Michael Arnaud of Covington, La., has been a waiter and dabbled in acting while pursuing a career as a professional golfer.
“I’ve done background work on a lot of things,” Arnaud said of acting. “There are a lot of films in the New Orleans area. I’ve also done NCIS New Orleans (TV show).
“In fact, I texted Lucas (Black) yesterday. His run with the show ended (following Tuesday’s episode), but luckily he’s staying in New Orleans, so I’ve got a golf buddy.”
Arnaud is among 74 golfers in Dothan this week competing in the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying-School tournament at Highland Oaks. The top 20 players after Friday’s round will advance to the third and final stage in December in hopes of earning an exemption on the tour for the upcoming season.
The pressure isn’t nearly as intense for Arnaud, who was 1-stroke back of the cut line at 2-under-par 214 (73-69-72) following the third round on Thursday.
The 38-year-old has played well enough in the past to automatically qualify for a handful of upcoming tournaments. His biggest win was the BMW Charity Pro-Am Classic in Greenville, S.C., in 2018 on the Web.com Tour, which is now the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Luckily for me, being a past champion I’ve got for the most part the first four tournaments next year, plus the BMW which I won a few years ago, in my back pocket,” Arnaud said of having exemptions. “So that makes it a little easier.”
Arnaud played in the same threesome on Thursday with Chandler Eaton, who is competing in Q-School as an amateur as a senior on the Duke University golf team.
Arnaud understands what the younger players are going through.
“I can remember being that kid,” Arnaud said. “My first three or four years of Q-School, I would be in second stage and miss by one or two every year. I see guys that are frustrated off their first hole in the first round. I’m like, ‘Dude, there’s a lot of golf left to be played.’
“But I get it and understand it. As you get older, I’m probably in a better situation than a lot of these guys. I know I’m going to get some starts, so it’s not live or die. Just remember it’s a game; it’s a sport. They forget that sometimes.”
Arnaud was on the verge of giving up the pro dream before that first pro victory.
“It’s funny that earlier in that year I was at the point to where I was kind of blah about golf,” Arnaud said. “I had played pretty good, but just hadn’t seen a whole lot of dividends paid off.
“I told my wife, ‘You know, we’ll see where it goes the next few weeks. If not, I’ve got some options I can go to.’”
Arnaud was the final entry in the BMW tournament after a player withdrew the day before the opening round.
“I was in Oklahoma about to play a mini-tour event and I got the call and got in,” Arnaud said. “It was one of those weeks where everything kind of falls in place.
“I had told my wife earlier that week that no matter where I was playing, I felt like I was going to win. You just have that feeling. I knew where my game was and when you’re putter heats up out here in the pro world, it matters who gets the hot flag stick for the week.”
A course-tying 60 during the second round in Greenville and a final round 63 wrapped up the victory and a $126,000 paycheck. He finished at 27-under-par 257.
“It’s funny how the golf gods work,” Arnaud said. “They’ll drop something in your lap when you least expect it.”
Golf wasn’t the only thing on Arnaud’s mind Thursday. His wife is an LSU graduate, so he’ll be intently watching the big game against Alabama on Saturday.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the 9-6 we saw a couple of years ago,” Arnaud said. “I think both teams have figured out the offensive side of the ball. Used to, the longest pass Alabama and LSU threw was 3 yards in the backfield.
“I think it’s going to be a good game. I think the guys on the field have a lot of respect for each other. I’m thinking probably high 20s or low 30s,” he added of the score.
As for his final round Friday, Arnaud plans to stay loose.
“I’ll probably give it a little more gas tomorrow (Friday) and try to make a few more putts,” Arnaud said. “I’ve hit the ball great all week. I’ve hit a lot of good putts, but just haven’t seen a lot go in.”
Leaderboard: Philip Knowles of Jacksonville, Fla., is atop the board at 203, followed by Danny Walker of Bradenton, Fla., and Stephen Franken of Raleigh, N.C., at 204, Mike Schoolcraft of Denver at 205 and Taylor Dickson of Gastonia, N.C., at 207.
The low score of the day was shot by Curtis Reed of Castroville, Texas, at 66 for a three-day 214.