Byrd’s Marler makes Lyons’ State Am vision prophetic with sparkling play

CHAMPIONSHIP MOMENT: Jake Marler of Shreveport, a Byrd HS alumnus, smiles after clinching the Louisiana State Amateur golf championship Sunday at Southern Trace Country Club. (Photo  courtesy Louisiana Golf Association)


Eddie Lyons has seen a thing or two in local, and state, golf circles, so when he predicted youth would prevail in the 104th Louisiana State Amateur, it resonated.

The fact the tournament was hosted at Southern Trace Country Club in Shreveport was also noteworthy, since there’s no shortage of outstanding young talent on the links.

Emerging as the champion of the prestigious event – won nine times between 1945-59 by Shreveporter and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Jimmy McGonagill, five consecutively – was another rising local star, Byrd High graduate and UL-Lafayette junior Jake Marler.

Marler opened the week last Thursday with a 1-under-71, then shooting a 4-under 68 on Friday and a 3-under 69 on Saturday. Marler made the turn at even-par 36 in Sunday’s final round before posting a birdie at No. 10 and 15. The southpaw claimed the title with a tap-in on the par-5, No. 18.

Lyons, 70, the 1991 State Am champion and a fixture atop the local golf scene for many years, has a half-century (plus a year) in experience in the state championship. He told Shreveport-Bossier Journal writer John James Marshall last week that youth would be served.

Shreveport’s Eric Ricard won in 2013, the last time the State Am was contested at Southern Trace, which went through nearly $4 million in renovations two years ago. It was the sixth time the event has been hosted by Southern Trace.

Marler helped the Ragin’ Cajuns claim the 2023 Sun Belt Conference title and earn a berth to the NCAA Championships.

He finished 9-under for the four days of the tourney, with 18 birdies and only nine bogies.  He is the first Cajun golfer since 1996 to claim the prestigious title.

Shreveporter Charlie Bell finished 14th at 3-over. Local Burke Alford tied for 20th with a 4-over total.

Lyons made the cut and finished 26th at 10-over, while Chance Shell of Shreveport and Benton’s  Craig Barnes were among those tied for 26th at plus-11.

Marler won by three shots, topping Ruston’s Hunter Battles and Jay Mendell of Lafayette, who tied for second.

Jason Kuperman was the last local to win the crown away from Shreveport, prevailing in 2006 in Baton Rouge. Craig Webb was a two-time winner (1994, 1999) after another Shreveporter, Jay Pierson, took the 1988 State Am title.

Winners’ names are inscribed on the unique trophy, a sterling silver replica of the Louisiana State Capitol commissioned in 1934 by Gov. Huey Long. The trophy is on display at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum in Natchitoches.