Evan Lyons has never seen video of his grandfather, El Collins, blistering tee shots on the Senior PGA Tour. But he’s heard plenty of stories.
“I don’t really have to have seen him play to know how good he was,” the Shawnee High School senior said of Collins, a onetime Ryder Cup official who spent 35 years as Reid Park’s golf pro.
“The way he plays now – he’s a 78-year-old man and still gives me a run for my money.
“Grandpa was a long-ball hitter and played really aggressive. He still really hits it far. Everybody tells me that I remind them of him and how he used to play.”
Lyons, a three-time All-Central Buckeye Conference pick and 2013 CBC Player of the Year, is also the son of four-time Wittenberg All-American and former Beavercreek Country Club of the North pro Rick Lyons. At times, he’s not sure what to make of all the medal-play DNA.
“It’s definitely a good situation because we always have something to talk about – something in common,” Lyons said of the formidable family threesome.
“But it can also be bad – like when I had to decide who my swing coach was going to be. I picked grandpa … and let’s just say dad wasn’t happy about it. But grandpa and I are best friends. I admire my grandpa for everything he’s done. He tells me stories about playing with Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman. It’s pretty cool.”
Eastern Kentucky, Toledo, Akron and Kent State are all showing interest in Lyons, a four-year varsity standout who this fall became only the second golfer in Shawnee history to carry a nine-hole stroke average under par for an entire season (35.7).
The first was 2011 state champion Clark Engle (34.2), who now plays for Ohio State.
“Hands down, they’re the two best players I’ve ever had,” said Braves coach Steve Tincher, who just completed his 12th season. “Evan shot 68 at a couple of tournaments – medalist scores – and beat some of the best golfers in Ohio.”
Though Lyons failed to advance to state following a one-hole playoff loss at Weatherwax, he’s still considered among Ohio’s premier golfers given the undeniable strength of the Division II, Southwest District.
“Clark has said more than once that it’s tougher to win district than state,” Tincher said. “He had six or seven guys to worry about at district – maybe two at state.”
This year’s D-II district field included sophomore Cameron Willis of Eaton (the 2012 state champion), Oakwood senior and 2013 individual state medalist Tripp French (who led the Lumberjacks to a state title), and Cincinnati Mariemont’s Will Grimmer (Ohio’s top-ranked junior who carded a 59 in a recent North Carolina tourney).
“Evan’s been a medalist over those guys (in other tournaments),” Tincher said. “You know it’s a competitive area when Clark and (Wayne’s) Michael Bernard each played four years but qualified for state just once (in their respective divisions).”
Lyons hits 290 to 310 yards off the tee and chips and putts with a veteran’s finesse. He’s a risk-taker, too – a more aggressive version of Engle.
“Playing with Clark definitely helped my game,” Lyons said of the 2013 Braves graduate. “We’ve been best friends since forever. The way he practices should be the way everybody practices.
“He’s more of a layup-for-birdie-or-par guy, while I’m going for the hole. I’ve always taken more risks than Clark. That’s really the only difference in our games.”
Hoping to secure a solid college offer, Lyons now shifts his focus to summer golf, where he’s coming off Player of the Year honors on the Southern Ohio PGA Junior Tour.
“That got my name out there a little bit with some of the scores I put up,” said Lyons, who in July carded a pair of 68s to win the Tour championship at Middletown’s Wildwood Golf Club.
“I always want to play well, but where you really want to play your best is during the summer. That’s when (college) coaches can come watch you play.”
And if there’s no tournament in town?
“I’m gonna play with my grandpa,” Lyons said. “Every chance I get.”