Golf: Cajuns sign No. 2 junior golfer in Louisiana, Jake Marler
Dan McDonald, The Advertiser, Nov. 20, 2019
UL golf coach Theo Sliman secured the signature of another in-state standout during the past week, continuing a trend that has seen some of Louisiana’s top prep golfers joining the Ragin’ Cajun program over the past two years.
Shreveport’s Jake Marler, who helped lead C.E. Byrd to its fifth LHSAA state high school championship in the last six years last May at The Wetlands, signed a national letter of intent on Friday during the signing period. Marler will join the Cajun team for next year’s 2020-21 season.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to join the UL team,” said Marler, who is ranked second among all Louisiana junior golfers in this fall’s listing. “It’s going to be a very fun four years. The team seems like one big family, and they all seem to push each other to get better. And everyone has each other’s back.”
A lot of those backs are close to home. This year’s 10-man Cajun roster has six Louisiana players among its number, including both of this year’s seniors who are Acadiana products — Jack Tolson of Opelousas and Westminster Christian, and Micah Goulas of New Iberia and Catholic High.
Jake Marler during the David Toms Foundation Junior All-star event Tuesday morning at Souther Trace Country Club. (Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)
Two years ago, the Cajuns signed Charlie Flynn, who was a teammate of Marler’s at Byrd High, and Flynn proceeded to have a standout freshman season in leading UL with a 73.33 stroke average — one of the 15 best season-long stroke averages in school history.
One year ago, Sliman brought aboard another of Louisiana’s top junior and high school players, when St. Thomas More’s Matt Weber — son of five-time city champion and former UL baseball player Todd Weber — came across town to become a part of the Cajun program.
The UL squad also boasts juniors Justin Caldwell of Ponchatoula and Cole Kendrick of Natchitoches, giving the Cajuns more home-state products than any other team in the Sun Belt Conference. That’s something Sliman is proud of and feels strongly about, but he also knows that it’s important to mix the Louisiana influence with other high-level players from other areas.
Juniors Peter Hinnant of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Hunter Hammett of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a transfer from Mississippi State; and sophomore Hudson Dubinski of Columbia, Missouri, have all been key additions to the Cajun roster. And Bjorn Gudjonsson, from Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, continues a proud tradition that now numbers 11 players from that country who have become pillars in the Cajun golf program.
Marler fits into that mold. The first signee for next year’s squad finished third overall at last June’s Louisiana Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship. One week later he finished fourth at the prestigious 47th annual Southern Junior Championship in Lexington, Kentucky, sandwiching three-under 69s around a middle-round 78.
One month earlier, Marler shot a three-under 141 score to finish third as a junior — after also taking third place as a sophomore — at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Division I LHSAA state meet played at The Wetlands. His second-round 70 was part of a stellar one-under 287 score posted by Byrd on the tournament’s final day — a 21-stroke improvement over the first day.
All coaches look at scores and numbers and results when evaluating players, but Sliman may put even greater emphasis on what kind of individual a potential recruit may be.
“In addition to being a talented and powerful golfer, Jake brings tremendous moral character along with a fierce competitiveness that will be a great addition to our program,” Sliman said. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the recruitment process with him.”
If anyone questions Sliman’s sincerity on valuing character and integrity just as high as on-course results, this short story may bring that into focus. I’ll always remember Sliman telling me about one thing he tries to do when he arrives at a high-level junior tournament or a championship high-school event.
He’ll arrive early, and not just to watch a prospective player hit warmup balls on the range. When possible, he gets to the tournament course before the players do, and starts watching in the parking lot. The players who have mothers or dads carrying their bag and other heavy equipment, he may have reservations about.
The guys who grab their own bag out of the trunk and head to the range with some conviction … that’s the type of player Sliman wants in his program.
“Making the Turn” appears each Wednesday in the Daily Advertiser through the end of November. Clubs, courses and individuals with information about local golf events may email Dan McDonald, editorial director at Golfballs.com, at email@example.com, FAX to (337) 857-8763 or call (337) 857-8754 and leave a message with phone number.