PORT ARTHUR —
Thanks to Shawn Stefani’s victory Sunday in the Web.com Tour’s Midwest Open in Overland Park, Kan., chances are very good that Chris Stroud won’t be the only player carrying Lamar University’s colors on the PGA Tour in 2013. Matter of fact, there could be as many as three Cardinals playing at the highest level.
Stefani, who moved up to 12th on the Web.com money list by collecting a $99,000 first place check, is almost a lock. The Web.com’s top 25 automatically get PGA Tour cards. They don’t have to pass Go or attend PGA Tour School. They become full-fledged members for at least one season.
Although there are eight tournaments left, Stefani, who played high school golf at Barbers Hill, is in a strong position because the size of the Web.com purses are not conducive for players back in the pack making much of a move unless they finish in the top five. In addition, given the confidence of his first win, it’s likely the talented Stefani is going to have more success.
The third ex Cardinal with a reasonable chance of being on the PGA Tour next year is Dawie Van der Walt. Van der Walt, who narrowly missed his first victory two weeks ago after shooting a closing 60 in the final round of the Cox Classic, is No. 39 on the Web.com money list. He’ll need another high finish or two to get over the hump, but it’s certainly doable.
Other than getting his game revved up again, there’s nothing more that Stroud would love than to have a couple more Cardinals with him on the PGA Tour. It’s something he and Stefani talked about at length after Stefani’s breakthrough in Kansas.
Stefani’s victory, in case you missed it, was not only a testimony to some outstanding golf — he finished with a 17-under-par 267 — but it also reflected how much of a role fate and good luck can play. His second shot into the par 4, 18th hole was long, bounced off mesh fencing at the base of a grandstand, then rebounded to within 4 feet of the cup.
The ensuing birdie putt, which used all of the hole before falling, enabled him to win by two. Had the shot not bounced off the grandstand, Stefani would have likely made par or bogey. Bottom line, it could have been a life-changing break.
“From the fairway, it looked like someone just tossed it off the grandstand,” Stefani said. “I got the most fortuitous bounce you could ever imagine or ask for. When you win, you have a lot of good things go your way. And, today, a lot of things went my way.”
Nobody is more pleased about the exploits of LU golfers than Cardinal coach Brian White. The thought of having Stefani and Van der Walt on the PGA Tour with Stroud gets his recruiting juices flowing.
“You never know for sure how much stuff like that helps, but it certainly can’t hurt,” he said. “Getting Lamar’s name out there in front of young players has to be a positive. On Dawie, I think it’s just of matter of time before he breaks through like Shawn did last week. It almost happened when he shot the 60. That very well could have been a 58 and a win.
“We had another player, M.J. Daffue, almost win last week on the Hooter’s Tour. He was leading after 54 holes. And Oliver Bekker has played so well on the South African Tour he qualified for the World Golf Championship at Firestone. I went up there and caddied for him. He played with Ernie Els and Rory McElroy. That’s pretty good stuff.”
It also helps White sell that Lamar is a school that is producing professional golfers.
“Chris is the only one on the tour right now, but that’s about to change,” says White. “It’s taken a while for Shawn and Dawie but what you have to understand is that there are so many good young players and the competition is so fierce. What I preach to our kids is that we can help build them into a professional-caliber player. But getting there in most cases takes time and hard work.
“That’s how it’s been for Shawn and for Dawie. It happened quicker for Chris, but Chris was a more dominant player in college. He won 14 times. Dawie won five tournaments. Shawn won twice.
Stroud, meanwhile, needs some of Stefani’s recent good fortune. He’s been struggling for weeks and heads to the first round of the Fed Ex Cup playoffs at Bethpage Black having fallen to 99th on the points list. To advance to the second round of the playoffs, he must be in the top 100. He’ll have to have a reasonably strong showing or be subject to getting passed by players in the 100-to-125 range.
Although Bethpage Black is not a regular tour venue, Chris is somewhat familiar with it after qualifying his way into the 2009 U.S. Open played there. He missed the cut in the rain-plagued event by two shots after shooting rounds of 76-70. Ironically, the name right next to his on the score list was Shawn Stefani. He shot 73-73.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com
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