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Zac Blair - All roads lead to the PGA Tour
Where do you start when discussing PGA Tour rookie Zac Blair?
The twenty-four year old has been riding the crest of a wave in 2014. He turned professional in March and played his first tournament on the Latino America Tour where he finished in a tie for 17th in the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open. With rounds of 69, 68, 67, 67 he was under par on ever day. Not a bad way to start your professional career.
After just seven starts on the LatinoAmerican Tour, where he had six Top 25 and three Top 10 finishes, Zac made his way into the U.S. Open field after advancing through the qualifying events. With only a handful of professional starts to your name you would expect most young players to be overawed by the situation.
Author Mick McGill poses with an autographed golf ball from former Utah State Amateur champion and PGA TOUR rookie Zac Blair.
Not Zac. He made the most of his opportunity at Pinehurst and showed the crowds what he has to offer by finishing in a tie for 40th. It was made even more memorable when in the last round his father joined him on the fairway of the 18th and carried his sons clubs. It is worth mentioning that it was also Fathers Day. Zac said of the day, “It was a pretty sweet experience”.
One thing you notice when talking to Zac is his quiet and calm disposition. Nothing seems to over whelm him or ruffle his feathers. He takes it all in his stride and makes the most of every opportunity.
The Web.Com Tour then came calling with Zac receiving invites to play a few tournaments. Again he hit the ground running and grabbed the bull by the horns. Another challenge was accepted. He started off with a tie for 7th in the Nova Scotia Open and backed that up with a tie for 11th in front of his home crowd at the Utah Championship.
From just eight starts on the Web.Com Tour he had managed five Top 25 finishes which included a tie for second at the Price Cutter Charity Championships. He was well and truly on his way to the Web.Com Tour Finals.
It was at this point that the train slightly fell off the tracks as he missed the cut in the first three tournaments of the finals. Never one to be fazed Zac said, “With the way the format was, I knew that one good week could change everything and that kind of kept me going those four weeks and it was great to put it all together that last week”.
The final event was the Web.Com Tour Championship and Zac certainly put it all together. Heading into the tournament he needed to finish in 5th place to get his PGA Tour card. Playing on the Valley course at TPC Sawgrass he opened with a bogey free 7 under Par 63 to equal the course record.
Talking about the round Zac said, “I kind of had everything going that day. I was hitting some good shots and making some putts. It was obviously a good start and a nice start to the week”. In true Zac style he was underplaying his achievement. It is also worth noting he only had 23 putts for the round!
On the final day he was in a tie for 3rd with nine holes to play. It was time to step on the gas. Zac had birdies on 10, 11, 12 and 17 to finish 2nd and claim his golden ticket. The PGA Tour was calling.
Zac said, “I got off to a rough start that day. Made a double bogey and maybe threw a birdie in there on the front nine. I was right near that spot I needed to finish and I was able to put it all together on that back nine”.
With his PGA Tour card in hand he stepped out on the main tour and played in the next five tournaments. This was golf on a totally different level. The LatinoAmerica and Web.Com tours are one thing however performing on the PGA Tour is a totally different beast.
First up was the Frys.com Open where Zac finished in a tie for 12th just five shots back from the winner Sang-moon Bae. The Top 10 included players like Hunter Mahan, Martin Laird, Retief Goosen and Hideki Matsuyama and Zac was playing alongside them. It was a long way from slogging it out down in Mexico.
The results continued with a 32nd at the McGladrey Classic and a 23rd in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Five starts in to his PGA Tour career and Zac is mixing it with the world’s best.
When asked about his great start on the PGA Tour Zac said, “I was ready and was expected to play. We did not get that much of a break so I was chomping at the bit. It was a nice start and I had a couple of good finishes. I am looking forward to the start of next year”.
In less than nine months Zac has played on three tours, graduated from Brigham Young University with his degree in Recreation Management, married his sweetheart Alicia and seen his world ranking go from 1514th to 219th in the World. Not a bad year in anyone’s book.
Never one to take it easy and rest on his laurels, Zac made the journey to Australia to play in the Australian Masters and Australian Open. On his decision to travel Down Under Zac said, “I have never been down there before and thought it was a good opportunity to go down and see some other golf courses”.
Zac managed a Top 25 finish in the Australian Masters in Melbourne however he missed the cut in the Australian Open in Sydney. He said of the Aussie Open experience, “It was a tough test. The wind was about the toughest I have ever played in. It was an awesome course. I will definitely be back”.
Travelling to Australia with Zac was his wife Alicia. Asked about having her in Australia with him and weather she would be joining him on the Tour next year Zac said, “We were married just a few weeks ago so it has been great to have her here and share the experience. She will travel with me most of the time next year. It has been a great experience for both of us this first season”.
As for goals on the PGA Tour season next year Zac said, “One will obviously be to keep my card. That is kind of the main one right now. If I do that everything else kind of takes care of itself”.
We will next see Zac teeing it up at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. In the meantime he can sit back and enjoy the festive season and reflect on his achievements to date. No doubt there will be time to enjoy his other interests such as snow skiing and watching his favourite team the New England Patriots.
2014 has been a fantastic year for Zac. He has achieved so much in such a short period of time. Getting on the PGA Tour is hard. Staying on it is even harder however this young man has a head on his shoulders that far out ways his youthful age.
Zac has a saying that ‘Big time players make big time putts’. Judging on his rise through the ranks it won’t be long before he is being considered just that.
Remember his name. We will be hearing it a lot more in 2015.
Michael McGill is a freelance sports writer living in Sydney, Australia. McGill writes weekly golf previews for all events on the PGA Tour and would love to one day watch the Masters in person. Other interests include American Football and English Premier League football. Story reposted from www.sportsnews.com.au with permission.