BOB WEST ON GOLF: Arnaud’s win tribute to golfer who wouldn’t quit

Published 5:41 pm Monday, May 21, 2018

Editor’s note: Bob’s regular weekly golf notepad will appear online Tuesday and in Wednesday’s issue.

If there were an official ranking of feel good, against-all-odds triumphs in golf, Michael Arnaud’s record-setting, five-stroke win in the Tour’s BMW Classic would surely be near the top. Incredibly, we seem to be getting a steady dose of those uplifting moments in Southeast Texas.

First, there was Chris Stroud’s breakthrough for his first PGA Tour win at age 35 last July in Reno. Then Andrew Landry, a latecomer to the PGA Tour after bouncing around golf’s lower levels, broke through at age 30 to win the Valero Texas Open.

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Magnify those two accomplishments by 50 and you have the improbability of what the 36-year-old Arnaud authored over the weekend in South Carolina. For the West Orange-Stark ex to win on the, and do it in such dominating fashion, truly defies all the game’s conventional wisdom and logic.

To know Michael, and to understand his background, is reason to marvel at what just happened. And to appreciate the irony of a guy nicknamed BMW years ago because of how well he drove the ball, winning the BMW tournament.

Though his father, Keith, was an outstanding amateur, he was seldom in his son’s life. Michael was reared in West Orange by a pair of loving grandparents who tended to shelter him. They encouraged his love for golf, but didn’t have the means to get him to the next level of junior golf tournaments.

Consequently, despite Arnaud’s obvious talent, there would be no college scholarships forthcoming. His bio says he played at Stephen F. Austin, but that is somewhat misleading. After walking on, he got homesick and came back to West Orange to live with his grandparents.

As a result, he’s spent the past 15 or so years pursuing a dream without benefit of a college playing background, without teaching help and advice top level players receive and with financial limitations. He dutifully fought the mini-tour wars, worked his way up to status on the, then lost it.

“It has not been easy for him,” says Michael’s uncle, David Arnaud. “The travel was tough. He practically lived out of his car because of limited financial backing. There were times when we’d think he was going to walk away from it, but he just kept grinding.”

All that and more is why Stroud, among so many others in the golf world, was blown away when he digested what Arnaud pulled off at the BMW.

“I was at a wedding in Florida when I saw he shot 60,” said Stroud, who many years ago beat Arnaud in a playoff for the high school district title.

For him to come back from that 60 with two more low rounds and win was amazing. I texted him that he has broken down a door, that if he can win there he can win anywhere.

“I am so proud of him for getting through all the difficult obstacles that he’s faced over the years. He’s always been a real talent. But, in all honesty, given the lack of opportunity and coaching that so many other guys out here have, the odds were heavily against him.”

Also watching from a distance, and thrilled for Arnaud, was Landry.

“What he did was awesome,” said Landry. “I played in the BMW when I was on the The course where he shot the 60 is gettable but it is not as easy as he made it look. Then to come back with a 63 on it when he was trying to win for the first time was pretty special.

“Believe me, it is tough to win on the What’s impressive to me is his perseverance to stick with it on the mini-tours for so long, and to keep believing. He’s been through the ringer. If he goes ahead and gets his PGA Tour card, and I think he will, it is going to be really sweet for him.”

Arnaud, in the aftermath of what should be a life-changing moment, spoke humbly to a Golf Channel interviewer about those whose faith in him stayed strong even when he started to doubt whether it was meant to be. He started with his wife — former KFDM reporter Ashley Rodrigue.

“She has been such a rock,” he said. “She sees the talent. I wasn’t even sure about leaving the Adams Tour tournament to come to the BMW as an alternate. She pretty much insisted that I come. Thanks to her and my guardian angels in heaven — my grandparents, my aunt Judy, my uncle Randy, my dad, I
finally made it.”

By winning the BMW’s $126,000 first-place check, Arnaud moved to 13th on the money list, giving himself an inside track to one of the PGA Tour cards that go to the tour’s top 25 money winners. He intends to take full advantage of an unlimited exemption into events, starting this week
in Nashville.

“I feel so good about my game right now, it would be foolish to take time off,” he said. “I have to fly to Tulsa to get my car at the airport there, then drive 10 hours to Nashville, but I can’t wait to play. I wouldn’t put it past me to be in the hunt again.”

One thing Arnaud’s play under pressure seemed to prove at the BMW is that he isn’t likely to wilt if once again in contention.

“It was the weirdest thing,” he said. “I just had such an in-the-moment focus. I never really got nervous. It was such a surreal feeling. Bhavik Patel birdied the first three holes and I was three down, but I was confident. I had a calmness that things would fall into place and my birdies would come and they did.”

Arnaud delivered the message it was his week by playing the final six holes on the front in six under to make the turn in 28. Nobody ever got closer on the back than two shots and he sealed the deal with tap-in birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, after being within 15 feet for eagle on both of the par-5s.

Meanwhile, collecting his biggest paycheck ever figures to remove considerable financial stress. Though he has limited deals with equipment makers Srixon and Cleveland, they aren’t enough to cover the significant expenses of playing on a regular basis. That figures to change real soon.

“I should have some bonuses coming,” he said. “I expect there are going to be some interesting offers to consider. A lot of important people came up to me after Sunday’s round, shook my hand and said we needed to talk. I left with a pocket full of business cards.”

He also left with the knowledge that all the work, all the setbacks, all the frustration, have not been in vain. Michael Arnaud, the kid who never saw the silver spoon, the golfer playing into a stacked deck, is at long last a champion. A hungry champion likely to be back for more.