Turmoil Behind Him, Zahringer Trying To Focus
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Fort Worth, Texas – There was a time when George Zahringer had perfected a fine balance between work and his amateur playing career.
That equilibrium was blown to smithereens when his former employer, 85-year-old investment bank Bear Stearns, came crashing down and was bought out in March. For 29 years he’s worked on Wall Street in New York City in the financial sector. It’s what he’s known. That and his competitive amateur career.
Fortunately, Zahringer caught on with another financial company. But the turmoil subsequently affected his game.
“I’ve always been able to compartmentalize my business life and my golf life,” said Zahringer after safely making it into match play at the USGA Senior Amateur with a 9-over 151. “There was so much upheaval and volatility in the market.”
The 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion has played in three USGA events this season. He’s coming off two disappointing missed cuts at this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Open, where he was the low amateur the previous year. It stung the 10-time Metropolitan Golf Association Player of the Year and 2003 USA Walker Cupper.
His reasoning? He pointed toward the business end.
“I’ve been playing catch-up on golf,” he said. “I’m about two months behind because of everything that happened. Maybe six to eight weeks behind because I didn’t play any golf in the spring. It’s been so hard to get competitive.”
When he walked off the 18th green Sunday, he seemed perturbed that he carded no birdies in 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying. He said he couldn’t remember a round in which he had no birdies.
That’s all in the past now. Match play presents a new challenge. Zahringer has proven to be a formidable match-play opponent in previous USGA championships, always being a tough loss. But it’s been a year since he competed in a match-play event. Last year he lost to Nathan Smith, 1 down, in the first round of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Bandon Dunes.
“I’m a little rusty,” said Zahringer.
If he is to win his second USGA title, he knows he’ll need to play aggressively on the 6,597-yard Shady Oaks Country Club layout. The contoured greens have been the talk of the championship thus far in the sense that competitors are having a tough time getting proper reads. Zahringer learned early that to have success, the ball has to be placed in the right position. Get it above the hole and a three-putt is a strong possibility.
In any case, Zahringer knows the marathon is about to start.
“You need a little luck to win a USGA championship,” he said.
But he knows he’ll hope to rely on more than luck this week. He knows he’ll have to summon the talent that has made him a decorated amateur for so many years.
“It’s not just like riding a bike,” he said. “It’s a competitive cycling competition versus recreational bike riding.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Editor of Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.