Did You Know Lafayette Hosted a PGA Tour Tournament in the Late 50s/Early 60s?
It was a sad day yesterday for Acadiana golf fans when we learned that the Louisiana Open was being dropped from the PGA Korn Ferry Tour in 2023.
That ends a 31-year run for the tournament held in the spring at Le Triomphe in Broussard.
However, did you know that Lafayette actually used to hold a big-time PGA Tour event? Yeah, like the big boys.
OK, so the PGA Tour was not nearly as big in the middle of the 20th century as it is now, but it's still pretty cool to know that Lafayette was part of the tour.
The Cajun Classic Open Invitational held at Oakbourne Country Club
The event was held at Oakbourne Country Club and it debuted in 1958 as the Lafayette Open Invitational but was changed to the Cajun Classic Open Invitational in its third year. It was held for a total of 11 years, with the final year being 1968.
For most of its run, this tournament was the last one on the PGA Tour schedule, which attracted players fighting for position on the money list.
Past Winners of the Event
Some of the champions of the Cajun Classic Open Invitational included Acadiana's Lionel Hebert and Jay Hebert, Billy Casper, Doug Sanders, and Miller Barber. Some of the notable players to participate in some of the year's tournaments included Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player.
The total purse for the first year of the tournament was $15,000 with $2,000 going to the winner. By the last one in 1968, the first place finisher got a whopping $5,000 and the total purse was up to $35,000.
Notable Occurrences at the Cajun Classic Open Invitational
In 1962, John Barnum won the Cajun Classic Open Invitational. He was 51 years old.
What made this unique was that he became the only man in the history of the PGA Tour to earn his first win after age 50. (He still holds that distinction.)
Barnum was also the first player to win on Tour by using a Ping putter
The 1963 tournament began on Thursday, November 21, but during the second round of play, news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy swept the course.
Saturday's play was postponed out of deference to the news. The tournament would finish on Sunday with the final two rounds being played.
Why did the event end its stay in Lafayette?
The event lost the last tournament slot on the 1969 schedule. The resulting smaller field caused monetary problems that resulted in the tournament folding.
If you read this article, you'll get a feeling that our tournament in Lafayette was not viewed by many as a first-class event.
One sentence in the story sums up how the tournament was viewed.
Even by the standards of the day, the Cajun Classic was bush league – played for a miniscule purse, on a below-grade track and at times in horrible weather.
Oakbourne Country Club, on the other hand, continues to thrive to this date as one of Louisiana's premier golf courses. To learn about The Course at Oakbourne Country Club, visit their website here.
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