Golf ball on the green

Zach Frye was cruising.

Playing in the first state golf tournament of his young career one year ago, Frye, then a junior at Verrado High School, was wildly exceeding his own expectations through the first 27 holes. He was two-under par, on the heels of the state’s top golfers, and positioning himself nicely for a top-15 finish.

Not bad for a kid whose golf career was still somewhat in its infancy and who had little experience playing in tournaments. He had done little to prepare for this, unsure of what to really expect, but here he was, on his way to a fantasy finish.

Then, dehydration settled in. Nerves quickly followed. His second and final round ended in disaster, with Frye limping—physically and mentally—through the final few holes.

“And it was the best thing that could’ve happened for me,” Frye said.

His preparation for last year’s tournament has given him an entirely new perspective on how to approach the tournament this year.  And for his second go-around at a chance for a state title, Frye is at ease heading into the Division II Boys’ Tournament, set for Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 4-5, at the Omni Tucson National Resort.

“If I can simplify it, if I don’t get ahead of myself, I think I can play well,” said Frye, now a senior. “I can’t overthink it. There’s no overthinking involved. If I overthink it, I start to put pressure on myself, and I think pressure is the worst thing you can do.”

He was simply content that he qualified for the state tournament last year, but the tone has since shifted.

“I’m definitely a lot more confident. I’ve played in a lot of tournaments lately,” he said. “I started off kind of slow this season, but things have gotten a lot better and I feel really well about my chances.”

The evidence backs up Frye’s cool-headed claim. In 12 matches this season, he averaged 35.5 strokes per nine holes in competition. He’s shaved more than eight strokes off his game since his freshman year, when he first began playing.

Playing golf was an idea his father had proposed. It was another sport to try, another activity to pick up, and Frye obliged.

“I didn’t think it was going to take me this far,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectations going into it. I picked up on it, and I picked up on it faster than most people, which is awesome. I’m super blessed to be able to have that ability to go out and do that.”

Golf quickly became natural to him. It’s as if the two were always meant to intertwine. He was immediately charmed by the game’s complexity, its slow pace, its nuances. Each time out on the course, or even just through a session at the driving range, Frye saw improvements. He saw a process coming together. He saw results.

“I just got hooked.”

His budding love for the game, coupled with the steady improvements he’s made, has opened the door to playing in college. But the coronavirus pandemic has challenged that process, as recruiting in the current times is largely limited. College visits and meeting with coaches is all but nonexistent now.

Frye will likely play at a local community college first, with intentions to hit the reset button in a year or two in hopes of transferring to a university.

“I just want to get my feet wet. I want to get that college experience in. It’s an awesome building block to get to the next level.”

A solid showing this week at the state tournament would be a poetic finish to a pleasantly surprising high school career.

It’d also be the beginning of a new chapter, one that could see Frye carrying this success and enjoyment over to the collegiate level.

“I saw that through hard work and determination, that you can get to a certain point if you really want to. I just think anything is possible with hard work, so hopefully I can go out there and get it done.”