An Interview With: 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion William Zalatoris

July 26, 2014

MODERATOR:  We're here with William Zalatoris, champion of the 2014 U. S. Junior Amateur Championship.  Will, congratulations on a great victory today.  You played wonderfully.  Just tell us about your emotions at the last 45 minutes or so.

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  You know what, it feels like it's been five minutes, to be honest with you.  This is the one I've always wanted to win.  You know, making it when I was 12, it was a big deal.  And just that feeling of just satisfaction of just making it.  And then I guess six years later now I'm winning it.

You know, I really just can't put it into words.  You know, every one means a lot to you, winning the States Texas Amateur and the Trans‑Miss Championship it's just been a wonderful summer.  But this is the one that really pushed me to play golf.  And I really, really wanted to win this, not just this week but the times that I've been here, and this is the first week that I really felt like I can do it.  Emotions are running like crazy.

THE MODERATOR:  You had 12 birdies and an eagle today, and Davis had nine birdies.  I mean you guys were both playing well.


THE MODERATOR:  All square at the turn after 18 holes.  At that break after you birdied 18 to pull all square, how important was that birdie just to kind of get that, be all square through 18?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  You know, it did mean a lot, having a little bit of momentum.  That was awesome, just back and forth.  He was two up, one back.  I was one up at one point.  It was just back and forth.  And this afternoon I really played the round of my life.

You know, I haven't hit the ball or putted that well ever in one round together.  And that's even ‑‑ I can even say that this round this afternoon was better than the 59 that I shot in March.  That round today, on that golf course, under that type of pressure, that's the best round of my life today.

THE MODERATOR:  Tell us a little bit about the round of your life, shots of your life.  So I mean it was looking pretty good for you after the par‑5, 13 when Davis didn't convert that birdie.  But then obviously jarring the shot on 14 really kind of sealed it.  We understand you had 119 yards.

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  119 yards.  Scott, my caddie, kept me in line this week.  Just anything inside, if you have a pitching wedge, you're going right at it.  No questions asked.  Fire right at that pin, and that's a tough pin.  If I miss that thing left, that's 20 yards off.

You know, that pin actually where it is is where the grain, where it feeds down to kind of a collection area.  It's right on that edge.  So if I miss the thing barely left, it's gone.  And I'm most likely going to lose the hole and I go for dormie or two up.  And you know, that happened to me, actually, against Curtis yesterday afternoon, said, hey, looks pretty good.  I can win here and keep dragging the ball and next thing you know, I'm going all the way to 18.

All week we tried to stay with the 56 degree.  We called it three‑quarter ripper where just take a little bit off of it and put a lot of spin on it.  But these greens were holding so there was no fear of spinning it back or anything like that.  Just trying to get it to land as soft as possible.  And I don't really know where it landed, but apparently it landed about two feet from the hole and went straight in.

That's the shot I'll never forget.  The way I remember tournaments is there's one shot in each tournament, and State Am was a six‑footer hurler that I made on the 16th hole.  This week was that shot.  That one ‑‑ that hole has been giving me fits all week.  I've had guys making 30‑footers on me and I'm thinking I have to make this just to get ‑‑ I know Davis was making birdies.  And yeah, to see that go in and not have to deal with that was great satisfaction.  I really had to slow myself down after that.

THE MODERATOR:  Will you share with ‑‑ what did you say to Davis when the match was over, now that you're a two‑time runnerup?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  I felt bad just because I mean it's such a hard week because even going into this week, even going into the final round, you've played how many rounds of golf.  It's a long week.  It's hard.

And I told him exactly what I said on the awards ceremony, you're an incredible player.  You've earned your way on to Alabama.  We've been playing with each other since U. S. Kids when we were nine.  He was a great player then and he's an incredible player now.  And you know, I told him, I said I had the round of my life today.

You know, I told him, I said for me to win four up and have the round of my life means that you weren't far off.  I told, him keep at it kid because that was awesome.

Q.  Now, I understand Scottie picked up the divot.  Are you going to hold onto that?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  Yeah.  He gets memories in dirt from this tournament.  So you know, I'll let him keep that.  I've got a trophy and medal.  He can keep some dirt.  That's fine with me.  I got the golf ball.

Q.  Where did you shoot 59?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  Capital Hill, or Capital Hill which is in Louisville, Texas.  I finished eagle, eagle, birdie to shoot 59.

Q.  Why do you think it is that junior golf in Texas is so strong?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  There's just so much golf to be played in Texas.  Anywhere when you're in the south you have a lot of chances to play.  You can play year round.  Granted, we get our bad days every now and again, but we've got a program up at NTPGA where there's close to 40 home events just in NTPGA, and they've got certain sections where it's prep, medallist and masters.  And my first tournament I ever played at, I got paired with Jordan Spieth.  I didn't know who he was, to be honest with you.

Same thing when I qualified.  I got paired with Patrick Cantlay.  I don't know.  And I shot 76 in the first tournament I ever played at, and Jordan shot 74.  And that's playing in the medallist, and the medallist event is kind of a middle level; and to think that these kids were playing in these little tournaments when we were 11, 12 and 13 and have just progressed that far just shows you how good the competition is.

But there's just so many tournaments.  You can only get better in competition.  You have practice to hone in on your mechanics, but you can only get better in competition, when you're under the gun.

Q.  (Inaudible).

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  That was awesome.  You know, I had Rob Addington, director, down here yesterday and Mr. Brown came down.  That really meant a lot to me, because you know, again, he's been starting up on the first tee of juniors since I was 10 years old.  So being in the home state I had a lot of friends around me, and it was a lot of fun when I would make a birdie and I would hear the guys' voices cheering.  So it was a lot of fun this week.

Q.  Coach Haas was talking about your game this morning.  He said there was a stretch there while he was following you last year and everything, you were having difficulty with your putting.  About six to eight months ago you changed to the claw?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  It's been about three.  Six to eight months ago ‑‑ or actually it was about seven, seven months ago I started working with Cameron McCormick around the greens.  We really worked hard on my stroke.  I had a couple quads with just the path.  But ironically it was very consistent.  And so it was like ‑‑ how Cameron told me I was a Jim Furyk over the putter.  I mean, thanks, appreciate it.

But I really worked hard on it.  I shot 59.  You know, I had some really great rounds, but I just got ‑‑ I'm still very inconsistent, and he told me go claw.  Okay.  Fine.  I'll try it.  And I went to Hawaii with my family as a graduation present and first round I shot 34‑under with two course records.  So I figured, well, I'm going to keep this.

But yeah, Coach Haas, he won't tell me this, but he really took a chance on me, offered me an Arnold Palmer Scholarship where I was.  Scott, Mr. Haas, Mr. Price, they all believed in me, so I believed in myself.  I can't ever thank that guy enough for just being offered a scholarship, what an honorable name.

Q.  Just curious, I mean some names on that trophy that have achieved the greatest, you know, you've got Tiger; you've got Johnny Miller, David Gonzalez, major champions.  You're wearing a medal that is given to ever USGA champion no matter what level or championship it is.  How far do you think you can go?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  I tell myself, I'm limitless.  I'm 17 years old and I believe I'm limitless.  I'm here, just keep working hard.  My dream is not just to play professional golf but be a successful professional golfer.  And you know, I see names with major champions on here, so even if I don't make it, I'm in good company.

Q.  U.S. Amateur is obviously in two weeks.  What does winning something like this do for you now?  You already seem pretty confident and assured person, but what does getting a National Championship do for you?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  You know, this one, it touches my heart, to be honest with you.  You know, just like spin this around and looking at the names, it's amazing.

But you know, going into U. S. am, I still feel like I'm the same player.  You know, I don't ‑‑ just because I have this beautiful trophy doesn't mean that I got better with my bunker game.  That was kind of my weakness this week.  If I was in the bunker, I really wasn't making up‑and‑downs, but basically there were a lot of pins in the way, afternoon match going back to back on me, four and five, but you know, I just keep working hard.

You know, after the U. S. Am I'll really look back and reflect on this summer, even if I don't make it, don't make Match Play, doesn't matter.  I'll have had a summer of a lifetime so far.

But just keep working hard.  One really big goal of mine is to really pick up some weight.  I mean I'm 151 and I'm 6'2, and it's not to be looking good for the girls in college.  It's for getting some stability.  Because that's why Tiger was so good in his prime, and I do think in his prime.  The guy was just massive.  He's just strong.  I mean you think about it, I mean if you're going to throw a putt down weight, you going to take me or are you going to take a guy who can really lift.  Just lift in the right way.  So I have the endurance, obviously from this week, but just to gain a little bit of stability will be actually really help my short game.

Q.  Are you going to bring Scott Fawcett, who is the caddie, to Atlanta?

WILLIAM ZALATORIS:  His wife probably won't let that happen.  There's only so many spa days you can give a woman.  But I've got a friend of mine who's going to come with me.  He's a freshmen and I'm going to have him read every single putt from the back end of the putter.  So it'll be a fun week.


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