Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.
Even when Zack Sucher was 5 years old, he made it a point to make money from golf.
He would go to the course with his dad, Randy, play a few holes but soon turn his attention elsewhere. He spent most of his time off in the woods and ponds gathering wayward golf balls.
It didn’t take long before Zack had collected enough balls to sell and turn a profit. Sucher recalls selling 400 golf balls for $20 – a fortune to a 5-year-old – to any person kind enough to throw a few bucks his way.
Today, nearly 20 years later, Sucher still makes it his business to make money from golf, but his sights are set at earning a few more Andrew Jacksons than he did as a kid.
One thing that hasn’t changed since his childhood is the way he marks his golf balls. If professional golf doesn’t pan out, Sucher may want to try his hand at artistry.
Zack doesn’t sketch two red dots or a line or write his name on his golf balls. Instead, he draws elaborate depictions of Bart Simpson, the Ninja Turtles or whichever other animated childhood icon he feels inspired to pen.
“I probably just have too much time on my hands,” Sucher said. “I don’t know why. I’ve always marked my golf balls up way more than most people do. I spend 15 to 30 minutes on each golf ball.”
An easy thing to do, Sucher said, with so much time alone in hotel rooms – a tune all too familiar to mini-tour golfers.
Sucher grew up in Mobile, Ala. and is the youngest of three. Randy Sucher passed the golfing gene to his son, whose swing is as homegrown as the cotton and corn on which Alabama’s economy thrives.
Zack worked mostly with his father and his own self-analysis to groove a swing about which he feels good, a swing he says is anything but prototypical:
“I wouldn’t describe it textbook at all. It’s not a very mechanical swing. I want to be more a feel player, but I usually know what I’m doing when I get it going crooked.”
Some crooked and some straight, his golf shots landed him a four-year scholarship to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he penned quite the resume.
Sucher was individual medalist four times in college, was a two-time All-American who was named to the U.S. team for the U.S.-Japan International Cup and was at one point ranked the third best amateur in the country.
Sucher, 24, defines his game by the risks he takes.
“I’m probably too aggressive if anything.' he said. 'I’d rather hit it in the water going for something, trying to make a birdie than playing it safe and thinking a few holes later, ‘I wish I could have birdied that hole.’
“I don’t think I’d enjoy golf if I played most of the shots safe. I wouldn’t enjoy it as much, I know.'
While risk-taking has its rewards, Sucher said it’s also provided him some big numbers, recalling making a 12 on a hole in college. He certainly doesn’t seem to be afraid of the big numbers, however, because he doesn’t have any plans of taming anytime soon.
“I think it’s paid off more than it’s hurt me. There’ve been a couple times when I probably shouldn’t have hit a shot,” Sucher said. “I’ve either gotten lucky or pulled it off and it’s worked out great.”
Zack turned professional in the fall of 2009 and has been pleased with his progress over the past year and a half, mostly playing Hooters Tour events and Nationwide and PGA Tour Monday qualifiers.
Sucher made it to the third stage of PGA Tour Q-School this past winter where he missed earning full Nationwide status by three shots. He said he averaged six fairways per round that week because he just couldn’t quite get into a groove.
“If I’d have just gotten my driver straightened out that week, I probably would have made it,” said the 6-foot, 225-pound southerner.
“That was so interesting. I had no idea she was playing in the tournament. I went down the pairings sheet, saw her name and thought ‘No way! She wouldn’t play in this event,’” Zack recalled.
He said it was a great day and he marveled at how sharp her short game was. Her long game didn’t go unnoticed either, as he begrudgingly admitted she out drove him on the 18th hole.
“It made me feel really bad. She got me by five or 10 yards,” Sucher said.
Many texts from friends poured in, ridiculing him for being out driven by a girl.
But the one girl in his life he receives no ridicule over is his wife, Courtney.
Zack and Courtney met the weekend before classes started at UAB their freshman year, immediately hit it off, dated throughout college and got married immediately after graduating.
A fairytale story with a slightly less than happily-ever-after honeymoon – a honeymoon Zack said he still owes to Courtney.
“To be honest, my coach probably wouldn’t want me telling this but I’m going to tell on him anyway,” Sucher said, referring to his former college coach’s scheduling mishap.
When Zack and Courtney got engaged at the beginning of their senior year, Zack went to his coach, Alan Kaufman, and asked for the date of the NCAA Regionals in the spring. The newly engaged couple knew they wanted a spring wedding but knew it was a goal and a reality that Zack would be making the trip to the NCAA Regional tournament.
Coach Kaufman gave Zack the incorrect date (in Kaufman’s defense, the NCAA changed the date that year for the first time in six years) and when Kaufman learned of his error five months before the wedding and Regionals, it was too late to do damage control.
Luckily, Zack and Courtney were able to marry according to plan, but ended up “honeymooning” in Orlando, Fla. – the site of the Southeast Regionals that year.
Sucher’s 27th-place finish at Regionals ended his collegiate career but segued into a summer of playing the big amateur events before turning pro in the fall.
Sucher’s 2011 will consist of playing a full Hooters Tour tournament schedule and Nationwide Tour Monday qualifiers. He says his short-term goal is to play well this year and position himself and his game in a place to play the PGA or Nationwide tour full-time in 2012.
So far this year he has played five Hooters Tour Winter Series events and placed in three.
That's $2,906, if you're counting. And we know Zack is.
Next Tuesday, 'The Minors' will feature former U.S. Public Links champion and Masters participant Jack Newman.