Following Friday’s third round, some of the pros playing in the Mary Bird Perkins Merrill Lynch Open put on a junior clinic at Santa Maria Golf Course’s practice facility.
In Saturday’s final round, local pro Michael Arnaud put on a clinic on how to play with and protect a big lead for his first Adams Golf Pro Tour Series win.
Going into the final round with an almost insurmountable six-stroke lead, Arnaud turned in a tactically proficient 3-under par 69, putting him at 19 under 269 for the tournament and giving him a six-stroke margin of victory over playing partner Zach Fischer.
“He didn’t make any mistakes,” said Fisher, a first-year Adams tour pro from Wake Village, Texas, who also shot 69 to finish in solo second. “He made a bogey on No. 9, but other than that he played flawlessly.
“He did what you need to do to win: put it in the middle of the green and two-putt or maybe he would hole it. It was a clinic on how to win a golf tournament.”
An eagle-birdie blitz by Fischer on the third and fourth holes sliced Arnaud’s lead to four strokes at that point, but Fischer then stumbled by bogeying three of his next four.
By the time they made the turn, Arnaud had a seven-stroke lead despite the bogey on 9, his first since he ended the second round with a bogey on that same hole.
Fischer made another run with birdies on 10, 11 and 12, but Arnaud never led by fewer than four and capped his win with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
“He (Fischer) had a good run there,” Arnaud said, “but I just kept telling myself to keep doing what I’ve been doing. He got within four for a while, but he had to come to me. I knew it would even out by the end of the round.”
Afterward, Arnaud was beaming as he held aloft the winner’s trophy and an oversized check for $10,500.
Originally from Orange, Texas, this was the first Adams tour win in four years of trying for Arnaud. He finished second last week in the Adams tour stop in Lake Charles.
“This was a long time due,” said Arnaud, who considers Santa Maria his home course. “It’s great to be able to do it in my hometown.”
Arnaud now moves to No. 2 on the Adams tour money list with $18,346 in only four events. He trails Lafayette native Brian Rowell, who now lives in Jackson, Miss., and has won $30,542 in six starts.
Rowell tied for third with Andrew Landry of Beaumont, Texas. Both shot 69s to finish at 10-under 278.
Though he wanted to win, the runner-up finish was progress for Fischer, a first-year Adams tour pro out of Texas-Arlington.
“This was my best finish,” Fischer said. “I just turned pro last August, and this was my fifth (Adams) tournament. It was great.”
Baton Rouge’s Gregory Berthelot shot a final-round 71 to tie for 21st at even-par 288. Fellow Baton Rougean Wendell Akins had a Saturday 76 to drop into a tie for 25th at 2-over 290.
Lafayette’s Michael Smith finished with a 74 to wind up in solo 19th place at 2-under 286.
While many of the pros here will take part in U.S. Open local qualifying on Tuesday at Lakewood Golf Club in New Orleans, the Adams tour’s next stop is the Bay Oaks Golf Open, May 23-26 in Houston.