GOLF: WOS grad Arnaud shoots 60 in Tour event in S.C.

Published 5:37 pm Friday, May 18, 2018

Michael Arnaud stepped out of golfing oblivion and made some eye-opening history Friday in the second round of the Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am.

The 36-year-old West Orange-Stark product played his first seven holes in a remarkable 9-under-par, turned in 27 and went on to shoot an 11-under 60 over Thornblade Club in Greenville, South Carolina. It tied the course record and left him one of three players at 14-under-par at the 36-hole mark.

Making it all a bit surreal was the fact that on Tuesday that Arnaud had been in Muskogee, Oklahoma, preparing to play in an Adams Pro Tour event. After the pro-am, he received a phone call telling him he’d moved up to first alternate in the BMW.

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He rolled the dice on getting in, withdrew from the Adams tournament and flew to South Carolina. He found out he was in the field on Wednesday, but did not have an opportunity to play a practice round on any of the three courses used for the BMW’s pro-am format.

After shooting a first-round 69 at a course called The Preserve at Verdae, Arnaud hit the ground running on Friday. Over his first seven holes, he went birdie, eagle (par-5), birdie, birdie, eagle (par-5), birdie, birdie. A bogey on the par-3, ninth kept him from going out in 26.

He didn’t make another birdie until the par-4, 13th, then added back-to-back birdies at the par-5, 15th and the par 5, 16th. He missed a 15-foot birdie putt on 17, before coming up short from 25 feet in the fringe on 18.

Arnaud’s first seven holes were so mind boggling the Tour sent out a Twitter notification verifying it was for real. The rest of the day he was on what’s called “59 alert” in professional golf. That led to several TV look-ins from the Golf Channel’s Champions Tour telecast.

“Obviously, I played really well, but you don’t go out expecting something like that,” Arnaud said. “My aunt Judy [Schoolfield] passed away two weeks ago and I just had a feeling all day she had a hand in this. I know she is looking down and smiling.”

Arnaud’s game has been up and down since a 2015 season in which he made 11 of 17 cuts and won $69,302 on the Tour. He made only 8 of 19 cuts the following year, then was able to get into only six events and make three cuts last year.

Most of his golf this year has been on the Adams Tour, but he’s done nothing special there. In four starts, his best finish is a tie for 11th. In his only Tour event, he missed the cut.

“I have been playing better than I have scored,” he said. “I just haven’t been able to put it all together. But I recently went back to an old Ping Putter I have not used in four or five years and it’s made a difference.”

On the way to the 60, Arnaud hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation and took 25 putts. His eagles were from 6 and 12 feet. The key putt of the day was a 15-footer to save par on the 14th hole. He made three putts beyond 15 feet.

So when did he start thinking something special was unfolding?

“I rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the sixth hole to get to eight under,” he said. “I think it dawned on me at that point that I had a chance to do something truly memorable. I kept telling myself to not back off, to keep trying to hit good golf shots and keep being aggressive.

“I think I did a good job of that. When I birdied 13 and saved par on 14, I knew 59 was in play because of the back-to-back par 5s coming up. I just kept telling myself keep doing what you have been doing. It’s kind of weird. It was abnormal in some ways but it felt like a normal round of golf.”

The 60 was the third time Arnaud has signed off on that number. But the other two were not in the same league. One was at Iron Oaks in Beaumont and the other was at the Pea Patch in Groves.

“Those two courses don’t measure up to this one, but a 60 is still a 60,” he said.

Arnaud played a lot of golf growing up with the Pea Patch duo of Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry. Now he’s hoping to go ahead and win this week and add to the growing legacy of golf success coming out of Southeast Texas.

“I watched Chris and Andrew win. I know what that meant to their careers,” he said. “Now I need to go out and win and get myself back on the fast track on the Tour. Getting fully exempt would be a big, big deal for me.”

For that to happen, he will have to hang in Saturday over a Furman University course he’s never played. He’d also never seen the Preserve at Verdae, but did have the advantage of playing a past event at Thornblade.

“The one thing I did when I got here on Wednesday was go out to the Furman Course, ride all the holes and makes some notes,” he advised. “It is really tight and has a lot of doglegs. The person who did a redesign on it used a lot of Donald Ross features.

“It is kind of ironic but the course is a little bit hillier version of Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange. I told my caddie I’m going to feel right at home on this. Only real difference is Sunset Grove was dead flat.”

Third round action in the BMW will be televised at 6 p.m. Saturday on the Golf Channel.