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Q&A with USNDP Head Coach Chris Zambri


| Jun 6, 2024

Chris Zambri, head coach of the USNDP, as seen during the team's first training camp at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia.

The USGA recently established the inaugural U.S. National Junior Team as part of the U.S. National Development Program (USNDP). This program aims to ensure American golf remains a global leader by focusing on six key pillars: talent identification, access to competition, national teams, athlete resources, player development and financial support. We sat down with Chris Zambri, head coach of the USNDP, to discuss the team's first training camp, which was held May 8-11 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, and the upcoming international friendly match against Australia this summer at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis.

Torry Rees: Chris, let's start with the first training camp that was held in May at the Atlanta Athletic Club. How do you think it went?

Chris Zambri: I thought the camp went really well. For starters, just on an interpersonal level, I felt like our team really got to know each other and figured out they enjoyed each other's company. All the feedback has been that they had a lot of fun and even learned some things about golf, which was one of our goals.

One of the key aspects of the camp was getting these young athletes around each other. It's always beneficial for great players to be around other great players because they can learn so much from one another. This includes not just the physical aspects of golf but also the mental side of the game. They observe each other's routines, strategies and even how they handle pressure, which can be incredibly valuable.

The camp was designed to not only provide golf instruction but also foster team bonding. We had activities like a fun night at the bowling alley, which helped the team members connect beyond the golf course. Our host at the Atlanta Athletic Club made everything easy, which contributed to the overall success of the camp. For our first camp, I thought it couldn't have gone any better.

USNDP players at arcade

The camp had activities like a fun night at the bowling alley, which helped the team members connect beyond the golf course.

Torry Rees: What kind of resources did the USNDP provide during the camp?

Chris Zambri: We had Mo Martin and Scott Gump – two unbelievably successful professional players – join us. The two of them have so much wisdom from years of playing professional golf, including their successes and failures. The kids were getting a good education just by starting with Mo and Scott.

We complemented the players’ presence with Dr. Harry Sese, his wife, Shawn and Rob Yang. The three of them were crucial resources. The Seses helped with strength and conditioning and Rob helped with nutrition of the players.

One of the things we're trying to help the kids understand is that we're bringing in some of the best in their respective fields to work with the team. We're hoping team members keep an open mind to the information they're hearing because they're receiving it from people who are at the top of the totem pole in their fields. Even though they might be getting similar help at home, there might be an opportunity to collaborate with the folks we're bringing in to make sure they're getting exactly what they need in their quest to become superstar golfers.

Dr. Beth Brown, the senior player development advisor for the program, did wonderful work to assemble these amazing consultants and professionals to expose the kids to some of the highest levels of golf knowledge.

USNDP players listen to a speaker

The camp featured speeches and training sessions from some of the best in their respective fields.

Torry Rees: What are your goals for these camps and for the development of these young players?

Chris Zambri: In the short term, it's vital for these players to have success and to show that the program is moving in a positive direction. We want kids across the country to aspire to be part of this. We're not just a social club; we're here to help these athletes reach their dreams. We have several opportunities for the team to compete internationally in the next few months, and our job is to show up, play well and learn from these experiences.

Torry Rees: How do you see the success of this camp impacting the future of the USNDP and American golf?

Chris Zambri: Early wins and positive momentum are crucial. Success breeds interest, not just from elite juniors but from all kids who might want to take up golf. We're excited about this group and the potential to do great things within our program. We plan to expand the team within the next year or so, making it an exciting time for the USNDP.

Torry Rees: Let's talk about the upcoming match with Australia this July 2-3 at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis. What are your expectations and how important is this match for the team?

Chris Zambri: The upcoming match against Australia is a significant milestone for our team. It's our first international friendly, and it presents an invaluable opportunity for our players to gain experience on a global stage. Competing against international teams helps our players learn different styles of play and strategies, which is crucial for their development. Our expectation is that the team will show up, compete fiercely and take away important lessons that will help them grow as athletes. The format will be Four-Ball team matches in the morning and Foursomes team matches in the afternoon on the first day and singles matches on the second.

This match is also important for building the credibility and reputation of the USNDP. Performing well internationally can showcase the strength of American junior golf and reinforce the benefits of our program. We aim to build a strong foundation of international competition that will not only help our current players but also attract future talent to the program.

Torry Rees: Why is the U.S. National Junior Team important for the development of American golf?

Chris Zambri: The establishment of the U.S. National Junior Team is a pivotal step for American golf. Nearly every other golf country in the world has long enjoyed the benefits of a developmental program and national teams. By having our own national junior team, we ensure that American players receive the best possible support and opportunities to excel. This team not only helps individual players reach their potential but also fosters a competitive environment that can elevate the overall standard of American golf. We want to remain the global leader in the junior, amateur and professional game, and this team is a critical component of that strategy.

Torry Rees: Any final thoughts or comments on the first camp and the future outlook for the team?

Chris Zambri: It was a great start. The kids went from being a quiet group to having a blast together. The good vibes lasted all week, and we're excited about their energy and enthusiasm. It's an exciting time for the USNDP and we're looking forward to what's ahead.

I’ll say it again: The first training camp of the U.S. National Junior Team has set a solid foundation for the future. As the team prepares for its first international friendly match against Australia, the momentum and excitement from the camp will undoubtedly drive them forward. Alongside support of the USNDP, American junior golf is poised for a bright future.