BOB WEST ON GOLF — Chris Stroud set as keynote speaker for Zaharias Awards

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Port Neches-Groves coach Jerry Honza’s brainchild to recognize high school golfers turns 12 this year and, appropriately, one of the Indians’ brightest stars in any sport – Chris Stroud — will be the guest speaker for the May 24 awards dinner at 5 Under Golf Center in Beaumont.

Formally known as the Babe Zaharias Junior Golf Awards, the event honors the area’s top male and female golfer, team leaders, top underclassmen (freshman or sophomore) and coaches of the year. Voting is done by area coaches.

Honza, ever the creative promoter, wanted to recognize high school golf achievers and enhance the awards by naming them after Babe Zaharias. He pitched the idea to the late W.L. Pate Jr., longtime chairman of the Zaharias Foundation. Pate quickly jumped at the idea and a partnership developed.

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Sadly, Pate passed away last year and Honza, after over a decade of service heading up the Zaharias Awards, passed the torch to 5 Under CEO Austin Williams. As his first major project last year, Williams honored Honza with a plaque and video tribute at the 2021 awards dinner.

One of Honza’s traditions that Williams has carried on is securing a reputable guest speaker, most of them with cache in the golf world. Stroud will be following former Lamar great Kelly Gibson who won twice on the Nike Tour, had nine top 10s on the PGA Tour and was oh-so-close to denying Tiger Woods his first PGA Tour victory in the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational.

Among other guest speakers for the event have been Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, author of the acclaimed Zaharias book Wonder Girl, former Port Arthur golf great Marty Fleckman, who won his first PGA Tour event, LPGA Hall of Famer Carol Mann, Hal Sutton, who won 14 times on the PGA Tour, and Lamar grad Giles Kibbe, who is Houston Astro owner Jim Crane’s right-hand man.

The 40-year-old Stroud doesn’t need much introduction. A star and junior golf whiz at PN-G, a two-time All-America at Lamar, winner of the prestigious North and South Amateur and a winner on the PGA Tour, he’s amassed over $12 million in official PGA earnings. Unfortunately, his career has been slowed by back and wrist injuries.

Williams is elated that he was able to bring Stroud back to his roots as the guest speaker.

“It will be wonderful for these young golfers to hear from Chris,” he said. “In fact, I believe he is the first current PGA Tour player to speak at this event. He is a great speaker who became a great golfer coming out of this area. These local players will be able to relate to his background.

“The story of Chris’ success and path from growing up on a struggling course like the Pea Patch is so unique. It conveys a strong message about what can happen with talent, hard work and self-belief. He’s been a blessing for this area and even for Houston with his fundraising efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

“Getting to see and hear him up close will make for a memorable night for these kids.”

CHIP SHOTS: In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Keith Mullins, Raymond Darbonne, Charles Leard and Richard Mechaca easily won the front with minus 5. On the back, the foursome of Joe Gongora, Rufus Reyes, Bill Hanley and Jeff Rinehart prevailed with minus 2.

Closest to the pin winners were Tony Trevino (No. 2, 7’, 7”), Ed Holley (No. 7, 10-9), Mullins (No. 12, 3-0) and Mike Brown (No. 15, 7-0).

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of Earl Richard, Cap Hollier, Don MacNeil, Charles Leard and Larry Foster capture the front with minus 3. Minus 1 claimed the back for the team of James Shipley, Bill Hanley, Gary Fontenot and Stuart Ellis.

Ties were the order of the day in the Friday Senior 2 ball, with three teams posting minus 1 on the front and two teams finishing even on the back. Big winner was the Richard team that included Bob Byerly Ron Mistrot and McNeil. They got a share of first on both sides.

Also minus 1 on the front was the team of Aubrey Ward, Cap Hollier, Dwayne Morvant and Dan Flood and the foursome of Kenny Robbins, Gene Jones, Larry Johnson and Ellis. Sharing the back with the Richard team was the team of James Cady, Danny Robbins, Trevino and Menchaca.

Closest to the pin winners Menchaca (No. 2), Gary Fontenot (No. 7), Darbonne (No.12) and Art Turner (No. 15).

Format for the Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was all points count. Grabbing first place with 34 points was the team of Joe Gongora, Rusty Hicks, MacNeil and Paul Duplantis. Second with 33 points was the team of Richard, Gabe Theriot, Mistrot and Dwayne Benoit.

Closest to the pin winners were John House (No. 2) Reyes (No. 7), Jake Selensky (No. 12) and Ron LaSalle (No. 15).

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