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BOB WEST ON GOLF — Lamar ex Harding raises profile with Euro Tour win

Most area golfers, I’m guessing, remember very little about a South African named Justin Harding who played for Lamar University in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. Count me in that group. I’m embarrassed to say I pretty much have a blind spot where he is concerned.

Looks like the time has come to do a memory refreshing deep dive on him.

Harding became column material when he won for the second time on the European Tour this past week, taking the Magical Kenya Open by a stroke. In the process, he elevated himself to No. 121 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

That’s four spots above Southeast Texas’ top-rated player – Andrew Landry. Other OWGR’s for Lamar exes are Chris Stroud (434), Dawie van der Walt (494), Shawn Stefani (591), and MJ Daffue (670). Stroud, of course, has been in free fall since leaving taking an injury leave from the tour last summer.

Harding, meanwhile, has put together a commendable resume while playing most of his professional golf outside the United States. The European Tour victory was his second, with the first being the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in 2019. He’s also won twice on the Asian Tour and claimed seven titles on the Sunshine Tour.

While he’s had limited presence in America, he was here long enough for an impressive tie for 12th in the 2019 Masters won by Tiger Woods. Not long after he had climbed to his highest ever OWGR of 42.

The 35-year-old Harding’s highest PGA Tour finish was a T10 in the 2019 Byron Nelson Classic. He’s placed T17, T29, T43 and T53 in four World Golf Championship events. Overall, his official PGA Tour winnings are $589,251.

In his final year at Lamar in 2007, Harding made first team All-Southland Conference and won three times – Notre Dame Invitational, Border Olympics and Arkansas-Little Rock First Tee Invitational. An interesting footnote is that Harding and Landry, then a freshman at Lamar, tied for medalist in the Xavier/Orange County Intercollegiate.

It will be interesting to see if Harding’s recent win on the European Tour will prompt him to play more in America. His latest PGA Tour stop was a T38 in last fall’s Houston Open.

Either way, it’s nice to see somebody who played at Lamar having success. We’ll definitely have to keep a closer eye on him in the future.

CHIP SHOTS: Harding wasn’t the only player with Southeast Texas ties to win a professional golf event this past week. West Orange-Stark ex Michael Arnaud came from behind to with a final round 69, then won a three-hole playoff to capture the APT Tour’s Paragon Casino Championship at Tamahka Trails Golf Club in Marksville, Louisiana.

Arnaud’s rounds of 68-66-69 earned him a first-place check of $24,000. PN-G alum Braden Bailey, playing in the same event, placed T39 on rounds of 69-73-71.

Elsewhere in professional golf, former Indian Andrew Landry missed the cut in the Honda Classic with rounds of 79-73 at PGA National in Palm Beach, Florida. Landry is taking this week off.

LCM’s Jack Burke delivered one of the most dominating performances in Southeast Texas schoolboy golf history Monday on the way to winning the Nederland Invitational by 12 strokes at The Golf Club of Texas. Burke broke his LC-M school record by two shots with what is believed to be an area high school record 64.

LCM won the team title by 29 shots over West Brook. with a 304.

Nederland shot 372. Charles Morgan and Owen Harren both carded 91 for the Bulldogs. Jacob Kotzur added a 94 and Tyler Louviere posted a 96.

Craig Fontenot of Groves made it two weeks in a row for someone to celebrate a hole-in-one at Babe Zaharias. Fontenot sank a gap wedge from 119 yards on the 15th hole March 15 for his fourth ace. The shot was witnessed by Billy Foret.

With Craig Geoffroy’s 66 leading the way, his team that included Gary Fontenot, Keith Marshall and Bobby Kimball easily won the front with minus 10 in Monday’s Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Zaharias. On the back, the foursome of Ronnie LaSalle, Joe Gongora, Rick Pritchett and Richard Malone prevailed with minus 3.

The Super Saturday Senior 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of LaSalle, Fontenot, Pritchett and Stu Ellis win the front at minus 3. There was a tie on the back at minus 3 between the team of James Vercher, Don MacNeil, Larry Johnson and Thad Kieschnick and the team of Brian Mirabella, Everett Baker, Jeremy Heimler and a ghost player.

James Shipley and LaSalle tied for medalist honors with 71s.

In the Friday 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Russ Gloede, Steve Wisenbaker, Rufus Reyes and Darrell Mouille tied the front at minus 2 with the foursome of Shipley, Baker, Harrell Guidry and Richard Menchaca.

Even par won the back for the team of Doug LeBlanc, Bob Byerly, Ellis and John LeBlanc. Doug LeBlanc’s 72 was good for medalist.

The Tuesday, March 16, 2 ball ended in a sweep for the team of Tony Trevino, Earl Richard, MacNeil and Guidry. They were 4 under on the back and 3 under on the front.

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