BOB WEST ON GOLF: Shell Houston Open more than week away

Published 4:10 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

If the Masters is only two weeks away, that means the object closer than it appears in golf’s rear view mirror is the Shell Houston Open.

Nestled in its usual spot the week prior to the year’s first major, the SHO boasts its usual star-studded field. Heading the list of big names converging on the Golf Club of Houston next week will fan favorite and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth.

He prepped for what would be his first Masters victory by finishing in a three-way tie for the top spot in the 2015 SHO with J.B. Holmes and Johnson Wagner. Holmes prevailed in the playoff, with Spieth moving on to bigger and better things seven days hence in Augusta, Ga.

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Other top ranked players joining Spieth in Houston will be No. 5 Rickie Fowler, No. 7 Henrik Stenson, No. 12 Branden Grace, No. 13 Sergio Garcia and fan favorite Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, who turns 46 on June 16, is No. 18 in the rankings. He’ll be making his ninth trip to Houston.
The SHO, as usual, affords an opportunity for area fans to follow Southeast Texas’ PGA contingent. Lamar University exes Chris Stroud, who finished 17th last year, Shawn Stefani and Dawie van der Walt, are all in the field. Port Neches-Groves and Arkansas ex Andrew Landry is expected to play.

Ticket information on the SHO can be found at


Southeast Texas’ version of the Ryder Cup — the Aquila Cup — made a memorable debut last weekend. Bayou Din took home the trophy, but needed a sudden death playoff victory by captain Mitch Duncan over his Zaharias counterpart Kurt Picard to celebrate.

The two 12-player teams had finished with 12 points each after three days of match-play competition. The Babe was up 4-2 after opening best ball matches, Bayou Din pulled into a tie after alternate-shot competition and the two teams halved in singles play.

That meant a sudden-death showdown between Duncan and Picard. They halved the first hole, then Duncan won with a birdie on the second, after stuffing a 4-hybrid some 3 feet from the hole into a 25 mph wind.

“It was a great shot by Mitch and a great start for the Aquila Cup,” said Zaharias pro Ed Campbell. “George Brown is pretty fired up about having that cup on display at Bayou Din .The feedback I got was all good. The guys seemed to really enjoy it. Next year we plan to add a senior division.” …

Groves golfers Joe Benoit and Robert Bonnin celebrated holes in one at Babe Zaharias during the past week. Benoit struck first, holing a 7-wood from 125-yards on No. 2. The ace, his fourth, helped the 74-year-old Benoit best his age by two strokes. John Veillon was the witness …

Bonnin recorded his ace on March 22, sinking a pitching wedge from 108 yards on the 15th hole. The shot was witness by Tom Lawton, Thad Borne and Mark Roccaforte. …

It was another mostly lost week on professional golf tours for players with area ties, with only Van der Walt cashing a check. With no PGA Tour event available to them, Van der Walt and Landry played in the Tour’s Louisiana Open.

After being only a stroke off the lead following an opening 64, Van der Walt faded with rounds of 70-71-76. He finished tied for 46 with a 281 and pocketed $1,605. Landry, with rounds of 70-70 (140), missed the cut by two strokes.

Also unable to make it to the weekend were regulars Michael Arnaud with a 142 (68-74) and Anthony Broussard, who shot 143 (76-67). Van der Walt, Stroud, Stefani and Landry are all playing in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open starting Thursday. …

The team of Cody Mire-Jadon Ellender fired a best ball of 68 to win the Gross flight in the Nederland Heritage Festival 2-Person Scramble at Zaharias.

Jeff Lane-Robert Nobles placed second with a 71. In the Net flight, Jeff Rinehart-Ronnie LaSalle won with a 65, edging Frank LeBlanc-Avery LeBlanc by two strokes. …

The Monday Senior Plus Game at Zaharias was played in a two-best ball format. On the front, the team of Benny Sharpe, Cap Hollier, LaSalle and Bob Moore won with minus-5. On the back, there was a tie at minus-4 between the foursome of Roddy Weatherly, Gerald Huebel, Larry Foster and Gene Hardy and the fivesome of Larry Thompson, Greg Fontenot, Larry Johnson, Charlie Huckaby and Ralph Childress. …

The team of Adam Noel, Ed Holley, Cole Lee and Paul Brown won the front nine of the Super Saturday Game at Zaharias with a two-best ball score of minus 3. On the back, the foursome of Rick Pritchett, Harry Green, Don MacNeil and Tom Duhon prevailed with minus-2. …

In the Friday two-ball game at Zaharias, the team of Sharpe, Tony Trevino, Ed Hetzel, Paul Duplantis and Tommy Lemire won the front with minus-3. On the back, there was a tie at minus-3 between the foursome of Craig Fontenot, Harry Green, Gene Jones and Dwain Benoit and the team of Noel, Huebel, Lee Bertrand and Tommy Duhon. …

The Thursday Senior Game at The Babe was played in a four-person scramble. Winning the front at minus 12 was the team of Hollier, Raymond Darbonne, Mike Tibbets and Paul Bourgeois. Teams captained by Larry Stansbury and Weatherly tied for the back with minus-11.

Closest to the pin winners were Darbonne (No. 2), Ron Mistrot (No. 7), Pritchett (No. 12) and Art Miller (No. 15). …

There was a tie for first at 20 points in the Babe Zaharias DogFight between the team of Vicknair, Johnson, Duplantis and Allen Suire and the foursome of Gary Fontenot, Mike Hollier, Gene Harrison and Huckaby. Closest to the pin winners were Earl Richard (No. 2), No. 15), Roy Martinez (No. 7) and Bertrand (No. 12).

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About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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