BOB WEST ON GOLF — Former Lamar star making waves on Korn Ferry Tour

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Most folks don’t pay much attention to the Official World Golf Ranking which currently has Scottie Scheffler ranked No. 1. But, just for fun, we’re going to start today’s column with a question to see who has been paying attention as the OWGR pertains to local players.

Quickly then, what player with ties to Southeast Texas currently carries the highest ranking? Although the obvious answer is Andrew Landry, even though he’s suffered through a down season and is two years removed from his last PGA Tour win, it isn’t him.

No, indeed, the correct response is someone who has zoomed up the OWGR chart in 2022 — M.J. Daffue. After nearly winning the opening event of the Korn Ferry Tour finals last week, Daffue has ascended to No. 170. For perspective, that is two notches above Rickie Fowler.

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Landry, once in the top 100, has tumbled to 445. Another Lamar ex, Dawie van der Walt, is at 668. Chris Stroud, who was also once in the top 100, has fallen out of the top 1,000 after two injury-plagued years. So has another ex-Cardinal, Shawn Stefani.

Daffue (pronounced Duffy) has authored an eye-opening year on the Korn Ferry Tour that somewhat smacks of what rising star Will Zalatoris did two years ago on the KFT. That’s not to suggest Daffue is going to be the next Zalatoris, but mounting evidence indicates he’ll be a fun player for local folks to follow on the PGA Tour next year.

Though he gained the most attention by qualifying for, then leading the U.S. Open by as many as three shots during the second round, Daffue has been a consistent force on the KFT. He’s had two seconds, two thirds, seven top 10s and made 16 of 19 cuts.

It was a sizzling performance that wrapped up his PGA card for 2023 by the end of May. Now, after weekend rounds of 65-63 got him into a playoff in the first KFT Finals tourney, he’s up to third in overall points. That’s put him in position to wrap up extra perks when he tees it up with the big boys next year.

The way it works on the KFT, the top 25 finishers in the regular season earn a PGA Tour card. That is also the case for the three-tournament KFT Finals. The cherry on top is whoever finishes first in combined points gets an exemption into the Players Championship and the U.S. Open.

Daffue currently trails only Carl Yuan from China and former Alabama star Robbie Shelton. Depending on how they play, a couple of top 10s this week in Columbus, Ohio and next week in Indiana could put him over the top. That elusive first victory would do it for sure.

For those who may not remember him from a three-year-stint at Lamar (2010-12), Daffue is from Pretoria, South Africa and is a protégé of former U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen. He won back-to-back Southland Conference titles at LU in 2011 and 2012 and was the SLC Player of the Year in 2011.

Since then, he’s bounced around the mini tours, had a rough time dealing with a death in the family and has struggled somewhat financially. A resident of Kingwood, he’s also had to learn how to control and live with bipolar disorder.

One insider who believes Daffue will have success on the PGA Tour is his former LU coach Brian White. White, who now teaches out of Lochinvar Golf Club in Houston and is a significant player in the staging of the Houston Open, is excited for what’s ahead.

“I am not surprised at what MJ has accomplished and I think his best is still ahead of him,” asserts White. “He was as talented as anybody who came through Lamar when I was there. He was recommended to me as a ‘diamond in the rough’ and that’s exactly what he was.

“MJ was long off the tee, longer than any of the others. But his game needed refinement and he made a lot of progress in that area when he was with us. He’s sort of country strong, and I mean that as a compliment. With a shortish backswing, he is unbelievably powerful. Plus, he has a great touch for such a big hitter.”

“As you saw last weekend, he has the ability to make lots of birdies and to go low. I thought he made quite a statement at the U.S. Open. I don’t see any reason why he won’t play well on the PGA Tour.”

Daffue’s U.S. Open performance, by the way, expanded a Southeast Texas trivia question. What three players with ties to the Golden Triangle have held a U.S. Open lead into the second round or beyond.

Those who said Marty Fleckman, Landry and Daffue take a bow.

CHIP SHOTS: Three of the four Lamar exes in last week’s KFT Finals opener made the cut. Van der Walt tied for 50th with 12-under 272, while Stroud was T68 at 280. Stefani missed the cut after rounds of 70-71. Daffue’s 72-hole total was 263.

All four are playing in this week’s Nationwide Children’s Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

A saturated Babe Zaharias layout forced the Monday Senior 50 Plus Game into a par 4 format. Tying the front with minus 10 was the team of Ed Holley, Aubrey Ward, Rick Pritchett and Darrell Mouille and the foursome of Danny Robbins, Joe Gongora, Lonnie Mosley and Glenn Knight.

Winning the back with minus 8 was the team of Jim Cady, Cap Hollier, Harrell Guidry and a ghost player. Closest to the hole winners were John House (No. 2, 6 feet, 4 inches), Robbins (No. 7, 11 inches), Bob West (No. 12, 9-4) and Keith Mullins (No. 15, 9-8).

The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Placing first with 29 points was the team of Brian Sweeney, Jeremy Hemler, Raymond Darbonne and Knight. Second with 28 was the team of Kenny Robbins, Ward, Pritchett and Dwayne Benoit.

Closest to the pin winners were Steve Wisenbaker (No. 2), West (No. 7, No. 15) and Rufus Reyes (No. 12).

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net.