Feb. 25, 2014
By Mireya Martinez | Special to UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - Even though he checks in at 5-foot-3, Zachary Joe Galliford is used to standing tall. Especially on the golf course.
Zach Galliford is part of UT Arlington's team contingent at the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate beginning Sunday in Los Cabos, Mexico. Galliford tied for 42nd place at the Wyoming Cowboy Desert Intercollegiate this past weekend.
The native of Wales was tied for 13th after the first round and shot under par twice at The Classic Club in Palm Desert, California. The Mavericks finished ninth as a team.
Before becoming a golfer, 8-year-old Galliford was featured by The Guinness Book of World Records for becoming the youngest person in the United Kingdom to earn a black belt in karate.
Galliford picked up the sport at 5 years old because he was small for his age and feared getting picked on at school. He practiced for only three years before receiving his first black belt. He was only 4-feet tall and weighed 55 pounds when he first wrapped that black sash around his waist.
"Karate made me feel like I could be good at things even though I was small," Galliford said. "It gave me the self-confidence and discipline I needed to be successful in other aspects of life."
Galliford stopped practicing karate shortly after earning his black belt due to repetitiveness and boredom.
"I would have to wait two years to advance again and it just wasn't challenging for me anymore," he said. "Not to mention, I would have to wait until I was 21 if I wanted to earn my third degree black belt and at the time that meant waiting 12 years."
After coming to a dead end in karate, Galliford quickly became infatuated with the game of golf. For his ninth birthday, he received his first set of golf clubs from his aunt.
"Golf took over my life on the day I picked up those clubs," Galliford said. "I started lessons with other beginners my age and it only took me three months to move onto the actual course."
By the age of 10, he was competing on the U14 Welsh National Team where he showed that his golf game had nothing to do with his size.
"My first ever practice for the Welsh National Team, we had to share hitting bays and I was paired up with the best 14-year-old golfer in Wales," Galliford said. "You could tell he didn't think I was going to amount to much. He was really amazed at how well I hit the ball and kept shouting 'Oh my God!' along with a few swear words. That may have been the first time I heard a swear word."
Galliford competed on several Welsh teams before he decided that he wanted to go to college in America.
"Everyone I spoke to who had taken the opportunity to study in America told me they loved it," he said. "They strongly advised that I not turn the opportunity down."
Taking his peers' advice, he spoke to a company called College Prospects of America which helped him reach out to golf programs. He was quickly approached by many coaches, but Galliford had dreamed of playing golf at a Division 1 school. His dream came true when UT Arlington coach Jay Rees offered him a position on the 2013 roster.
"I was interested in Zach because he was a very accomplished player in Wales," Rees said. "He was also a really good student and I felt like he would be a great addition."
Galliford was equally as interested and quickly made UTA his first choice in schools.
"I liked UTA because it's in the South," Galliford said. "I wanted to play golf all year long and really looked forward to bragging to my friends that it doesn't get dark at 4 p.m. here."
His transition of location, however, has not been as seamless as his transition of sports.
"My biggest obstacle since being here is just getting used to the culture," Galliford said. "It's been difficult understanding the different accents and everybody says 'y'all' all the time. It's awful being in my English class and spelling things wrong because I'm not spelling them the American way."
Even though he is battling major culture shock, Galliford says that the southern hospitality that has been shown to him is unlike anything he has ever experienced.
"I enjoyed how welcoming everyone was," Galliford said. "People here are so nice and it's fun to sit and watch everyone because they do things so differently. The guys I live with have taught me so much and we have a good relationship that leaves a lot of room for jokes."
The feeling is definitely reciprocated by his team.
"Zach has taught me a lot both about a different culture and about golf," freshman teammate Josh Radcliff said. "He has great putting skills. Because of the difference in greens here, he can make any putt within 15 feet. He's a little hot-headed on the golf course, but it shows how much fight he has inside of him."
Rees added: "Zach is small in stature, but he possesses big heart when he competes against other guys. I always pull for Zach when he competes. He has worked hard and expects a lot of himself as well. Everyone that meets him seems to really enjoy him and his personality."
MG: Mavericks conclude play at Tucker Intercollegiate
MG: Short-handed Mavs move up in New Mexico
MG: Mavericks looking to build on early season success
MG: Mavs tie for team title in season opener
MG: Thornton leads Mavs in first round of opener
MG: Mavericks open fall season in Mississippi