Oklahoma State's true freshman Zachary Olsen's blood runs with golf. His parents played in college, his dad played on the PGA Tour and worked as a club professional. They make for good caddies, too. He said his mother typically caddies for him, while his dad did it last year at his Southern Amateur victory last year.
“I've had golf all around me,” he said.
He grew up entrenched in the sport. Along with his parents' golfing pasts, he said growing up in a golf-crazed city fueled his golfing career from a young age.“It's very popular in Memphis. Its very important to the Memphis people,” he said.
Before he started playing, Olsen would tag along with his dad to the local club to hang out while his dad practiced or worked. But he never developed an interest in playing until he saw his dad at a PGA tournament. When Zachary was 8-years-old, he watched his dad play at the St. Jude Classic near his home in Memphis. Less than a year later, Olsen started his family's second generation of golf.
“I saw everything that was going on and thought golf was cool so I decided to start playing after that,” he said.
From there, his Dad became a catalyst in Olsen's career. They formed a bond over a sport that his dad spent a life playing, a legacy he passed on to his son. When Olsen decided at eight that he wanted to be like his dad, his father tirelessly worked with Zachary on the practice greens and at the driving range.
“He's everything for me in golf,” he said.
When Zach's entered his match-play round against Stanford's David Boote, his NCAA-championships inexperience didn't get to him. He was “a little nervous” before teeing off, but said his past experience and lessons from his dad's days playing the PGA Tour helped remind him to stay cool. His dad wasn't caddying for him this time, but Olsen still felt his presence.
“Whether he's there or not, he's right beside me, walking with me because he's taught me everything,” he said. “How my thought process is. Everything's from him.”
Olsen had been preparing for this day since he signed up to play at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys own a storied history in NCAA golf. They have ten national championships, the second most in the NCAA era. They are one of two teams with double digit national titles. For Olsen, he came to Oklahoma State to add to that legacy. Even as a true freshman.
“I thought I was good enough to have a chance to play and obviously, coming to Oklahoma State, that's what you expect,” he said. “If you don't expect to go to play in the national championship, you shouldn't come to oklahoma state. That's what Oklahoma State's about,” he said.
When Olsen defeated Boote three-and-two and helped Oklahoma State advance to the championship round, he knew it was for something bigger than himself. Before he came to Oklahoma State, his match-play experience was playing for himself, he said. He didn't have teammates relying on him then.
“I just knew i needed to get a point for the team. I knew the match was real close, and i just knew i needed to scrap out a win somehow,” he said.
After the win, Zach reminisced on growing up with golf because of his dad. The days and nights they spent together on the course. Without the countless hours they spent together bonding, learning and growing, he wouldn't be at Prairie Dunes about to play the biggest match of his life. This year has been a decade in the making for Olsen.
It all goes back to his dad.
“It's all the nights we were grinding on the range together, and on the putting green. I think those are really special moments,” he said. “Maybe the ones that kind of go unnoticed, but that's what allows us to have special moments.”
“I owe everything to him, really.”