Meridian once ruled play in State Am tourney

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
June 7, 2001
From 1931 to 1980, the Mississippi Golf Association State Amateur Championship was almost the exclusive property of Meridian golfers … Northwood Country Club golfers to be exact.
Over that 50-year span, Meridian golfers won the event an incredible 25 times. Mike Taylor led the way with 10 state am titles.
Gene Vinson was next with six and actually started the Meridian run with back-to-back-to-back championships from 1931-33. Vinson also won in 1938, 1940, and 1949.
H.G. Weddington (1939, 1947, 1948) and Eddie Merrins (1950, 1953, 1955) both have three state championships to their credit. Johnny Lang (1976, 1980) has won the event twice and Chuck Rea (1969) won it once to complete the dynasty.
However, since Lang's win in 1980, Meridian golfers have experienced a 20-year drought in the state's most prestigious men's amateur tournament.
Nobody knows that better than Taylor, who won his first championship in 1965, followed it up with another in 1966, and captured his third in 1968 and his fourth in 1970. Taylor then single-handedly kept the championship in Meridian for four straight years, winning from 1972-75. He ended his reign with back-to-back championships in 1977 and 1978.
Nobody has so totally dominated the tournament before or since, although Taylor said don't be surprised if three-time defending champion Rett Crowder, 30, of Jackson rules the event for a good while.
One reason Taylor said why the championships have been scattered across the state for the last two decades is that the colleges are turning out better golfers in the state.
And there are just more golfers and more quality courses in the state than ever before.
Crowder is chasing Taylor's record of four straight championships this week in the 86th Mississippi Golf Association State Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point.
Ironically, the two work together along with Lang in a Jackson stock market firm. For those keeping record, that's 16 state am championships among the trio.
Of the 16 rounds in which he has won the event, Crowder has a total score of 50-under par.
Northwood pro Jimmy Gamblin agreed that the quality of golf has exploded in the state.
Gamblin said at least three Meridian golfers have a realistic shot at this year's title. That group was made up of Taylor, Angero, and Judge Little.
A field of 144 golfers is slated to begin play today when the tournament opens.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com.

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