Luis Gagne (Enrique Berardi/LAAC photo)
Minutes after Luis Gagne
came up two shots short of a Latin America Amateur victory, he lamented the fact that he hadn’t made more birdies. At Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course in La Romana, Dominican Republic, Gagne hadn’t really even been in the picture through the first two rounds. He made his charge on the weekend.
There was a 39-hole stretch at Teeth of the Dog – starting in the second round and ending on the next-to-last hole of the tournament – where Gagne didn’t make a single bogey. He only had five bogeys the entire week.
“For the most part, that’s kind of how I play,” Gagne said. “I don’t make a lot of bogeys, which is nice, but at the same time, sometimes I don’t have a lot of birdies. It’s very consistent, especially when I’m playing solid. I’m not going to make that many dumb mistakes.”
Ability to charge on the weekend will be a good skill for Gagne to have when, in a few months, he transitions to playing golf as a professional. Gagne, a senior at LSU, is maybe most notable for having tied for low-amateur honors at the 2018 U.S. Open. He had made it through local qualifying on a coin flip
and made the most of his opportunity.
As this phase of his golf career winds down, the Jones Cup – the most prestigious winter amateur event in the country – will be one of his final major amateur events. The past champions list at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga., is notable – think Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Kyle Stanley, D.J. Trahan. If Gagne could find his way to the top, he’d be the third LSU player to do so since the tournament began in 2001 (following Tiger freshman Garrett Barber, last year’s champion, and John Peterson, who won the 2011 NCAA title while in Baton Rouge).
Gagne was T-53 at this event a year ago, and T-19 the year before that. But this year, he brings a decided amount of momentum to Sea Island. Besides his runner-up at the Latin America Amateur, Gagne was also runner-up at the South American Amateur the week before that.
Interestingly, Gagne often travels with his own caddie, and he’ll bring his man Chris Matos, a family friend, to the Jones Cup, too. Gagne and Matos’s son Russell, a junior on the Northern Illinois University golf team, met years ago at a U.S. Kids Golf event and struck up a friendship. Two years ago, Gagne needed a caddie at the Western Amateur in the greater Chicago area, where Matos lives, so he picked up the bag.
As a golf dad, those are the “gigs” you dream about, Matos explained. He didn’t have much caddie experience, but he and Gagne mesh well. For Gagne, it’s important to have someone he knows on the bag, especially for longer events, and Matos is happy to be that guy.
“It’s cool,” Matos said at Teeth of the Dog. “It’s like the dream that you had but you’re with somebody else.”
If you learn something in every tournament start, then Gagne should have lots of notes tucked away. The U.S. Open was a big learning curve, but perhaps the Latin America Amateur drove home a more powerful lesson.
With the solo lead entering the final nine at Teeth of the Dog, Gagne reeled off birdies at Nos. 11 and 14. Tied by the 17th, he attempted a layup at the short par 4 but instead landed in a fairway bunker. He made bogey from there (with a stop in a greenside bunker) and effectively ended his title run. Later, Gagne flatly pegged his conservative play as the wrong choice.
“Whenever you’re trying to win a tournament and you bogey one of the last couple holes, you’re probably not going to win,” Gagne said.
Perhaps it awakens a more aggressive player in Sea Island, perhaps even one who chases a lot more birdies.
ABOUT THE Jones Cup
The Jones Cup is probably the biggest of the
amateur majors in the United States, and the reason
is the venue and the strong U.S. and
international field. The past champions list is littered
with PGA Tour stars, including Justin Thomas,
Patrick Reed, Luke List, Kyle Stanley, Beau Hossler
This 54-hole individual stroke-play event,
in 2001, is played at Ocean Forest Golf Club.
The Rees Jones design opened in 1995 and has
the Georgia State Amateur Championship, the
Southern Amateur Championship and the 2001
Cup Match. The Jones Cup brings together
many of the finest amateurs from the United States
and abroad for a three-day competition.
The Jones Cup was born from a deep commitment to
amateur golf by the A.W. Jones family, who
founded the Cloister and Sea Island Golf Club in
The Sea Island Golf Club has played host to
seven USGA championships. The Jones Cup is yet
another extension of the family's strong
involvement in amateur golf.
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