Perfect time to look back on SETX’s impact at U.S. Open
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Though Southeast Texas’ history on golf’s biggest stage – the U.S. Open – is limited, there have been some truly special and memorable moments authored by guys with ties to our neck of the woods.
So, what better time than the eve of the 122nd U.S. Open to do a feel-good rehash.
Port Arthur’s Marty Fleckman in 1967 and Groves’ Andrew Landry in 2016 made the biggest splashes. Both literally came out of nowhere to ambush one of golf’s most hallowed events, all the way down to playing in the final twosome on Sunday.
Fleckman was at least recognized as a potential future star when he went nose to nose with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in the 1967 Open at Baltusrol. Marty had won the 1965 NCAA championship at the University of Houston as the anchor of three consecutive UH titles, but he was still an amateur.
His recognition level quickly soared following a first-day 67 that led Nicklaus by two. The 23-year-old Thomas Jefferson graduate faded a bit on day two with a 73, then came roaring back to grab the 54-hole lead on the strength of a 69.
Nipping at his heels, one back, was the Hall of Fame trio of Nicklaus, Palmer and Billy Casper. Think how intimidating that had to be.
Predictably, the weight of winning the U.S. Open as an amateur was too much. Fleckman struggled to a closing 80 and finished tied for 18th, as Nicklaus hoisted the trophy. Still, Fleckman had tread where few in golf ever have or ever will.
Landry didn’t make quite as big a bang but he was close. A college star at Arkansas but a journeyman on mini tours heading into 2016, Andrew qualified his way into the Open at Oakmont. Once there, he unveiled a Superman cape with a first-day 66.
It was the lowest ever opening round in that historic venue’s storied U.S. Open history.
While the experts expected him to fade, especially in rainy conditions that forced continual stopping and starting, Landry would not go away. He posted a one-over 71 in round two, then a 70 in round three that got him into the final pairing with Shane Lowry.
Sadly, the pride of the Pea Patch suffered a final-round fate much like Fleckman, skidding to a 78 to finish T15. That, however, remains the highest U.S. Open finish for an area player. It also served notice Landry was the real deal, as two subsequent PGA Tour titles would underscore.
The other bit of local Open saber rattling came last year from Lamar ex MJ Daffue. Like Landry, Daffue had to qualify his way in, then came out smoking at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He birdied 4 of his first 7 holes, leading to a three-under 67 that was T2 on Thursday.
Daffue stayed in contention with a 72, stumbled to a 78 on Saturday, then bounced back strong with a 69 that earned a tie for 31st.
Two other Southeast Texans, meanwhile, made U.S. Open cuts. Best finishes were a T17 for Bruce Lietzke in 1981 and a T47 for Chris Stroud in 2010.
CHIP SHOTS: The Babe Zaharias hole-in-one barrage continued when Darrel Latiolais of Bridge City sank an 8-iron from 110-yards on the 15th hole. Witnesses were Keith Mullins, Art Turner and Raymond Darbonne. It was Latiolais’ third ace and the 11th of 2023 at Zaharias.
The area’s professional golf highlight of the week was authored by West Orange-Stark ex Michael Arnaud. Arnaud, who had completely fallen off the radar after missing cuts in all eight of his Korn Ferry Tour events last year, made his first KFT start of 2023 memorable with a T31 in the BMW Charity Classic.
Arnaud shot 69-68-68-69 for an 11-under 274. Those who are familiar with Michael will remember his only victory, on what was then the Web.com Tour, came in the 2018 BMW. Arnaud turned heads that week with a second-round 60 that lead to a 19-under total and a 5-shot win. En route to the 60, he was 9-under through the first 7 holes . . .
On the PGA Tour this past week, Daffue was the big winner, picking up $39,150 on a T38 in the Canadian Open. He shot 5-under-283. Landry finished T57 with a 287 and pocketed $20,160. Stroud missed the cut after shooting 71-74 . . .
Chase Ion of Sour Lake continued his torrid play on the Southern Texas PGA Junior Tour. A week after shooting 60 at Henry Homberg, Ion won Boys’ 13-14 by 10 shots with a 2-under 70 at Sunset Grove.
Other flight winners included Drake Andrepont of Sour Lake (77 in Boys 15-18), Ashley Hale of Orange (85 to edge Lainee McMillon of Kirbyville by one in Girls 15-18) and Ben Woolley of Humble (41 in Little Linksters Boys 11-12, 9-hole red.
In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Craig Geoffroy, Lonnie Mosley, Darrell Mouille and Terry Jones won the front with minus 2. On the back, the team of Mullins, Darbonne, Turner and Latiolais won with minus 3.
Closest to the pin winners were Ron LaSalle (No. 1, 13-3, No. 12, 5-7), Jones (No. 7, 6-4) and Latiolais (No. 15, ace) . . .
The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of Robert Gautreaux, Cap Hollier, Harry Green and Thad Keishnick take the front with minus 1 and tie the back at plus 1. Tying the back was the foursome of James Vercher, Don MacNeil, Greg Cohran and George Adams . . .
Last Wednesday’s Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points count format. First with 29 points was the team of Ed Holley, Mike Kibodeaux, Robert Stansbury and Larry Foster. Second with 26 points was the team of Doug LeBlanc, Darbonne, Eddie Delk and Mosley.
Closest to the pin winners were Stansbury (No. 2, 3-6), Holley (No. 7, 7-3) Kenny Robbins (No. 12, 4-3) and Steve Wisenbaker (No. 15, 10-1).
Registration deadline for PN-G coach David Wallace’s June 19-22 Indian summer Golf Camp 2023 has been extended to Friday morning. Call 409 719-3949 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at email@example.com.