OCALA, Fla. – It isn’t Ernie Els’ 18 PGA Tour victories, three major championships or 45 other international titles that make Zack Sucher envious of the South African.
It’s not Els’ election into the World Golf Hall of Fame or the fact that he ranks fifth in career earnings on the PGA Tour.
Nope. Zack doesn’t hold any of that against Els.
The one thing that does irk the 24-year-old aspiring Tour professional is The Big Easy’s trademark on, well, ‘The Big Easy.’
When asked what one word best describes Zack Sucher both on and off the golf course, Sucher could only come up with one phrase – the same phrase – for both categories: “Easy-going.”
Since Els will probably always have dibs on ‘The Big Easy,’ we’re going to dub Zack Sucher ‘The Big Easy-Going.’
It seems by no error that Sucher be linked to Els. Their physique, personality and temperament on the course could easily be interchanged for one another.
And Zack hopes the same for their golf games, too, one day.
“I’ve always liked Ernie Els. He’s a big guy and swings so easy. He’s pretty mellow on the golf course and doesn’t get mad too often.”
Which is precisely the perception Zack holds of himself.
“I’m easy-going as a person. I don’t worry very much. Probably the same as a golfer,” Sucher said.
“I usually stay pretty positive. Getting angry really doesn’t help much.”
Watching him golf, you’d never know if Zack had just made an eagle or a double-bogey. He smiles after a made putt the same as he smiles over a missed putt, joking that he knows “the hole will get in the way sooner or later.”
I caught up with Zack during his most recent Hooters Tour event at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club in Ocala, Fla.
Heavy rains hit the Ocala area, delaying the first day of play and soaking the course so much so that a ‘lift, clean and place’ rule was in effect the morning after the storm.
Due to the Thursday storms, Sucher completed his second nine holes of his first round the following day where he observed the ‘lift, clean and place’ rule.
Zack finished his first 18 at Ocala with a 3-over 75 and after a 30-minute intermission, was back on the tee for his second 18. Having been made clear to all the players – Zack included – the ‘lift, clean and place’ rule would not be in effect for afternoon play.
On Zack’s first hole of his next 18, his drive found the fairway. He walked up to his ball, leaned over, picked it up and instantly knew he had made a mistake.
“Woops,” he laughed as he was assessed a one-stroke penalty.
With a smile on his face, he replaced his ball, knocked it on the green and two-putted for a five.
“I picked my ball up today and said ‘Crap. What am I doing?’” he recalled after the round.
Later that day, Zack told me about another hiccup he had recently – grounding his club in a hazard, and ultimately making a 10 on the 18th at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club in Hilton Head, S.C. during an eGolf Professional Tour event.
Coincidentally, the 10 he made on 18 at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club was not the first 10 he made on that hole during competition; he managed to perform the same feat during a high school match.
How, you ask?
“I hit in the woods, right, off the tee to avoid water on the left. Then I tried to get it around the trees up by the green, and I hit it in the water, took a drop, then hit another one in the water. And then I thought I could play it from the water, so I got down in there, grounded my club on my way walking in, and then I got out and knocked it on and made the putt for a 10.
'I haven’t played that hole very well,” Sucher said as he made light of the situation.
Zack assured me he is usually more on-the-ball with his game and that he really can’t recall making many mistakes like these ever before in his career.
“I haven’t done a whole lot of things like that. I haven’t had a whole lot of penalty shots,” he said.
While some might mistake Zack’s free-flowing, laissez faire attitude on the course for a man lacking passion, heart or competitive fire, Zack will be the first to tell you that’s hardly the case.
“I want to beat everybody,” Sucher said.
“Where I have an advantage over other players would be my mental game. Staying pretty mellow the whole round…I pretty much enjoy it the whole time. A lot of guys you watch out there don’t look like they have a lot of fun.”
It doesn’t take much convincing to know Sucher has fun on the course. It’s safe to assume anyone who plays with a yellow golf ball, marked with cartoon characters likes to have fun.
“I’d play with a pink golf ball if they’d come out with one. I’m hoping they come out with one soon,” Zack said, not worried about the perception others may hold of a man playing a pink golf ball.
“I wouldn’t care. As long as it goes the same (distance).”
Off the course, Zack exudes the same smooth-sailing, easy-going temperament as he does while on the course.
In a society and times driven more so by gadgets and gizmos than ever before, Zack still uses the same phone he’s had since high school.
No camera, no Internet, no games, no gimmicks. His cell phone is as basic as it gets.
The reason: “I fish and kayak a lot and if I have it in my pocket and accidentally drop it, I don’t want to have to worry.”
And while the 24-year-old’s year in golf hasn’t been all he could have hoped for, he says he’s not too worried.
Zack has played in six Hooters Tour events, one eGolf Professional Tour event and the Nationwide event in Bogota, Colombia. He has missed the cut in all but three Hooters Tour events.
“I’m hopeful,' he said. 'I kinda need to do good early; make money early and you get into a lot more events.”
While Zack Sucher may be on-par with ‘The Big Easy’ in a lot of ways, it’s simply a matter of time before we find out if ‘The Big Easy-Going’ can storm the game of golf in much the same way as Ernie Els.
Whether he gets there or not, we’ll know one thing for sure – wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, Zack will be doing it with a smile on his face.