The son was spending quality time on the links with his father. They had the course to themselves. It was the spring of 2020, a time when diversions from the coronavirus pandemic were welcomed with open arms.
What would have been the son’s junior season of playing high school baseball was unceremoniously wiped out. The father’s line of work – longtime caddy for one of R.I.’s most recognizable ambassadors to high-stakes golf – had been paused with no return date in sight.
For two guys who’d lost the chance to hit a baseball in an actual game, or provide advice while sizing up a downhill putt, the opportunity for some 1-on-1 time on the course represented a pleasant diversion from the hardship brought on by COVID-19.
“Losing my junior season was horrible, but my dad and I probably golfed three times a week throughout the spring when I would usually be playing baseball,” said Zac Zyons, presently a senior at South Kingstown High School. (He plans to continue his baseball journey at Bryant University.)
For more than two decades, Zac’s father Mark has been on the bag for Billy Andrade. A standout golfer in his own right, Mark was part of two Cumberland High golf teams that each captured the state championship during the early 1980s, Mark – nicknamed “Ziggy” – entered an even higher stratosphere when he outlasted the field to claim the 1985 R.I. Amateur.
There was a time when Zac fancied himself as both a golfer and ballplayer. Eventually, he needed to make a choice. The rationale was that you can’t do both simultaneously.
“I always had a love for baseball. I dedicate everything to the game,” said the younger Zyons. “Most of the life lessons I learned came from baseball, but golf is a good thing to have in your back pocket when you’re older. You can’t play baseball forever. You can have golf forever. I’ll definitely be hitting the links when I’m done with baseball.”
Baseball may be Zac’s true calling, yet that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t found ways to satisfy his golfing itch. For that, the son has his father to thank.
The world of professional caddying enabled Zac to step inside the ropes and rub elbows with some of the game’s most recognizable stars. Long before he became known as a versatile player who can play the infield and outfield as well as hit for average and power, Zac accompanied Mark to multiple golf tournaments. He once met Tiger Woods. On another occasion, Zac spent time in the company of Arnold Palmer.
Officially a DAWG @_BryantBaseball pic.twitter.com/dpR5LTW5Xw
— Zac Zyons (@ZacZyons) November 12, 2020
When Zac turned nine, he joined his dad and Andrade for a tournament in Puerto Rico. The week-long golf junket included taking rides in helicopters and hanging with John Daly’s son and Big John himself.
“He’s quite the character,” said Zac about Daly.
There was the time when Zac attended a concert with Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion whose name often resides near the top of the Champions Tour leaderboard.
“Now he’s just a normal guy to me,” said Zac. “My dad prepared me for meeting those big names and not be nervous for those big opportunities. Early on, it was nerve-wracking. Eventually, it got to the point where I was used to it because I was around it so often.”
In pre-COVID times, Zac could count on attending the CVS Charity Classic, a star-studded golf production organized by Andrade and fellow R.I. golf emissary Brad Faxon and takes place at Rhode Island Country Club. There were clubhouse visits and the chance for Zac to share the experience with one of his school friends.
“They are so locked in when they’re out there,” said Zac. “For them, this is their job. They’re taking it seriously. They’re not out there for fun. They’re out there to put food on the table.”
Even given the demands of a Champions Tour schedule where you’re teeing it up in Texas one week and Alabama the next week, Mark does sometimes still get to return home to see Zac take the field.
“He makes a really good effort to get back home. He’ll skip Pro-Am days to come watch. He goes to enough and I appreciate it,” said Zac. “He works hard and he’s gone a lot, but I know he cares a lot. Even if he’s not home, he’s calling before and after games. “Usually when he calls, it’s him and Billy. They’ll both talk to me.
“I know that it’s hard on him to be away. Even if he’s not there, he would want me to play for him and the family.”
Revisiting those aforementioned springtime 2020 golf outings, Zac noted that on one particular occasion the tables were turned. He was finally able to get the better of his father. But, the next time they went out, Mark reminded the son that he was far from ready to relinquish the title of top golfer in the Zyons household.
Zac Zyons signing his NLI to play @_BryantBaseball. Tremendously proud of your accomplishments. Congratulations!! @ChipPhD @SKingstownHS @savastano_linda @TjLynch26 @RhodyWill @EricRueb @tom_cauchon @JRapportSKHS @RIIL_sports pic.twitter.com/NmhdmWMSkK
— SKHS Athletics (@SKHSRI_Rebels) November 12, 2020
“He didn’t take it well. I think he tried a little harder the next time we played. He got his revenge,” said Zac. “It’s fun being out there … just me and him. I think that’s where we connect the most when we’re alone.”
There is one area in which Zac hopes to catch his dad before heading off to Bryant. Mark is a two-time high school champion. To date, Zac has one title that was achieved in 2018 when South Kingstown won the state baseball crown.
“I have to get one so I can match my dad,” said Zac. “That’s all he talks about.”
Looking ahead to the summer, Zac has signed up to take his cuts in the Newport-based George Donnelly Sunset League. He also plans to spend time in the weight room so he can hit the ground running upon officially setting foot onto Bryant’s campus. If time permits, he would love to join his father for one final pre-college golf road trip.
“My dad … he’s a golf guy all the way,” said Zac.