The Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS, which was canceled last spring at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, will return this March with its two primary goals still intact – to bring world-class professional golf to Acadiana, and provide assistance to local and regional charities and youth groups.
Acadiana’s premier professional sports event is scheduled for Monday-Sunday, March 15-21, as the PGA Tour’s Korn Ferry Tour returns to Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club for its 30th renewal. A field of 144 professionals will take aim at a tournament-record $600,000 purse, with the winner receiving an all-time high $108,000 first-place check at the end of the 72-hole event on Sunday, March 21.
However, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open will have a different look this year. Following federal, state and local COVID-19 guidelines as well as the direction of the PGA Tour, the Open will not be staging the majority of its activities and events outside of championship competition. In addition, no spectators will be allowed on the course with the exception of necessary tournament volunteers, and the Open will not partner with local families this year to provide access to private housing for players.
“This is obviously a tough situation for everyone involved,” said Open executive director Danny Jones, “but the health and safety of the players, the volunteers, fans and everyone associated with the Tour and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open is always going to be our top priority.”
The tournament will not hold its traditional lead-in events, including the Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout and its popular social events and gatherings due to the pandemic. However, the morning First National Bank of Jeanerette Pro-Am and the afternoon pro-am are still scheduled for Wednesday, March 17, one day prior to the start of championship competition. In an additional measure of health and safety, pro-ams will begin with tee times instead of the traditional “shotgun” start on each hole.
“The pro-ams are so important to our mission to help the community and help our charitable group partners raise funds and do the good work that they do all year long,” Jones said. “Especially in these times when so many are hurting, it was even more important for us to insure these groups get all the assistance that we can provide, and staging the pro-ams is a huge part of that.”
Participation in the Wednesday pro-am tournaments will require adherence to protocols to insure the health and safety of participating amateurs and Tour players and staff. Those protocols, which will follow PGA Tour guidelines, will be announced prior to the tournament.
The Chitimacha Louisiana Open is one of only two PGA Tour-sanctioned events in Louisiana, along with the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which was canceled during the pandemic last year and is scheduled April 22-25 at TPC Louisiana in Avondale. An inaugural Korn Ferry Tour event, the Lake Charles Championship, was also canceled last spring and will not be contested this year.
The Open has been a part of the PGA Tour’s developmental tour since 1992 and will be the second event of the calendar year for the Korn Ferry Tour, following the LECOM Suncoast Classic Feb. 18-21 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The Open will be the first of three Gulf Coast area tournaments in a three-week period, followed by the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., March 25-28 and the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin, Apr. 1-4 in Destin, Fla.
The Korn Ferry Tour, the official “Path to the PGA Tour,” has a revised “wrap-around” schedule this year that includes all events conducted in 2020 and this year’s scheduled tournaments. The top 25 finishers on the points list from the combined two-year, 46-tournament schedule will earn PGA Tour cards for the following season. Another 25 PGA Tour cards will be awarded through this fall’s three-event Korn Ferry Tour finals, which bring together the top 75 players on the Korn Ferry Tour points list and players ranked No 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings.
The Korn Ferry Tour’s traditional international events will not be held in 2021, but the Tour will stage 23 events during this calendar year after 10 tournaments from the original 2020 schedule were cancelled.
Jones said that last year’s cancellation could lead to an impressive field coming to Acadiana this March.
“We were going to have a really strong field last year with where we fell on the schedule,” he said, “but that’s not anything unusual. We know that’s always going to be the case since the Tour 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. That’s going to remain the same even with the limits we’ll operate under due to the pandemic.”
Jones said that the support of tournament sponsors, led by the title sponsor Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and presenting sponsor MISTRAS, has remained solid even with last year’s cancellation and this year’s absence of spectators and fans.
“The way that the Tribe and our other sponsors have stepped up to support us has been extraordinary,” Jones said. “They really ‘get it.’ They understand the importance of what we’re doing and that our mission is to help the community.”
Even with the scaling back of several events, volunteers are still needed in key areas – notably walking scorers – to help make the tournament a success. Individuals and groups interested in serving as volunteers may contact Kacy Simon at the Louisiana Open office at (337) 593-8000.
Championship play will begin at approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday, March 18-19, with 128 players locked into the field courtesy of their Tour status and results of the Tour’s first event, and four players given sponsor exemptions. Twelve more spots will be filled by open qualifying Monday, March 15, 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.
In addition to bringing championship golf to South Louisiana, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open is one of Acadiana’s biggest supporters of local and regional charities. More than $5 million has been raised for charities and youth groups in the tournament’s 29-year history.
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