BOB WEST ON GOLF: Frantic finish caps memorable 2016 for Landry
Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Sometime in the distant future, when Andrew Landry is in a reflective mood and looking back at the ups and downs of playing professional golf, he’s likely to zero in on 2016 as perhaps the most memorable year of his life.
No matter what happens in the future, even if the Port Neches-Groves ex breaks through to win on the PGA Tour, or even better hoists the trophy in a major, there will be a strong case to be made for 2016. Consider, in chronological order, some of the watershed moments of the past 12 months.
• Landry played his first season on the PGA tour and claimed his first top-10 finish.
• He earned the proverbial 15 minutes of fame by leading the U.S Open on day one and being in contention with golf’s biggest names until midway through the final round.
• He discovered the joy of helping a suffering child in need by giving $10,000 from his first endorsement to help with the mounting medical bills of a cancer-stricken 4-year-old from Port Arthur named Austyn Halter.
• He married his longtime sweetheart in early December in Cancun.
• He put an exclamation point on the year with an improbable finish at Web.com Q-school this past Sunday, chipping in twice on par 3s over the final four holes to make the needed score on the number.
“It’s been a special year for me,” he agreed Monday from Austin. “I think I found out a lot about who I am and who I can be. I think I was put on earth to play golf and use my success to bring awareness to diseases like Austyn’s. Helping her gave me more joy than anything I did playing golf.”
Landry’s help with Austyn didn’t end with the initial donation. He helped raise $17,000 more and had the satisfaction of learning she had beaten a form of leukemia known as AML-M7. Unfortunately, the disease has returned and she’s back in St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis.
Anyone who would like to help Landry help her can send a check addressed to Austyn Halter Patient, c/o St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN. 38105. Those who can’t send money can brighten her day with a Christmas card.
“That really saddens me,” Landry said of Halter’s situation. “But it drives home the point that I am so blessed to be healthy and living a good life. It also helps me understand that you can’t take what you have for granted, and that those who are in position should do what they can to help others.”
Perhaps, then, it was good karma from his good deeds that played a role in Landry’s improbable escape at the final stage of Web.com Tour School in Orlando. Before examining his mind-blowing finish, it is necessary to set the stage.
Landry was in Orlando because he did not accumulate enough FedEx points on the PGA Tour to keep his card. Nor did he play well enough at the Web.com Tour’s season-ending tournament to reclaim the card.
That left him in the precarious position of having to revisit Q school in hopes of guaranteeing early-season playing privileges on the Web.com Tour. In 2014, he’d finished second at Q school, then won a Web.com tournament in Colombia and used that as his springboard to spending 2016 on the PGA Tour.
Landry needed to finish in the top 45 at last week’s Q-school to punch a playing card. Normally, that would not have been a particularly difficult mountain for him to climb. But this time there were extenuating circumstances.
He was getting married in Cancun the week before Q school.
“I wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be,” he said. “I practiced once at the TPC Cancun but didn’t get much accomplished. I arrived in Orlando on a Tuesday, needing to familiarize myself with two courses — Panther Lakes and Crooked Cat. They were both very difficult.”
Landry did get one break of sorts. Crooked Cat, which is what he’d play in rounds two and four, was where he’d won a college tournament when playing for Lamar. That, of course, was several years ago. Though he didn’t retain a great deal of course knowledge, there were good vibes.
Andrew started well, making birides on four of the final five holes at Panther Lakes to open with a 68. But a raw, windy day led to a 74 on Friday at Crooked Cat. He followed with a 73 at Panther Lakes and was two shots outside the top 45 entering the final round.
An opening bogey put him another stroke behind. He turned in even par, after making a birdie at his 8th hole (No. 17 on the scorecard), and told his caddie he was going to have to get aggressive on the last nine holes.
“I’m not sure why but I was just playing too conservative,” he said. “I knew I needed to make some birdies.”
He got one at 10, but arrived at the 15th, a long par 3, knowing he could not continue to tread water. That’s when the magic began. Landry would play those last four holes two under, despite not putting for birdie on any of them.
“I short-sided myself on 6 (his 15th) and was just hoping to get within 6 feet and save par,” he said. “I hit a flop shot that came off perfect. I knew it had a chance when I made contact. It landed soft and rolled right in the hole.”
After a scrambling par at the 16th, he once again short-sided himself off the tee on the 230-yard, par 3, eighth. Only this time, the challenge on the second shot was far more difficult.
“It was downhill and I only had three paces to work with,” he said. “Again, I was hoping to save par. I didn’t think I could hit another flop. I bumped it into the greenside rough and it went straight for the hole. Then I got lucky.
“The wind was making the pin rock back and fourth. Just as my ball got to the hole, the pin rocked back enough to let the ball fall.”
Landry then needed a scrambling par at the final hole to keep from wasting his late-round heroics.
“That finish ranks right up there with my most special moments in golf,” he said. “It was pretty cool to be able to pull that off. I don’t want to think about what I would have been up against without getting that card.”
The Web.com card guarantees Landry a spot in the season’s first eight tournaments, with the initial two being in the Bahamas in January. How he does in those first eight events will determine if he retains full playing privileges.
“I will be ready,” he said. “I’m going to come out smoking. I learned so much on the PGA Tour last year and it is going to help me win again on the Web.com and get back to the PGA.”
With the karma that seems to be working, it would be foolish to bet against him.
Another week of cold, wet weather pretty well throttled daily competitions at Babe Zaharias. Only the Monday Senior 50 Plus Game, contested in a best two-ball format, was played. On the front, the team of Gary Whitfill, Adam Noel, Bob Luttrull and Lee Bertrand won with minus-4. Minus-7 won the back for the team of Roddy Weatherly, Joe Gongora, Dillard Darbonne and Larry Reese.
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