Ex-volunteer Gilchrest returns to Chitimacha Louisiana Open as a player

Matt Gilchrest talks to the media on Tuesday at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club. Gilchrest will make his Web.com Tour debut at this week’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS. Gilchrest once serve as a scorecard volunteer for the tournament when he was a kid.

BROUSSARD — With a field that features a former Masters champion (Mike Weir), a U.S. Ryder Cup team star (Boo Weekly), and a two-time Chitimacha Louisiana Open champion (Casey Wittenberg), the name Matt Gilchrest may not register with golf fans compared to those more well-known competitors.

But you will be hard pressed to find someone with a more interesting connection to the annual Web.com Tour event held at Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club.

Gilchrest knows the golf course very well as he spent many an afternoon playing the course (he estimates at least 200 times) while living in the area for four years as a kid before his family moved to Texas. Gilchrest also has the additional, and valuable, knowledge of having served as a tournament volunteer.

Back in 2007, Gilchrest was one of the hundreds of volunteers that help the tournament hum right along, but that year the then-12-year-old strolled through the course carrying a portable scoreboard. Then for that Sunday’s championship round, Gilchrest got to witness the crowning of a champion up close — and it was all because he didn’t have a cell phone.

Tee times for that Sunday were moved up due to the threat of inclement weather.

“I was a kid so I didn’t have a cell phone, so I missed my tee time,” Gilchrest said. “So there’s only a few left by the time I got here, but the guy that was supposed to do the last group didn’t show up. So I took advantage and did live scoring for the last group.”

Gilchrest was assigned as the walking scorer for the final pairing of the day, which included Skip Kendall who would go on to defeat Paul Claxton in a playoff to win the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

“(Kendall) stuck around after getting the trophy, took a picture with me and signed a ball,” said Gilchrest, who attended Ascension Day School and St. Pius Elementary as a child. “I still have that ball. That day, it was like, this pro golf thing sounds pretty cool.”

That young boy who witnessed a champion being crowned a dozen years ago will tee off Thursday morning in search of claiming his own championship at Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club.  

After turning pro in 2017, the former Auburn golfer has played on the PGA Tour’s Mackenzie Tour-Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Gilchrest will be making his Web.com Tour debut this week. Gilchrest played in 10 events in Canada and then made 12 cuts and finished in the top ten on the money list for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

“It’s incredible for two reasons,” said Gilchrest, who fondly remembers being strapped into a golf cart by his father Eric and given a supersized order of McDonald’s french fries to occupy him during the round. “I’m so grateful to be here. Since I’m a conditional member, this is my first start, and if I play well I can earn a full season out here. But for this first start to be here, the one that hopefully gets the ball rolling, where I have all the history, incredible is an understatement.”

Gilchrest, who is playing in the tournament due to receiving a Tour exemption, admits that playing the course this time around will be far more difficult than his last time when he played as a child from the red tees.

“I remember the greens and around the greens a lot but I have to learn the fairways a little bit,” Gilchrest said. “I don’t really remember the entire hole but I do remember the greens. The biggest difference is me. I am not playing from the reds. It is a little longer now.”