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BOB WEST ON GOLF — Inaugural Babe Zaharias Open, Beaumont Country Club given high marks

Somewhere up above last weekend, Babe Zaharias probably delivered a high five to fellow LPGA Hall of Famer Marilynn Smith in celebration of a successful rebirth of the Babe Zaharias Open at Beaumont Country Club.

It wasn’t, of course, the LPGA, but you have to think the two former BZO champs were thrilled at the stepping-stone opportunity the Women’s All Pro Tour event provided aspiring young female golfers. And the Babe, who loved theatrics, could not have written a much better script than former Lamar star Julie Aime winning a down-to-the-wire battle.

For a tournament postponed in June because of COVID-19 concerns, getting the BZO off the ground on a less favorable date was testimony to the drive and persistence of Zaharias Foundation president W.L. Pate Sr. Pate was having no part of a cancellation and provided the leadership to land key sponsors necessary to get the inaugural BZO off the ground.

He did such a good job, APT/WAPT president Gary DeSerrano was duly impressed and left no doubt there will be another BZO next June.

“By all accounts, the inaugural Beaumont Emergency Center Babe Zaharias Open was a huge success,” said DeSerrano. “Beaumont Country Club was a perfect setting for the event. The WAPT pros felt it was the best course we play all year and said they look forward to returning.

“I appreciate W.L. Pate and the Babe Zaharias Foundation board for having the vision to help bring women’s professional golf back to Southeast Texas. Our tentative dates for 2021 are June 21-25.”

Pate, as you would expect, was elated over how things played out, right down to Aime winning by one stroke with an eight-under-par 208. He was especially pleased that tournament proceeds are likely to lead to a donation of at least $10,000 toward the renovation of the Babe Zaharias Museum.

“I am so excited about the tournament and how well received it was,” he said. “A lot of our people worked really hard to make this happen. I am already looking forward to next year. Word will spread among the players and we’ll have a bigger and better event.”

Especially noteworthy about the BZO was the fact it helped educate a generation of young women on who and how great Babe Zaharias was. Pate arranged for a busload of the players to visit the museum and said he got tremendous feedback.

“A lot of them knew about Babe’s golf accomplishments, but most of them had no idea of her other sports exploits, he noted. “It was educational for them.”

Meanwhile, a somewhat overlooked aspect of the tournament was what an international event it turned out to be. Players from seven foreign countries, including Mexico, South Africa, India, Colombia and France were in the field. And 18 states were represented.

That’s a pretty big deal for Southeast Texas.

No question, then, the Babe is celebrating. And you have to think the best is yet to come.

CHIP SHOTS

Jaxon Wolf, a freshman on the Port Neches-Groves golf team, scored some bragging rights with teammates last week when he authored his first hole in one at Babe Zaharias.

Wolf used an 8-iron from 151 yards on the second hole. The ace was witnessed by Justin Knott, Luke Wolf and Rusty Glover. …

Chris Stroud, after missing the cut by one stroke in the opening event of the 2020-21 PGA season following rounds of 70-70, returns to action this week at the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Rebublic. Lamar ex Shawn Stefani is also in the field. …

Braden Bailey was back at it on the APT Tour in Manhattan, Kansas, Tuesday after making a strong showing in a Korn Ferry Monday qualifier. Bailey, who is working on a swing tweak suggested by Chuck Cook, shot a four-under-par 68 after opening his round with three consecutive bogeys. He played his final 11 holes in seven under to tie for 17th in a field of 102 players.

Unfortunately, he needed to finish seven under to gain a spot in the Korn Ferry Wichita Open. The qualifier was on the same Sand Creek Station Country Club course where he missed an APT cut last week with rounds of 76-70 …

Entries are still being accepted for the 25th annual Joe Williamson Memorial Scramble set for Saturday at Babe Zaharias. Format is a flighted, 2-player scramble. Entry fee is $50 per player. Call 409 722-8286 to enter. …

Entries are also being accepted for the Fourth Annual Tee-Off For the YMCA fundraiser set for Friday, Oct. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at Babe Zaharias. Entry fee is $150 per player or $600 per team for the four-player scramble. All proceeds go to the YMCA scholarship fund.

For more information, contact Lindsey Rossi at 409-962-6644 or email lrossi@ymcasetx.org . . .

The Super Saturday 2-ball at Zaharias saw a tie on the front at even par between the team of James Shipley, Gary Fontenot, Gene Jones and Buddy Hicks and the foursome of Ronnie LaSalle, Joe Gongora, Mark Osborne and Keith Marshall.

On the back, the team of Kenny Robbins, Danny Robbins, Thad Kieschnick and Ronnie Hicks won with minus-2. …

In the Wednesday Zaharias DogFight, played in an all-points-count format, the team of LaSalle, Rick Pritchett, John LeBlanc and a ghost player won with 25 points. Placing second with 24 points was the team of Fontenot, Danny Robbins, Keith Mullins and Marshall.

Closest to the pin winners were Kenny Robbins (12 feet, 11 inches, No. 2), Marshall (2-2, No. 7), LeBlanc (10-9, No. 12) and Don MacNeil (6-0, No. 15).