Headlines abound for 22nd annual Chitimacha Louisiana Open

BROUSSARD, La. -- The 22nd renewal of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open will feature:

* The strongest field in tournament history, thanks in great part to the PGA Tour's restructuring that makes success on the Web.com Tour the main highway to earning spots on the world's best golf circuit;

* Six former champions, including the Open's only two-time champion in 2003 and 2011 winner Brett Wetterich;

* Three prominent players from the Acadiana area, including two that have teed it up in the U.S. Open over the last two years, as well as several Louisiana-connected players that could be major factors;

* A $550,000 purse including $99,000 to the winner, both equaling the largest in Open history;

* The second-youngest winner in Web.com Tour history, who has already won on Tour in Colombia this year and who turns 21 years of age one day before the start of pro-am competition; and

* John Daly.

It all adds up to the most anticipated Louisiana Open in many years, as Acadiana's premier professional sports event returns to Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club and brings the world's second-best professional tour to local fans.

"We've got a lot of very recognizable names in the field," said Open executive director Danny Jones, "and more importantly we've got some names that you're going to see playing on TV later this year and who will be very successful players on the PGA Tour in the next few years. Our fans will get a chance to follow them while they experience truly world-class golf."

The quality field, the history of the event, and many of those names should be enough to make the Open an attraction for local golfers and fans when play begins Thursday over the 7,067-yard par-71 Le Triomphe course. Daily tickets are $10 and are available through Wednesday at the Louisiana Open's remote office next to the Le Triomphe clubhouse, and will be available at the gate beginning Thursday.

Championship play runs Thursday-Sunday, with the 144-player field cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's second round. Play is expected to begin at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday with morning and afternoon waves off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees.

Tournament activities, though, begin Sunday with the finals of the Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel $1 Million Hole-in-One Shootout at 3:30 p.m. at Le Triomphe's 8th hole, where more than 50 qualifiers will take one shot at a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one.

The Dwight Andrus Insurance Pro-Am is Monday at 9 a.m., and following a Tuesday player practice round the Nacher Corporation Pro-Am and the Knight Oil Tools Boy Scout Pro-Am are Wednesday at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. respectively.

The 46-year-old Daly, one of the most recognizable figures in professional golf and a two-time major championships winner, is in the field and is certain to be one of the most watched when championship play begins Thursday. The 1991 PGA Championship winner and the 1995 British Open champion has been one of the most popular players and intriguing figures on the PGA Tour for two decades due to his distance off the tee, his colorful wardrobe, his gregarious manner and his "grip it and rip it" philosophy on the course.

"He's the biggest name every to come here," Jones said, "and there's no doubt he's the most well-known personality to ever be in our field."

By no means is Daly the only golfer in the field to find world-wide success, though, and one of them will make a "homecoming" in the Open. Heath Slocum, a Baton Rouge native who lived all over Louisiana in his youth, is a four-time PGA Tour champion and ranks in the Tour's all-time top 75 in career earnings (over $15 million), and is making his first professional stop in Louisiana since 2007.

Several others in the field have also won on the PGA Tour, including Wetterich. The only two-time champ in Louisiana Open history won the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in 2006, the same year that he was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

The other returning champions are 2009 winner Bubba Dickerson, 2008 champion Gavin Coles, 2007 winner Skip Kendall, 2005 champion and former Lafayette resident Ryan Hietala, and 2001 winner and two-time runner-up Paul Claxton. The six former winners in the field are one short of the tournament record for past champions.

Another player in the field has a Louisiana Tour title on his resume'. Tim Petrovic, an $11.6 million winner on Tour, captured the 2005 Zurich Classic in New Orleans and will be making his second straight appearance in the Louisiana Open.

Success will also not be new to the three players who have already won this year on the Web.com Tour. That group includes just-turned-21 Patrick Cantlay, the former UCLA All-American and the collegiate player of the year in 2012 before turning pro last summer. Cantlay, who played in 10 PGA Tour events last year, won the Colombia Championship in Bogota three weeks ago to become the second-youngest winner in Web.com Tour history and move atop the Tour money list entering this week's event.

Tour rookie Kevin Foley captured the season-opening Panama Claro Championship and former Georgia standout captured the Tour's most recent event, the Chile Classic in Santiago, as the other winners on Tour this year.

There is a solid local flavor to the event with three Lafayette players in the field. Michael Smith and Brian Rowell, who played in the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Open respectively, are in along with former Le Triomphe staffer Matt Berry, who earned a spot in the Gulf States PGA Section's Closed Qualifier.

The rest of Louisiana is also well represented, including a Baton Rouge threesome who could all be factors in the event. Tour veteran Scott Sterling is coming off a top-12 finish in Chile, former LSU All-American Andrew Loupe is a full-time Web.com Tour member this year after finishing tied for 13th in last year's Open as a Monday qualifier, and John Peterson won the 2011 NCAA individual championship while playing for the Tigers.

In all, 130 players are already in the field, with 14 spots to be filled by open qualifying Monday at The Wetlands and Les Vieux Chenes.

Web.com is the new sponsor for the Tour this year, with the Open once again the Tour's first U.S.-based event. In all, the Web.com Tour has 25 tournaments this year, including a new four-tournament "finals" at the end of the year that will help determine a total of 50 PGA Tour card recipients that will come from the Web.com Tour ranks this year.

"Our goal is to bring world-class golf to Acadiana," Jones said, "and we've accomplished that goal this year. With the tour's new format that makes the Web.com Tour the only road to the PGA Tour, our field is a very strong one and it's only going to get stronger in the future. We're hoping that fans in the area will come out, support the players and support the charities that we benefit."

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