Dream to make PGA Tour
HE dresses like Rickie Fowler, stands on the same side of the ball as Phil Mickelson and shares a Christian name with two-time major winner Zach Johnson.
And if all goes to plan, and it’s a highly ambitious one, Gisborne’s Zach Rolls will one day have something far more illustrious in common with these famous names . . . a PGA Tour card.
There are many fairways to split, birdie putts to slot and lost balls to endure before then. Not to mention the shanks, yips and duffs life in general will curve-ball at him.
But the son of Steve and Jess Rolls is being given every opportunity to set himself on a path towards a goal a minute percentage of players achieve.
Now 10, and having gone through a growth spurt last year, Zach’s budding golf career has moved into the next stages.
More 18-hole rounds are a feature of that as he goes about reducing his 29.9 handicap index — an inevitability if you have the pleasure of watching him swing.
Under the guidance of the North Shore-based Institute of Golf and Poverty Bay professional Dave Keown, Zach is developing and honing every aspect of his game.
It’s an impressive sight. He has the basics down pat and a professional-like approach and on-course maturity well beyond his years. Many adult players could watch and learn from a kid who is still at primary school (Mangapapa).
Lydia Ko-like focusOn his bag most of the time is the old man, whose enthusiasm is unyielding. The pair discuss shots like Mickelson and caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay. Out comes the range-finder. Out comes a well-worn book of the distances Zach can hit the ball with each club.
There’s a Lydia Ko-like quality to his focus and he is clearly inspired by the likes of pro golf’s uber-cool Fowler — Zach wore Fowler-like pink pants and purple shirt for this interview and photo session — and newly-crowned world No.1 Jason Day.
He lists both among his favourites although he still holds a special affinity with “Leftie” Mickelson — the five-time major winner — and fellow cack-hander and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
“He’s on my side, too,” is how Zach aptly puts it.
Day’s influence on Zach was enhanced to a more direct level at a tournament in Australia this month.
The youngster has competed in some US Kids Golf NZ tournaments, and got the chance to play in one in Australia during a family trip across the Tasman for a cousin’s birthday.
Zach, with grandfather Dave Maiava caddying and mum Jess following, placed second in the 10-year-old boys’ division of the nine-hole tournament at the Mt Warren Park course in Brisbane. He shot 44 to the winner’s 40 — a quadruple-bogey on the last proving costly.
A woman following her grandson (Cooper), who was in Zach’s group, told Jess that she had a son playing on the PGA. Later in the round she revealed the son was none other than Jason Day.
"Do the Jason Day"“I thought ‘oh my God’, I’m playing with one of my hero’s nephews,” said Zach.
Day’s mother Dening and his sister Kim struck up a friendship with Jess and her dad, and the families sat together at the prizegiving.
“Jess said they were lovely people,” said Steve, who did not travel to Australia because of work.
In the build-up to the tournament, Zach and his dad had been using what turned out to be a fitting catchcry: “Do the Jason Day.”
More US Kids Golf tournaments are in the plans over summer for Zach, who is right-handed for virtually everything else.
He will continue to play at the Poverty Bay and Park courses and hopes to have more time on course with some of the district’s better young golfers.
He has already played with the likes of Poverty Bay-East Coast junior representative Matthew Watts and Gisborne Park senior club champion Daniel Collier.
While playing golf to a higher level consumes so much time — and money — his parents appreciate the need for other outlets.
Zach also plays football and is in the Gisborne 10s representative squad.
But if his progress continues on the intended track, there will come a day when golf demands his full attention.
It’s a course laden with hazards and obstacles, and the odds are stacked against him. But as he ticks off each goal and steps on to another stone, he moves that little bit closer to turning dream into reality.