WEST COLUMN: Michael Arnaud has defied all odds of modern golf
Published 11:41 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Those who by nature root for the underdog, who love the Cinderella story, who appreciate the individual undaunted in the face of long odds suggesting he can’t or won’t make it, would do well to embrace Michael Arnaud’s quest to defy conventional wisdom in the ultra competitive world of professional golf.
Arnaud, despite having played only a portion of one year in college, despite a sheltered, albeit loving upbringing by his grandparents, despite having no formal instruction until recently, despite being a relative old timer at age 34 in what has increasingly become a young man’s game, looks to be on the verge of accomplishing something truly special.
Actually, he already has. By overcoming limited status on the Web.com Tour to play his way into the developmental circuit’s four-tournament playoffs, he’s already hit a home run. If he can somehow finish in the top 25 over the next four weeks and claim
a PGA Tour card, that feat would be updgraded to a grand slam.
Well, to be honest, grand slam is not strong enough. We’re talking miracle here. And the good news is that if it doesn’t happen this year it probably will next year. Arnaud, no matter what happens in the playoffs, has full status on the Web.com Tour for 2016 and that’s probably his ticket.
Add the confidence he’s gained this season to talent that has been eye-opening for years, and you have to like his chances of following in the footsteps of PN-G ex Andrew Landry and former Lamar star Dawie van der Walt.
Both played their way onto the PGA Tour by finishing in the top 25 on the Web.com 2015 money list.
For now, don’t discount Arnaud’s chances in the upcoming playoffs, although he’s up against a monumental challenge in a 150-man field. Because of that guaranteed spot on the 2016 Web.com Tour, he won’t be carrying the burden of extra pressure that’s a fact of life when you are an outsider, when you are constantly facing financial concerns.
“Knowing I have a place to play next year, knowing I don’t have to worry about Monday qualifing, takes a lot of pressure off,” says the West Orange-Stark ex. “I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. My best rounds are when I’m freed up and playing loose. My problems have come when I get caught up in thinking about situations.”
Enhancing Arnaud’s longshot chance is an ever-improving short game that’s come as the result of working with former Lamar star Joran “Red Dog” Meeks. Meeks, a
short game wizard as a collegian, now teaches in Houston and is about to open an upscale instructional facility.
“Michael is an impressive raw talent who is just scratching the surface of his potential,” said Meeks. “Beyond the obvious of missing out on the experience you get from college golf, he grew up on the kind of golf courses that were not conducive to developing the kind of short game you have to have to play on the PGA Tour.
“Chris Stroud, Andrew Landry, everybody that comes from Southeast Texas
had that problem to overcome. The thing about Michael is that he has great hands and he’s an amazingly quick learner. I’ve worked him on hitting a high spinning shot with a lob wedge and got him to change to wedges. I’ll say this,if he gets an elite short game he’ll be scary good.”
One reason Arnaud can be scary good is how long and straight he’s driven the golf ball since he was a kid competing against Stroud and another Lamar player on tour — Shawn Stefani.
“I think he’s a top 50 ball striker in the world,” says Meeks. “They call him BMW — the ultimate driving machine. What is so amazing about him is that everything he does is basically self taught. He just didn’t have the opportunities growing up Stroud and some of those other guys had. He does remind me a little bit of Stefani with his raw talent.”
Arnaud, who could have easily just given up and walked away from golf many times, doesn’t downplay the fact he’s traveled an unusual, extremely difficult path, and puts some of the blame on himself.
“It’s been tough without having played in college,” he said. “I missed out on three years of a lot of competition, course styles, experiences, getting to know guys. I wish I’d done some things differently the year I was at Stephen F. Austin.
“I kind of underachieved, didn’t work as hard as I should have. Looking back, I wish I had gone about things differently. I was immature. I should have sucked it up and gone about things more intelligently. But it is what it is. I can’t change it. I’m just thankful to be where I am now.”
Arnaud almost didn’t clear that major hurdle to get into the Web.com playoffs. He went into the final regular season event in Portland at No. 73 on the money list, desperately needing to make the cut to prevent dropping out of the top 75.
With disappointment staring him in the face on day two, he rolled in a 15-foot par putt on the 17th hole, then birdied the 18th to make the cut on the number. He nailed things down with a closing 66 that was the second low round of the day. Afterward his Facebook post said it all.
“I can’t even describe the relief I feel right now,” he wrote. “I want to give a big thank you to my girlfriend Ashely, who NEVER gave up on me and let me live my dream. My caddy Everett Nini who plays a role so large I can hardly describe it. Srixon/Cleveland Golf who took a big chance on me. All my family and friends who supported me without question.”
Among Arnaud’s extended family who made a big difference in his life are a couple of uncles familiar to Southeast Texas golfers — the late Randy Arnaud and David Arnaud of Nederland. Randy, in particular, has to be looking down from on high and beaming.
“Yeah, I sure wish he was here to share in it,” Michael says. “And I know the first thing he would say to me is ‘Michael, you finally got your head out of your …..’ ”
Better late than never.
Bob West is the Port Arthur News golf columnist. He can be e-mailed at