Ten Going on 30: Brown Dreams of PGA Tour
Zach Brown is 10 years old, going on 30.
He looks like a kid, but he talks and plays golf like a veteran.
It was another Friday afternoon and Robert Zachery Brown was getting ready to play a practice round at his grandfather’s Hyland Golf Club.
Grandpa Bill Burnette was proudly listening as Zach explained why, at the age of 10, he’s seriously working on becoming a professional player.
“Yes, I want to play on the PGA Tour,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “If I have to work every single day to make it happen, that’s what I’ll do.”
According to his father, former Wake Forest golfer Mike Brown, Zach has the desire and the drive to accomplish his dream.
“He’s got a lot of God-given talent,” Brown said, “and he enjoys practicing. He almost enjoys practicing more than playing. It’s not like work to him.”
Brown, who turned down a golf scholarship to Virginia to be a walk-on player for Jesse Haddock at Wake Forest, is 100 percent behind his son’s ambitions, but is trying to be careful to offer encouragement without being pushy about it.
“The last thing I want to do is push him to do something he doesn’t want to do,” Brown said. “But I don’t have to push him. He wants to play and he loves to practice. My role is to enable him to do that.”
“I don’t feel pushed at all,” Zach said. “There’s nothing I like to do more than golf.”
“Zach understands that he’s very fortunate and he’s appreciative,” Brown said. “We live on the Bermuda Run Course and his grandfather owns two golf courses. He has the opportunity to play and practice whenever he wants. His coach is Steve Forrest in Winston-Salem and John Buczek is his putting coach. They’re both great with him and he loves working with them.”
Zach was in the Pinehurst area last week competing in the U.S. Kids event. While his father was pleased that he finished 52nd among 156 players in the 10-year-old division at Little River Golf Resort, Zach wasn’t having any of it. He’s won more than 50 junior tournaments over the past few years and expects to be among the front-runners every time he tees it up.
“He shot two of the best rounds he’s ever had at Little River,” Brown said, of the 83-76-79 showing. “He was 10 shots better than last year.”
“I’m not happy with that,” Zach said. “I can always do better.”
He obviously can do better, as he proved in a round at Beacon Ridge Country Club on Tuesday, where he shot a 67 that included six birdies and an eagle.
Zach was excited about the weekend as he was scheduled to compete in an Eastern Junior Golf Association event being held at Hyland Hills.
“I’ve got a new driver — a Cleveland Launcher XL270,” he said, “and it feels great. I average hitting the driver about 205 yards and hit a 5-iron about 135. When I go really long with the driver I can hit it 235.”
Zach comes by his athletic talent honestly. His paternal grandfather played baseball for Wake Forest and his grandmother played five sports for the Demon Deacons.
He says he began swinging a golf club when he was 2 years old and wants to think he remembers it. He played in his first tournament when he was 6.
“That was in a Duke University AAU event, and Zach shot 123,” Mike Brown said. “A lot of kids would have been crying, but he loved it. He has a true love for the game.”
There was a problem early on with a temper on the course, but that’s been conquered, according to both Zach and his father.
“We used to call him the mini-volcano,” Mike Brown said, “but we’ve worked hard on that. He’s never thrown clubs, but he did get pretty mad with himself.”
Zach admits to the temper, but says he’s grown out of it.
“My two favorite golfers of all time are Arnold Palmer and Bob Jones,” he said. “I watched a movie about Bob Jones and he had a temper but he learned to control it. People used to say he had the face of an angel and the temperament of a timber wolf.
“Watching that movie helped me learn to control my temper — that and because every time I lost my temper I shot something terrible.”
Just how good can Zach Brown become? Only time will tell. But the promise is definitely there in his golf swing and his demeanor. In one recent round he shot a 67 with an eight. In a round at Meadowlands earlier this year he started with a double bogey, was two-over-par after three holes and then reeled off 10 birdies over the last 15 holes for a 64.
Stuart Taylor, a veteran professional who has worked with junior golfers for years and operates the EJGA, likes what he’s seen of Zach.
“He’s a seasoned player at 10 years old,’ Taylor said. “He’s got a lot of talent and he was in some deep water in the U.S. Kids tournament because there are a lot of players there with a lot of talent. He has to understand that there are a lot of kids out there working just as hard as he is.
“The way to get better is to put yourself in good competition and get comfortable with the pressure. Zach has enough talent that he may be playing in the Masters Tournament as an amateur in another six or eight years. He can be good enough to earn that opportunity in the U.S. Amateur.”
That’s high praise and lofty ambitions, but Zach appears to have the physical ability and the mental approach to make it happen.
“He thrives on tournament golf,” Mike Brown said. “He thinks he can birdie every hole. He just has that mentality.”
“A young player of his quality doesn’t think he can miss a shot,” Taylor said. Golf is the sparkle in his eye. He’s not into cars or girls yet and he just loves the game so much. It’s almost like a drug.”
It’s like when Zach has just made his seventh straight birdie. “I’m thinking, make another one,” he said.
Contact Howard Ward by email at email@example.com
More like this story