When Joey Zambri tees it up Monday in his first U.S. Open Final Qualifying event, he’ll have a special particular person on his bag.
Zambri’s father, Chris, will assume his function as main caddie for his youngest son, who’s a 19-year-old rising sophomore at Cal Poly. Chris Zambri is presently the volunteer assistant for Pepperdine, which gained the NCAA Championship final week in Scottsdale, Arizona, and beforehand spent 14 seasons as the pinnacle coach at USC following an expert profession that included six seasons on the Nationwide Tour, now known as the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I feel like I play pretty well and shoot low scores when he caddies,” Joey mentioned. “He really helps with reading greens, and he thinks of things that I wouldn’t think about just because he’s played golf and been around the game for so long. Every single shot he’s saying something.”
Chris shortly interjected: “That just means I talk a lot.”
Always one for levity, Chris additionally is aware of how significant Monday will be for the Zambri household.
For one, Chris performed in eight of these qualifiers, getting by twice. He remembers capturing even par within the first spherical of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills earlier than backing up with an 82 and lacking the reduce. Four years later at Pinehurst, he got here inside a shot of making the weekend.
“I used to love the time between the first and the second [qualifiers], just to daydream about playing in the U.S. Open and all the high hopes,” Chris mentioned. “So, that’s been great in and of itself that Joey has this monthlong opportunity to dream about playing in a U.S. Open. Who knows how it will go on Monday? Hopefully, we’ll be able to feel the excitement of being in the mix.”
Also, Joey will be trying to earn his ticket at a well-known course, Rolling Hills Country Club in Rolling Hills Estates, California, one of USC’s house programs. The Trojans gained the 2018 Pac-12 title there, with Chris teaching and former USC star Justin Suh, who joins Joey in Monday’s discipline at Rolling Hills, profitable medalist honors.
But most important about Joey’s final-qualifying debut?
“The first day of the U.S. Open is our daughter’s birthday,” Chris mentioned.
Laney Zambri, the one daughter and youngest of Chris and his spouse Kim’s three youngsters, died tragically after a automobile accident in late March, simply months earlier than her 18th birthday. Joey was competing in a university occasion at Stanford when he was delivered the devastating information. He instantly withdrew and headed house whereas the remaining gamers within the discipline wore ribbons and marked their golf balls in honor of Joey’s sister.
A cheerleader at Camarillo High, Laney would certainly have been cheering on her brother Monday at Rolling Hills as he competed for a U.S. Open berth. Instead, Joey will be taking part in for her, identical to he did final month in his native qualifier at La Purisima Golf Course in Lompoc, California.
It was May 6, simply over a month since Laney’s demise, and Joey was 1 over by seven holes and was looking out for a probably misplaced ball on the eighth gap. His possibilities of making final qualifying have been slipping quick.
“But then we found the ball probably with 10 seconds left,” mentioned Joey, who proceeded to hack the ball again into the green and rise up and down to save lots of par.
As Zambri and the remainder of his threesome arrived on the tenth tee, what had been a gallery of zero gained an aged couple. The random pair had no connections to any of the gamers, although after three trio produced three high quality drives, Joey mentioned he heard one of them say, “They seem like they’re playing well. Let’s follow them.”
All three gamers in that group, which additionally included J.R. Warthen and Justin Sheparovich, birdied the opening, and Joey birdied the following two, as nicely. The couple adopted for your complete again 9 as Joey posted 5-under 31 to shoot 68 and win by three pictures. Warthen shot 33 with a closing double on the again to tie for second and in addition advance.
“Two of the best back nines I’ve ever seen on that course,” Chris mentioned.
Added Joey: “We need to get that couple a shuttle service down there for Monday.”
It wasn’t fairly a Field of Dreams second; the couple didn’t disappear into the corn discipline afterward. But it makes one assume…
“I never saw their feet on the ground, it was weird,” Chris quipped.
Not even humor, although, might stop Chris from getting emotional describing what Joey’s efficiency that day meant to him and his household. Chris mentioned he began tearing up coming down the final gap, and when Joey jarred a 40-foot breaker for birdie to cap his profitable spherical, he broke down.
“I just lost it,” Chris mentioned. “We were that much closer to when Laney had passed, so it was obviously really emotional for me. … It was nice. Such a cool day. You don’t have enough of those days in golf. Not complaining, but it’s hard to have a day like that. It was really special.”
Regardless of how Joey performs Monday, the Zambris will have one other one of these special days. If Joey someway makes it by, nonetheless, it will be an immeasurable variety of special.