By Michael Bower
The stakes were about as high as they can get for a 10-year-old girl. Succeed and you get your ears pierced. Fail and you have to go two more dreadful years without those beautiful earrings you have been eyeing in the storefront window.
Well, that just wasn’t an option for Maddelyn Zack.
“My dad said I couldn’t get my ears pierced until I was 12 unless I beat him in golf, hit a hole-in-one or qualified for the Junior World Championships,” recalled Zack, who is now a junior at Poway High. “I did all three in the same week and we went right away and got my ears pierced.”
While having the opportunity to put on those first set of earrings was pretty motivating, Zack, who will turn 16 in early October, has just as much inspiration to qualify for her first CIF SoCal Regional and state tournaments this season.
The left-hander came up just short of reaching the SoCal Regional last year, finishing with a two-round total of 156 — just three shots short of being included in a playoff for the final two individual spots into the regional.
“Making the regional and maybe even state is definitely what I am hoping for,” Zack said. “Last year, I played well during CIF, but the overall season I didn’t think was that great. This year I have been more consistent.”
The reason for that could be the work she put in over the summer. Aside from playing several tournaments locally, Zack went to Michigan for a few weeks and ended up playing 12 rounds of golf in the first 14 days.
She played in the Michigan Women’s Open in June, which consisted of a mixture of professional and amateur golfers. Zack, who was the second youngest golfer in the field, finished in an impressive 69th place.
“That is pretty good because there were something like 45 professionals out there playing,” she said. “The whole Michigan State team played so it was nice to see how I stacked up with the college golfers.”
Zack helped lead the Titans to two victories at Stoneridge Country Club last week. She carded a 41 in Poway’s 209-245 victory over Carlsbad and a 39 in a 209-234 win over La Costa Canyon at the par-37 course.
For her efforts, Zack is the Toyota of Poway Athlete of the Week.
“She is a very good ball striker and she hits a lot of fairways and greens,” Poway coach Jim Bennet said. “She has been working hard on her putting because she knows when she doesn’t three putt she will shoot under 40 every time.”
Improving the short game, in particular putting, has been the focus for Zack. She will never show it out on the golf course, but it kills her inside every time she three putts.
“I am not upset with the way I am playing, but I am just not really impressed,” Zack said. “I feel like I can be doing a lot better. I think I am thinking too much. I am thinking that I need to make this putt instead of thinking it is just one shot.”
If anyone can master the mental side of golf, it is Zack. She is very even-keeled on the golf course and always seems to have a smile on her face no matter how things are going.
“She has been like that ever since she was a freshman,” Bennet said. “Her freshman year there was a round she started four over after two holes. She ended up just two over. You can’t teach that. A lot of kids just go in the tank, but she never goes in the tank.
“We talk about having fun and being positive and finishing strong,” added Bennet. “She is the epitome of that.”
Zack hopes to carry the fun into college in a few years. She has been constantly emailing coaches and scheduling non-official visits to schools. Her father, Eric, went to Eastern Michigan University. That is one reason why Zack is somewhat interested in attending school in that area.
“I would love to stay here in California, but there are so many amazing golfers here,” she said. “I have lived here my whole life and I know it would be tough to play in the cold and it would be hard to adjust to such a drastic change. But I want to go to a Division I college with a great golf team.”
If she wants that half as bad as she wanted those pierced ears, don’t bet against her making it happen.