Ryan Zech had a tremendous high school golf career at Kearney, and he has enjoyed success playing for Missouri.
Zech hopes that continues when the Tigers play host to an NCAA men’s regional tournament today through Saturday at The Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia.
In his high school career at Kearney, Zech won two state championships. After his senior season in 2011, he was selected The Star’s All-Metro player of the year and the Kenneth Smith Award winner as the area’s top boys golfer. Also as a senior, he received special mention in the The Star’s Scholar-Athlete program.
That success has continued while playing for the Tigers and in amateur events in the Kansas City area.
Zech won the Columbia Orthopedic Group Mizzou Intercollegiate as a freshman at Old Hawthorne. Last year, Zech was selected the Kansas City Golf Association’s Amateur of the Year after finishing second in the Missouri Amateur and qualifying for the U.S. Amateur tournament.
Zech’s victory at Old Hawthorne as a freshman gives him confidence that he will play well there the next three days, but he has worked to improve his game since.
“I have refined every part of my game,” Zech said. “I am confident with where my game is at.”
Zech ranks third on the MU golf team this season with a scoring average of 72.83, behind Emilio Cuartero (71.1) and Euan Walker (72.5). Zech’s best finishes were second place in September at the Turning Stone Intercollegiate in Verona, N.Y., and a tie for second at the Puerto Rico Classic in February.
“I think he has gotten better,” Missouri coach Mark Leroux said of Zech. “His driving accuracy and iron play have improved. He’s always been a good putter.”
Zech tied for 19th at last month’s Southeastern Conference Championship, helping the Tigers tie for sixth place. Mizzou beat or tied six nationally ranked programs in that tournament at Sea Island, Ga.
“We’re excited about how consistent our scores were as a team,” Zech said. “We beat some good teams and are playing really well.”
The NCAA regional tournament is the second of Zech’s career. He tied for 15th in the regional at Columbus, Ohio, as a sophomore.
Leroux said this is the first time he can remember that the regional has come during finals week at MU. Because the regional is at Columbia, that should be less of a worry for the players, Leroux said.
Leroux said MU was chosen to play host because of its good facilites and other factors.
“Hosting a regional is an honor,” Leroux said. “It’s a feather in the cap for our golf program and MU athletics. The NCAA just doesn’t hand out regionals.”
Leroux said the Tigers should have gained confidence with their showing at the SEC tournament, but he doesn’t think the regional will make or break the season.