Golfer Zachary Olsen has tested his skills on the country’s most challenging courses since we featured him as a Can-do Kid in 2011.
Then a student at Memphis University School and Tennessee’s top-ranked junior golfer, he told us he planned to join the pros. It turns out that Zachary has stuck to his plan. Now he’s playing in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, alongside many of the game’s top pros.
He recently received a sponsor exemption into the tournament. The Cordova native was celebrating his 20th birthday when he got the phone call; the news came as he shared cake with his family. Let’s just say it made for one memorable party.
The next day, he headed to TPC Southwind to compete in the Pro-Am and practice. He’s busy chipping and sharpening shots, but we caught up with his family to find out about preparations.
“I’m so excited for him,” says his mother, Julie. “He had applied for an exemption, and it came as a last-minute surprise. It’s a complete boost.”
With his dad, Brad, acting as caddy and coach, Zachary competes in the first round on Thursday and second round on Friday. Brad, who played for New Mexico State and Centenary College, has coached his son since he started the game at age 9.
“Brad feels that Zach has worked so hard, and now he’s getting the opportunity to prove himself.”
It isn’t the young man’s first PGA Tour event – he played at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March after winning the prestigious Southern Amateur in 2013. A rising sophomore at Oklahoma State, he just returned from playing the NCAA Championship Final, where his college team finished runners-up to Alabama.
While Zachary isn’t eligible to win money in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, he welcomes the pressure of teeing off on the famous green. “You can’t expect to get these opportunities, but you work hard and hope for them,” says Julie, who played golf for Illinois State University.
Both parents have patiently walked courses and driven thousands of miles so their son could attend tournaments. They connect with his passion.
“Once Zach got a little taste of tournament golf at age 10, he couldn’t get enough,” says Julie.
When the athlete tees off, Julie and Brad will be watching from the gallery, along with their daughter, Katie, and Zach’s proud grandparents. If you’re heading to the tournament, look for our Can-do Kid. His game face is one of intense concentration, but he’s known to flash a winning smile when he’s pleased with a shot. In 2011, he told us, “I enjoy trying to get better and knowing that I can get better.”
That he has. Best of luck to this dedicated athlete.