During a recent practice round at Dunwoodie Golf Course, we walked and talked with Zion Smith, a sophomore at the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem and a stalwart on our high school golf team. His round included a sand save, multiple pars, and only a few missed shots.
In between swings, he fielded questions from Charlie Hanger, our digital content manager, about his golf game, the pressure (or lack thereof) he feels in matches, and the impression he and his teammates have made on the competition this year.
CH: What parts of your game are you working on lately?
ZS: Chipping. I’m trying to lock my wrists — Brian taught me that. I used to bend my wrists a lot and then top the ball. Also, on my long game, mid-irons and drivers, I tend to pick up a lot in my swing, so I need to learn to keep my head down and just swing through the ball. I’m working on that with my 3-wood and hybrids first, and then I’m going to work my way up to driver because I’m less accurate with it. When I miss with driver, it goes dead right. With a 3-wood, I only miss by a few yards, and I get about the same distance as I do with the driver.
CH: You and your fellow Foundation students have taken many more swings inside on TrackMan than you have outside on a golf course. Does the practice feel more real here?
ZS: TrackMan is great, but yes, definitely. Because we have to play from different types of lies, we really get the full golf experience outside.
CH: Were you feeling the pressure in your Public School Athletic League matches this spring?
ZS: At first, but then I started getting into the groove, so I haven’t really felt pressured during our matches. I’ve been playing as much golf as the guys we’re playing. I just have to play better and smarter.
CH: Have you played other sports competitively?
ZS: Not really. I grew up playing basketball and football in the park, but I never really took it seriously because I never thought they were sports that fit me. But with golf, as soon as I picked up a club, I fell in love with it.
CH: How about golf course etiquette in your high school matches?
ZS: We learned a lot of golf etiquette in our after school sessions at the Center, so we were able to take those lessons to the course and not look stupid. Sometimes we’ve actually had to inform some of our opponents about etiquette and rules. A guy I was playing against marked his ball but put it back in a different spot. I had to tell him he could get penalized for that.
CH: What’s your favorite course of the ones you’ve played for your high school matches this year?
ZA: Clearview in Queens. It was very open and well maintained, and the clubhouse was amazing.