PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

May 17, 2011

Stroud's play triggers cheap shot at Lamar

PORT ARTHUR — One of Chris Stroud’s finest moments on the PGA Tour Sunday led to a putdown of Lamar University’s golf program that has many Southeast Texans, headed by Cardinal golf coach Brian White, steaming.

Late in Sunday’s final round of the Players Championship, with Stroud tied for fifth place only three shots off the lead, cameras zeroed in on the former LU All America as he prepared to hit a shot. NBC’s lead announcer, Dan Hicks, in a clearly condescending tone, noted that Stroud played for that “golfing powerhouse Lamar University.”

White, who was overseeing practice for a Cardinal team headed to the upcoming NCAA regional in Williamsburg, Va., and just catching glimpses of the telecast, didn’t hear the remark. But he’s heard from plenty of folks who did.

“I don’t understand why any announcer would say something like that,” White said. “In collegiate golf circles, we have an excellent reputation. How many schools can say they have finished as high as third in the NCAA tournament in the past five years? We certainly can.

“Obviously, Hicks knows absolutely nothing about our golf program, about that third place finish in the 2007 NCAA, about us winning 31 tournaments since 2000, about us winning 7 of the last 11 Southland Conference championships and about us getting to an NCAA regional nine of the last 10 years. His ignorance really showed. I just don’t know why a guy would say something like that.”

Meanwhile, as you would expect, White was thrilled over Stroud’s second consecutive strong showing in the Players Championship. Despite a bogey-bogey finish on Sunday, Chris posted a final round 68 that left him tied for 12th  with a 72-hole total of eight-under-par 280. Last year, in his first Players Championship, the former Port Neches-Groves star tied for 10th with a 279.

Because the Players boasts one of the largest pursues in golf, Stroud’s T12 was worth $175,071 and moved him from No. 120 to No. 94 on the PGA Tour money list with $427,652 in 2011 earnings. The only downer was that a 3-putt on the final hole cost him $112,000. And, had he been able to par the final two holes, he’d have tied for fourth and won $418,000.

White, however, points out that a lot of players struggled on 17 and 18. He prefers to talk about all the big names Stroud has beaten at the Players the last two years, and why he plays so well at TPC Sawgrass.

“From talking to Chris, I know he really feels comfortable on that course . It sets up well for him and the Bermuda grass there is like what he played on when he was growing up. I think there’s a definite advantage for a guy who grew up putting and chipping on Bermuda over guys from Europe, and American players who grew up playing bent grass.”

Stroud’s play, in what is often called the “fifth major,” has been so impressive the past two years that only Davis Love has needed few strokes over the 144 holes. Love shot 280 this year, after placing fourth in 2010 with a 276. That adds up to 556.

Three strokes back at 559 are Stroud, J.B. Holmes and Nick Watney.

“That’s really impressive,” said White. “It goes back to being comfortable and confident on a certain golf course. It’s all the better for Chris that he’s so comfortable on a course that hosts one of the biggest events in golf. I really think he’s going to win a tournament there at some point.

“I also believe that we have yet to see the best of Chris Stroud on the PGA Tour. I think what we’ve seen is about 75 percent of what he’s capable of achieving. When he finally puts it all together in the same week — driving, iron play, chipping and putting — look out. I have no doubt he’s going to win tournaments.”

Let’s hope that first win comes on NBC. Maybe by then Dan Hicks will have heard from enough folks who care about Lamar golf to set the record straight. Word has it that he can be e-mailed at golfonnbc@nbcsports.com.

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