This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of MemphiSport.
A young golfer in the Mid-South is making a name for himself, not only locally, but nationally. While some people might recognize the name Brad Olsen, it is his son Zach that is making his own name for himself on the junior golf circuit. He is currently the number one ranked junior golfer in the state of Tennessee and 15th in the country according to Golf Week. He was also named USJGT “Rising Star” in 2005-2006. There are many other awards that he has won in his young and promising career.
Zach is a Junior at Memphis University School (MUS) and just recently committed to Oklahoma State to play golf there. At MUS, he plays under Coach Cliff Frisby, and competes in team, as well as individual events. His dad, Brad is the General Manager and PGA Director of Golf at Colonial Country Club, and played golf in college, finishing out at Centenary. His mom, Julie, also played college golf at Illinois State, winning a few tournaments during her time there. If you can’t tell, golf is in his blood.
Now, while it is mentioned that his parents both played golf, they did not necessarily force him into becoming a golfer himself. “They did not push me, it was totally my decision.” When asked if they were excited when he told them he wanted to play, Olsen responded, “Oh yeah, once I told them I wanted to play, they helped me out a lot.”
Zach also has a younger sister, Katie, whom he cares for very much. She does not play golf, but enjoys swimming, gymnastics, and other things, but finds golf boring.
In 2008, Zach came on to the scene in a big way as he won the Division 2 state title in Tennessee as an eighth grader. Yes, an eighth grader. He is the only one to do that in the history of the event. He also won Best in Preps that year. He didn’t play in this past year’s tournament, instead went and played in the Ping Invitational, which is “one of the top two tournaments of the year,” according to Olsen.
Now, while Zach does spend a lot of his free time at the golf course, especially during the summer, he also enjoys many other things. He goes to MUS football games, and enjoys playing ping pong as well. His favorite current golfer is Hunter Mahan, as he is a “Ping guy” like Olsen, and his favorite golfer of all-time is Jack Nicklaus.
The goal of Olsen is to make it a professional golfer, but his fallback plan is to become a lawyer, as he will study law at Oklahoma State. Olsen committed to OSU this November and chose them over the University of Florida. There are a few different reasons why Olsen chose to be a Cowboy instead of a Gator. One of the reasons is the course that Oklahoma State practices and plays on, Karsten Creek. Karsten Creek is located in Stillwater and was the site of the Ping Invitational that he participated in this year. The other reason is that his parents grew up in the Midwest; his mom from Illinois and his dad from Nebraska.
Olsen will continue the rich history, as well as the recent success of Cowboys’ golf. Included in that is two National Championships in the past twelve years (2000 and 2006). Also, a plethora of current golfers on the PGA tour can call Oklahoma State their alma mater; including Zach’s favorite Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Memphian Casey Wittenberg, and Bo Van Pelt.
The young man has high hopes for himself, but none of his goals are out of reach. He has determination and all the tools to make it. Zach Olsen is a name that people need to remember, because it will be heard again.
Written by Ben Hogan, photo courtesy of Memphis University School