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BOB WEST ON GOLF — Spieth’s victory perfect kickoff for Masters week

Not that most folks in these parts need extra incentive to gear up for watching The Masters, but Jordan Spieth’s slump-ending victory in the Valero Texas Open likely enhanced interest in what happens starting Thursday in Augusta, Georgia. Other than Andrew Landry and Chris Stroud, I’m guessing Spieth is probably the favorite PGA Tour player in Southeast Texas.

A Dallas native and former University of Texas great, he’s easy to like and pull for, and his stunning struggles the past three years have been tough to watch. More than anything, what he’s gone through, after a meteoric career start that had him looking like the game’s next dominant player, underscores how cruel golf can me.

After winning 11 tournaments and three quick majors, including a Masters, Spieth looked lost while battling internal demons. His magical putting touch went away, and he struggled mightily to put the ball in the fairway. But he kept his head down, kept grinding and has been knocking on the door for a couple of months.

Then, as Bum Phillips might say, he kicked the SOB in with a sterling 18-under-par performance in San Antonio. It wasn’t easy because Charley Hoffman kept the heat on with a blazing final round. Spieth, though, never faltered and he’s now one of the favorites in The Masters.

For the record, the Valero was Spieth’s first victory in 83 starts, dating back to the British Open in July of 2017. But you could see it coming. He’d authored four top 10s in his last seven starts. It was just a matter of closing the deal and he did it with a victory that made him only the fifth player in the last 40 years to score 12 PGA Tour wins before age 28.

The only other residents in that elite club are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

CHIP SHOTS:   Braden Bailey closed strong in the Canadian PGA Mackenzie Tour Qualifying School last week, firing a bogey-free, five-under par 67 at The Wigwam Golf Club in Litchfield Park Arizona. He finished tied for 14th out of a field of 103 players with a 72-hole total of 282. His earlier rounds were 71-74-70.

Although the former PN-G star needed to finish in the top 6 to have access to most of the Mackenzie Tour’s 2021 schedule, he did earn some perks as far as Monday qualifiers. Meanwhile much about the Mackenzie Tour remains up in the air, down to whether its tournaments will be played in Canada or the United States.

Bailey’s next two starts will be in APT Tour events in Victoria and Brownwood.

Even a return to the to the site of his 2018 Valero Texas Open victory couldn’t help get Andrew Landry back on track. The PN-G ex missed his third consecutive cut with rounds of 75-73. Landry has managed to match par only once in his last six rounds, while averaging 74.5 He’ll be sitting out the Masters this week for the first time in three years.

The Port Neches-Groves girls qualified two players as medalists for the Region III, 5A tournament at the Texas A&M Golf Club. Jeannie Truong advanced with a 36-hole total of 213 (105-108) in last week’s district tournament at Eagle Point. Taryn DeJean also punched a ticket to regional with a 214 (108-106).

The Lady Indians (899) placed third in district behind Barbers Hill’s 683 and Crosby’s 789. Other PN-G scores included Loren Guidry’s 228 (121-107), Nevaeh Granger’s 240 (119-121), Kassie Carpenter’s 247 (117-127) and Katelyn Lee’s 247 (140-134).

Jack Burke and LCM turned the District 22-4A tournament into somewhat of a joke last week. Burke, with rounds of 67-72-139 won his third consecutive district title by 11 strokes at Henry Homberg Golf Club. The defending 4A state champ’s total was a new district record.

The Bears captured the 22-4A title by 55 strokes over Orangefield with scores of 307-341-648. Other LCM scores were Timothy Weaver 164 (79-85), Wyatt Wozniak 166 (80-86) and Will Van Pelt 189 (91-94). Travis Love opened with an 81 but an injury kept him out of round two.

LCM and Orangefield will head to the April 19-20 Region III, 4A regional at Raven Nest in Huntsville. Also going as medalists are Vidor’s James Holden 75-82-157 and Silsbee’s Caleb Snider 88-86-174.

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Ron LaSalle, Lee Bertrand, Art Turner and Randy Jackson won the front with minus 3. There was three-way tie on the back at even par between teams captained by James Vercher, Joe Gongora and Bob Byerly. LaSalle’s 72 was the low round of the day.

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias featured ties on both the front and back. On the front, the team of Price Youngs, Steve Wisenbaker, Butch Cross and Glen Knight posted minus 2 as did the foursome of James Shipley, Gene Jones, Don MacNeil and Harrell Guidry.

On the back, Shipley’s team deadlocked at even par with the fivesome of LaSalle, Evert Baker, Jeff Rinehart, Randy Trahan and Buddy Hicks.

The Friday two-ball at Zaharias also saw a tie on the front, with the team of Brian Mirabella, Jeremy Heimler, MacNeil and Stewart Ellis matching the minus 1 of Keith Mullins, Byerly, Rusty Hicks and Lyndon Rojo. Minus 1 won the back for the team of Craig Geoffroy, Bobby Wactor, Larry Foster and Dwayne Benoit.

Mullins and Heimler tied for medalist honor with 74s.

The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Placing first with 33 points was the team of Danny Robbins Gary Fontenot, Larry Reece and Knight. Second with 30 points was the foursome of Russ Gloede, Raymond Darbonne, MacNeil and Jerry Watson.

Closet to the pin winners were Bob Luttrell (No. 2), Fontenot (No. 7), Dan Flood (No. 12) and Robbins (No. 15). Doug LeBlanc carded the day’s low round of 70.

In the Tuesday, March 29 2 ball, the team of Cap Hollier, Ted Freeman, Rick Pritchett and Cross took the front with minus 2. The back finished in a tie at minus 1 between the team of Calvin Landry, Bertrand, Richard Malone and Richard Menchaca and the foursome of Vercher, Johnson, Charles Leard and Paul Duplantis.