News Column

Musician competing in World Am just as rhythmical on golf course

August 26, 2014

By Alan Blondin, The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Aug. 27--One of the biggest knocks against the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is the perception that there are so-called "sandbaggers" in the field: players competing with inflated handicaps to improve their chances of winning.

No one can accuse Lyon Lazare of Villa Park, Calif., of being a sandbagger. He played in last year's World Am with a handicap of +2.4 that is much better than scratch, and has to be considered the best player among more than 3,400 competitors this week as he entered with a +3.5 handicap that was as low as +4.7 earlier this year -- the equivalent of a competitive professional.

The scary thing is, golf may be secondary among Lazare's talents. He's a composer and concert pianist who played four standing room-only shows in China as a 15-year-old and has studied environmental architecture abroad.

Even scarier for his opponents this week, he combines his three interests into one on the golf course. "I like to look at my golf game as a form of architecture and music, the way I'm creating different shots and the way I move the ball," he said.

That concerto of focus is what his opponents in the World Am's newly created gross flight are facing this week, and his game has been near poetry in motion recently. Last Tuesday, he beat Michael Block, who won the $550,000 PGA Professional National Championship in June at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, in a skins match at Block's home course, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif., by a shot with an 8-under 64.

"Normally seven under would easily win the low gross by a couple shots," Block said. "It definitely surprised me. The kid's got a lot of game, no doubt, to come out and shoot that score in a money game."

Lazare won the unofficial low gross title last year, as tournament officials invited the low gross players in the men's, senior, mid-senior, super senior and women's divisions to the championship round at the Dye Club and he finished first to earn a golf bag and a few other prizes.

At least this year he has a gross flight to compete in, as it was disconcerting to have tournament officials adding three and four shots to each of his scores last year because of his plus handicap, while others he was competing against were having strokes subtracted.

He entered the tournament last year to play in something competitive on some new courses and spend a bonding week with his father, Tom, an architect who often travels to his offices in several countries. Lazare didn't know of the handicap adjustments until he had teed off in the first round and was conversing with his playing partners. "I'd shoot 70 and they'd make it like a 73 or 74," said Lazare, who still finished third in the first flight's net competition. "I was like, 'This is not helping me at all. Throw me a bone here.' "

Lazare holds the outright lead in the gross division at 73-74-147 despite finishing 3 over in his final three holes Monday -- including his first double bogey in about 15 rounds -- and battling back spasms for 15 holes Tuesday.

The musical influence

Lazare has played piano since he was 3, and his four other siblings also play, though his 21-year-old sister, Foya, is the only one who has performed with him in concert. It's a family mandate that all of the Lazare children play an instrument, and piano is among the easiest to learn at first.

"With one finger you can make the noise," said Tom, who plays guitar. "With guitar you have to hold one string and make a noise with the other. So piano is easiest and everybody plays.

"... To me music is food for the soul. You can give your feelings with your fingers, with your mind."

The family has three grand pianos in the house, including an 11-foot Pearl River they say is one of the three largest pianos in the world. Lazare said the other two are in China.

His first concert came at the age of 14 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, during which he played his 9-minute composition and said he broke a world record with 25 accompanying pianos and a full orchestra.

He also played the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood, was one of the first ever performers at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., and had his two-week tour of China.

Lazare has composed classical, jazz and new age music that encompasses an orchestra, and has recently changed his musical focus to hip hop and R&B with influences of rap, and has a new CD planned incorporating those genres, as well as another incorporating alternative rock. Everything he composes begins with a melody on the piano.

Lazare still composes music and plays golf in honor of his sister, Anya, who drowned when he was 11 in the family swimming pool in 2002 at the age of 16 months. "Right after that is when I started composing music in her memory," Lazare said. "That's where my music aspect came into play; I was kind of putting my feeling into music. It's a great way to expose your feelings and get everything out. That's why I think music is so powerful. All my songs I created on the piano are in her memory, so I always remember that, too, when I'm playing them."

He recalls Anya used to pick yellow daisies on golf courses and give them to him, and was present for a few of his wins. "I see those all the time on the golf course so I think of her all the time," Lazare said. "... Most of the stuff I do is in her memory."

Excelling in golf

Lazare was introduced to golf at the age of 7 by his maternal grandfather, who was a PGA golf professional. While in Lake Tahoe one weekend -- Lazare was also on a ski team -- he thought he was going fishing but his grandfather took him to a driving range instead.

"I went out there and hit a bucket [of balls], and I was like, 'I want to hit another. I want to hit another,' " Lazare recalled. "I hit a couple buckets the first day and was really excited. The next day he was like, 'We're going to go fishing now.' I was like, 'No, I want to go back to the range.' From there I just kind of fell in love with it."

Lazare was home-schooled, and by the time he was 9 his mother could drop him off at a golf course and pick him up eight hours later after he had hit 1,000 balls or more. "I never got tired of it," Lazare said. "I kind of grinded it into my mind."

He estimates he won his age group in more than 200 junior tournaments between the ages of 9 and 15, including many on the Southern California PGA's Desert and Metro junior tours. He has traveled the world to play golf, including at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland as a 12-year-old.

But he took a couple years away from the game when he studied environmental architecture for six months in 2008 in Panama and eight months in 2010 in Italy, and concentrated in between on music and his studies. He enrolled in an architecture program at Orange Coast Community College.

"After I got back from Italy I went to Orange Coast and was looking at the golf team and thought, 'Why am I not on the golf team right now?' " Lazare said. "So I started getting back into it."

After playing at Orange Coast he transferred to play for two years at NCAA Division III Chapman, where he changed his major to communications with a minor in leadership, in part to focus more on golf. "I couldn't do architecture, music and golf, it was an overload on all three of them," he said.

He won the Costa Mesa City Championship with an 11-under 63-68-131, won a 2013 U.S. Open first stage qualifier before coming up short in the sectionals, and was the first alternate from his site in a 2014 U.S. Amateur qualifier.

"Golf is in my focal eye right now. I'd like to pursue it," said Lazare, who is somewhat wary of the travel required to play at the highest levels and is trying to determine if it's something he wants to pursue professionally or merely as a hobby.

He's contemplating entering the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in the fall of 2015, giving himself a chance to compete in 2016 on the PGA Tour's primary feeder circuit.

Next winter he intends to attempt Monday qualifiers for early-season PGA Tour events in California -- the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

These days, he's practicing and playing around his schedule as the membership coordinator at Aliso Viejo Country Club and trying to win a World Am title.

"I developed my swing so much my body knows exactly what to do," said Lazare, who hasn't had a swing coach for eight years and calls his grandfather with any golf questions.

Some of his musical exploits are viewable at LyonLazare.com.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or on Twitter @alanblondin, or read his blog Green Reading at myrtlebeachonline.com

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(c)2014 The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Visit The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) at www.thesunnews.com

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Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC)


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