Arnaud looks to shake off last week’s ‘bad day’ during Lions Club Open event
How was this for a furious finish?
Seemingly out of contention for the Lions Club Open championship last week in Lake Charles, Michael Arnaud birdied the 17th hole and eagled the par-4 18th, putting some serious pressure on Brian Rowell, a guy who might’ve thought he had the title in the bag.
Rowell held on for a one-stroke victory, claiming the title and a $10,500 check under nerve-fraying circumstances.
Arnaud settled for second and a payout of $5,750. He heads into this week’s Mary Bird Perkins Merrill Lynch Open at Santa Maria Golf Course — his home course — with some much-needed momentum and confidence.
The annual tournament, part of the Adams Pro Golf Tour, gets under way at 8 a.m. Wednesday and continues through Saturday’s final round, and naturally, Arnaud would like to win it. He’s looking for his first championship since winning the Bentwater Open in Conroe, Texas, more than two years ago.
Based on last week’s performance, along with his knowledge of Santa Maria, Arnaud has to feel good about his chances.
Still, part of him has to lament the round that got away.
See, if Arnaud had played just a little better in last week’s third round in Lake Charles, he would’ve won that Lions Club Open.
“Close, but no cigar,” Arnaud said with a grin.
In the opening two rounds, Arnaud fired back-to-back 5-under 67s, and on Saturday’s final round, when he threw a big-league scare into Rowell, he posted a 4-under 68.
But that third round bit him. A 4-over 76.
“Just a bad day. A little bit of everything,” Arnaud said. “Bad shots, bad putts, a little bit of bad luck. But that’s golf for you. That’s how it goes.”
It served as further proof of what golfers already know — that so much of a good round comes down to things like focus, concentration and mental fortitude.
How much, exactly?
“This game is probably 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. The mental controls the physical,” Arnaud said, shaking his head.
“You see it every week on the tour with guys going down the stretch. It’s not a matter of (whether) they can physically do it. It’s them getting in the way of themselves. ... You get to thinking a little bit ahead, or try to not to make more of what it is. But you can’t help it. We, as humans, naturally do it anyway.”
From weekend hackers to seasoned pros, golfers on every level find themselves trying anything to stay focused, to keep a round from unraveling. Some channel their anger. Some laugh it off. Some melt in the pressure and heat.
Spectators will probably see it all on the 6,969-yard course at Santa Maria during this week’s event, which is free and open to the public.
“With it heating up, you do start to get a little more fatigued. It leads to you getting mentally fatigued. Frustrations come out,” Arnaud said. “You can’t change what you just did, and you can’t play two or three shots ahead. As bad as it sounds, and as much as you’ve heard it, you have to take it one shot at a time.”
The good news, for most players on the Adams Tour, is that they’ve probably played Santa Maria before.
In 2010, the Merrill Lynch Open moved from the University Club to Santa Maria. This will be its third straight year at the same course.
The tournament, now in its 22nd year, has raised more than $1.6 million for the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, said Ethan Bush, vice president and chief development officer.
Bill Allcorn won the Merrill Lynch Open last year at Santa Maria. Before that, Rowell climbed to second place after two rounds, but eventually tumbled to 10th.
This time, however, Rowell is coming to Baton Rouge on a roll.
Last week marked his second win this season. He’s also a newlywed.
“My wife has come to two tournaments, and I’ve won them both,” Rowell said. “She’s not here. I’m going to have to get her here, you know?”