A big congratulations to friend of the brand and H&B ambassador Zac Oakley on qualifying for the 2022 PGA Championship. Zac is the head teaching professional at Bidermann Golf Club and Vicmead Hunt Club in Wilmington, Delaware. He finished inside the top 20 at the PGA Club Professional tournament at Barton Creek in Texas last month to earn a spot in his first major.
We sat down with Zac to learn a little more about his game, his teaching philosophy, his style and his thoughts heading into Southern Hills.
Zac, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on qualifying for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Will this be your first major and can you walk us through what you’re most excited about?
Yes, this will be my first major.
I’m probably most excited about the experience of playing in the same field with the best players in the world during a major championship. I want to feel what it is like to be in that position. It is a huge learning experience that I will take with me the rest of my career.
You played really well at Barton Creek in the PGA Club Professional. Was your game trending going in? What was working that week to get it done?
No, I was actually coming off a partially torn tendon in my left foot. It put me in a cast for about 7 weeks prior to the event. Once my doctor removed my cast I had a few weeks to rehab and start swinging again. My family visited me in Florida, and I was able to get in a couple rounds beforehand. I was just grateful my foot healed properly, and I found the right doctor who knew what he was doing.
I got off to a good start and was able to relax a bit. I just putted well the whole week and was able to hit the tee shots and approach shots I needed to down the stretch.
How long have you been at Bidermann and Vicmead Hunt Club? Can you describe the club a little for us?
This will be my fourth season at Bidermann.
Bidermann is a special place. It’s a low-key, small and private club with a great membership. The atmosphere is very friendly/family oriented. The course is meticulously maintained and feels like you're on historical ground. The property is on an old Dupont Estate, on the highest point in Delaware with rolling hills and meadows.
The pro shop and locker rooms were built inside a 1920’s farmhouse and barn, which adds to the experience. Always rated #1 in the state. Vicmead Hunt Club is the clubhouse portion, located a couple of miles away from the golf course. That is why we have a logo for each, which is pretty unique. Members can enjoy all the amenities of the club there like dining, swimming, horseback riding, and tennis. It's a beautiful piece of property.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into the business and what is your favorite aspect of being a teaching pro? Can you walk us through your resume/career in golf?
I am from a small beach town in Lewes, Delaware. I love sports, and I’m a car enthusiast. My father was a golf pro who introduced the game to me and my brother. God, family, career in order are my priorities.
After college, I spent a few years on the mini tour circuit playing professionally full time. Needing funds and tired of breaking even, I was able to start caddying part time at Seminole G.C. at the end of their season. It was a huge blessing. I started there full time the following season and formed a lot of good relationships, opening doors to opportunities for me in the golf industry.
I started as an assistant pro at a club in Delaware and enrolled in the PGA apprentice program. Working as a club pro, I was able to teach and compete in Philadelphia Section events. It wasn't bad, and new goal came into view during that year. I could get to the PGA Championship with a Class A PGA certification. I really wanted to pursue that and during my career in the business I made a lot of good friends and found myself mostly enjoying the teaching aspect.
A couple of years later, I was fortunate enough to start working at Bidermann G.C. located in Wilmington, DE. I enjoy working outside and managing that aspect of the club's operations as well as providing individual and group golf instruction. My game has also improved during my career, and I have enjoyed success in the Philly Section.
Have you played Southern Hills previously? Will you have a specific game plan going in? What do you focus on during tournament play?
No I haven't.
I plan to keep the ball in play off the tee. From there, aim on the safe side of the pins and roll the ball well with good speed control. During practice rounds, I will find the holes that will have the most birdies and try to capitalize on those.
I mostly focus on my tempo and rhythm. The hardest thing to do when you're trying to control your emotions is to just stay in the moment and not get too high or low.
What was your all-time favorite day on the course? Describe the day.
Good question. I would have to say the final day of the 2015 Delaware State Open in my home state. It was played in Rehoboth Beach C.C. where I worked during high school, and all of my friends and family were there. It was a day of distractions from start to finish, but I played well down the stretch and unknowingly won by 4 shots. I go back to that feeling of focus every time I'm in contention.
What is your teaching philosophy? Do you treat each player differently depending on their skill level?
I keep it as simple as possible and work with the natural swing of the player. The golf swing is unique to each individual. Proper fundamentals combined with his or her feel during the swing is what I focus on.
What’s your favorite time of day to play? What’s your favorite course and why?
Seminole G.C. The course is right on the ocean and built on the side of a massive sand dune. It plays differently every day because of the wind. You use every club in the bag with a variety of different shots. It tests your short game and the greens are tough to make putts. It's challenging and fun.
Any advice for aspiring PGM students and Assistant Professionals looking to become Head and Teaching Professionals?
I would say achieving your class A membership is a priority. That's one of the first things employers look for, and it separates you from other candidates. Once you're in the business, you can figure out which route you want to take as far as operations management or swing instruction. Networking is key too. The PGA is like a close-knit fraternity and all pros help support the success of others.
Describe your personal style. Do you have a favorite Holderness & Bourne piece?
I like clothes that I feel good in.
But my absolute favorites are the golf shirts. They just fit well. Very modern fit, but they are not too tight like other brands. The fabric allows you to swing without any restriction. The collars have a small, firm shape which I like. Even after washing multiple times, they hold up like new.