By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
On the day Burke Alford was born, Eddie Lyons was already old enough to play on golf’s senior tour.
And yet there they were on Wednesday as they played a practice round together in preparation for this week’s Louisiana State Amateur, which begins today at Southern Trace Country Club.
It’s the perfect example of an event that takes all types.
There is the 70-year-old Lyons, the 1991 State Am champion, first played in this event in 1972 – almost even before Alford’s parents were born. That year it was played at Shreveport Country Club, which doesn’t even exist anymore.
The 20-year-old Alford, who just finished his second year on the UL-Lafayette golf team after graduating from Loyola College Prep, is playing in this event for the second time. Actually, Alford is trying to finish his first State Am after getting DQ’d last year following a mix-up on the back nine in the second round after it looking like he was on his way to making the cut.
But if you think the 50 years difference in their ages for Lyons and Alford would make for an unlikely pairing for a practice round, think again. It’s a learning opportunity for both.
“These kids hit it 40 yards past me … I can hit it 280 (off the tee),” Lyons said. “It’s just a different game now from what I am used to. But I get a look at what I am up against.”
“He’s obviously played in a lot of these events, so I’m just looking to kind of pick his brain on how he plays,” Alford said. “I like to see why he plays certain shots on certain holes and see what his perspective is.”
Alford had better get as much information as he can. “This is it for me,” Lyons said. “I still love to compete and I still get that feeling on the first tee. But I wouldn’t be even be playing (this year) if it wasn’t for it being at Southern Trace.”
“I’ve got a couple of years of amateur golf under my belt and this is a tournament at home so there’s a little bit of an advantage,” Alford said. “The first couple of days I’m just trying to put myself in position and hopefully on the weekend, I can try to be in it.”
This will be the sixth time for Southern Trace to host the event, but the first since a major renovation two years ago. That played a role in the State Am getting back to Shreveport for the first time since 2013, according to Jacob Oaks, the director of championship operations for the Louisiana Golf Association.
“That was a huge deal for us (for selection),” Oaks said. “First of all, they did an amazing job. It’s incredible what they did and it’s in almost perfect condition. If you played it a lot in the past, I don’t think you’d notice too much difference. Except for the greens. They are fair, but they really provide a good test. It’s going to be a treat for the players.”
Lyons, a member at Southern Trace, agrees with that assessment.
“It will be interesting because of the renovations,” said Lyons, who last played in the State Am in 2019 and made the cut at age 67. “The greens are fast and they are hard to read. It takes a while to pick up on what putts are going to do.”
There is a wide variety of participants in the 144-man field – including two former NFL players (Kyle Williams and Billy Joe Tolliver) – but Lyons thinks the winner after four rounds will come from the under-25 age category.
Winners typically haven’t typically come from the host city (though Shreveport’s Eric Ricard won in 2013, the last time it was played at Southern Trace).
If you add heredity into the mix of age and location, Shreveport’s Holden Webb should feel pretty good about his chances. The first-year LSU golfer (and a 2022 graduate of Loyola) is the son of Craig Webb, who finished second at Southern Trace in 1992 and went on to win in 1994 and 1999.
“He doesn’t talk much about it,” Webb said of his father’s success at the State Am.
“Everyone is always there to win,” Webb said. “I think that’s a given. I’m just going to try to stay in the present with each shot and just take it step by step and just try to let the results take care of themselves. But this is my first State Am, so I really don’t know what it’s going to be like.”
And if he drives back home with the 104th State Am crown, his father might well remind him that he’s still one behind in their Webb household.
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