton McCulloch, Zachary 36-37-73
Ryan Desormeaux, Comeaux 37-37-74
Chuck Spears, Alexandria 34-41-75
Connor Cavin, Dunham 40-38-78
Ben Como, Episcopal School of Acadiana 40-39-79
Kyle Camp, Notre Dame 38-42-80
Matt Miller, Archbishop Shaw 39-41-80
Kirk Thomas, Loyola Prep 41-39-80
Sean Flynn, Riverside 43-38-81
Blake Caldwell, Ponchatoula 41-41-82
Josh Fullilove, South Lafourche 44-38-82
Grant Welch, Runnels 39-44-83
Ryan Crissman, Loyola Prep 41-42-83
Drew Patin, Zachary 41-42-83
Jordan Cole, Cedar Creek 46-38-84
Daniel Deloach, Alexandria 43-42-85
Jes Pender, Weston 43-42-85
Jack Tolson, Westminster 40-45-85
Derick Pallai, Patrick Taylor 46-48-89
Joe Haydell, Vandebilt 39-WD
Hunter Boyett, Weston WD
Sam Burns, Calvary WD
Ross Davis, Episcopal WD