June 11, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas – There's no mistaking the excitement Zack Fischer feels going into his first U.S. Open this week. The 2011 UT Arlington graduate is teeing it up in his first major Thursday to continue a breakthrough season.
Fischer is also making sure everyone knows exactly where he's from as he walks the grounds of a water-logged Merion Golf Club. He'll practically be a billboard for Maverick pride.
"It's the national championship. It’s the big boy of them all," Fischer said earlier this week. "Just to be a part of the championship is amazing in itself. I'm just the second guy from UT Arlington to play in the U.S. Open, so that's really cool.
"I hope to represent the university and show people what UTA Golf is all about. I'll be sporting a UTA towel, UTA head cover and, if it's still raining, I'll be in UTA jacket. I'll be UTA-ed out."
Fischer's road from UT Arlington to his first major found its share of bunkers. A member of the 2011 Southland Conference championship team and 2009 SLC individual medalist, the Texarkana Fischer has spent much of the last two years on golf's mini-tours before a recent run of success landed him in the second of this year's four majors.
Fischer earned a spot in the Byron Nelson last month in a Monday qualifier. Not only was that his first PGA Tour event, Fischer made the cut. He finished tied for 68th and took home his first PGA Tour paycheck, becoming just the second former UT Arlington golfer to do so.
Greg Gregory was the first back in the late 1990s, and also the first UTA product to qualify for the U.S. Open. Fischer's entrance into the Open was punched with a dramatic 12-hole sudden-death playoff over PGA Tour veteran Ryan Palmer at sectional qualifier last week at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas.
"Just to play against him was amazing itself," Fischer said of his duel with Palmer that ended with a birdie on No. 18. "I wasn't incredibly nervous. After the first two holes of sudden death, I chilled out. My caddy did a good job of calming me down. It was cool experience."
Fischer enjoyed the nostalgic feel of the playoff, as fans were following the pairing at what seemed like an arm's length away. The scene for the final putt felt as if it came out of a 1940s newsreel.
"It was almost like the old days," Fischer said. "The people were practically standing on the green."
Standing in Fischer's corner this week, and inside the ropes, will be UT Arlington coach Jay Rees. He'll be acting as Fischer's short game coach.
"I'm very excited to go to the U.S. Open," Rees said. "I think this is the greatest thing in the world for Zack. All the current and former players are excited about this opportunity for Zack. I think it's the greatest thing for our program in 15 years I've been here.
"To be here at our national champion with Zack and his family is something special. I've walked with him on the PGA Tour, and this is even more special. I'm fired up."
There was plenty of buzz about Fischer during the Nelson, but besting Palmer has taken his take to new heights. The playoff was covered prominently on the Golf Channel, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News have done features on Fischer in recent days.
"It's a special story," Rees said. "He's very comfortable with the attention he's received. I see a person who's continuing to mature. He only has one thing to concentrate on and that's to play the very best golf. He's not worried about a test or the other things you worry about in college. That's helped him grow as a professional golfer.
"It's so special to see any of our guys in this light, whether it's Zack or Bobby Massa or our other guys. But for Zack to take this next step and play in our national championship, it doesn't get any bigger than that. Other than having a PGA Tour card, this is as good as it gets."
Fischer has managed to squeeze in some practice this week at Merion despite the rain and soggy conditions. He played 18 holes Sunday and another 13 Monday, picking out lines and getting a feel for the course.
Fischer understands he's competing against the best golfers in the world, but he's not about to sell himself short. Especially when you consider the roll that he's on.
"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but my goal is to be in position to win this golf tournament," Fischer said. "That's how I approach golf. I want to be in position to be win golf tournaments going into final nine holes."
The 113th U.S. Open runs Thursday to Sunday at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Fischer tees off on No. 11 Thursday at 2:57 p.m. ET.
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