Youth tops field for BR Open golf tournament

The Baton Rouge Open golf tournament served as nurturing ground for a youth movement in 2012, and this year’s edition is primed for a repeat performance.

Highlighted by 18-year-old Ross Davis’ win, a flock of twenty-something golfers made their way to the top of the leaderboard last year. And, with a handful of local favorites opting out this year, it’s a scene that might be replayed.

The two-day, 36-hole tournament gets started at 7 a.m. with golfers going off the first and 10th tees at the Santa Maria Golf Course, the tournament field will be sectioned into flights for Sunday’s final round.

The championship flight will feature 16 players with Sunday tee times beginning at 8:30 a.m.

“The course is looking good, and the greens are coming around,” said Brandt Garon, who finished tied for fifth last year.

It’s a sentiment shared by Santa Maria director of golf Boyd Kernan, who said the greens will be cut closer than normal for the tournament.

“We won’t trick (the course) up a whole lot,” Kernan said. “Saturday it will be set up distance-wise comparable to our blue tees.”

Saturday’s 6,700-yard setup will increase to almost 7,000 on Sunday according to Kernan.

The yardage should be an inviting challenge for Garon, who recently completed his senior season playing for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette golf team. Garon, who prepped at Parkview Baptist School, was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference this season.

“They aerated the greens about a month ago, which was a good time to do it,” Garon said. “They’ve had time to heal for this tournament. I’m excited to get out and play.”

One of Garon’s teammates this season was freshman Davis, who shot consecutive rounds of 70 last year to win the Baton Rouge Open with a total of 4-under par.

Challengers B.C. Thibeaux, Garrett Westbrook and Eric Spencer all had chances to tie Davis and force a playoff. All three capped their rounds with pars at Santa Maria’s reachable par-5 18th hole, and tied for second place.

Only Spencer returns this year to take another shot at the title. Spencer shot 70-71, a stroke better than Garon’s rounds of 71-71.

Also absent this year are past champions Brett Baker and Phil Schmitt. Former Baton Rouge Amateur champions Donnie Schmitt and Scott Haynie don’t have the tournament on their schedule either.

It might leave the door open for a player like Garon, who struggled with his game last fall before working with ULL coach Theo Sliman to straighten out his game for the spring.

“We were sitting in (Sliman’s) office, and basically he just told me I had to play better,” Garon said. “We started working on some stuff, and figured out a way to get my golf ball going in the right direction. I ended up playing pretty well.”