By Carmen Brown

Photos contributed

Zack Sucher remembers running home after school when he was five years old, not to watch cartoons or grab a snack, but to play and learn golf with his father Randy.

“I would play about nine holes with him, and for every par I made, he would give me a baseball card,” Sucher says. “I would just keep playing and keep getting better.”

Keep playing and keep getting better. From that point on, this became Sucher’s philosophy, perhaps even mantra, about the profession that seemed to start chasing him as soon as he started chasing random golf balls as a kid. Now 35, Sucher has been playing professionally for 13 years, most recently competing in the Korn Ferry Tour.

Sucher says golf was always his joie de vivre. If he wasn’t playing with his dad, he was playing with his friends in middle school at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mobile, where he grew up.

“We had an unbelievable group of guys at St. Paul’s,” Sucher recalls. “When we were in 5th grade, if we weren’t in school, we were playing. Our parents would drop us off at 8 a.m., we would play 18 holes, have lunch and then go play 18 more holes. Our parents would come pick us up at 8 p.m. So we would play for like 12 hours until dark.”

Sucher says simply having good friends to play and practice with were his best memories.

“Several went on to play in college like I did,” he remembers. “We still keep in touch and talk about those days.”

By his sophomore year at St. Paul’s, he was playing Division 1 college golf, helping his team earn four consecutive Alabama Class 5A State Titles from 2001 to 2004 and eventually earning a full scholarship to UAB. He majored in communication management, but golf remained his true passion. He won seven events at the college level while at University of Alabama-Birmingham and was named All-American in 2008 and 2009. He was also named to the U.S. team for the U.S.-Japan International Cup.

“It was at this point that I realized, this is something I’m good at. I think I can do this professionally,” Sucher says.

After going pro in 2009, he played on the NGA Hooters Tour from 2010 to 2012. He played on the Tour in 2011 and 2013 to 2014 and won his first title in July 2014 at the Midwest Classic.

Sucher, who just finished playing a tournament in Gulf Shores, will turn around in a couple of days and head to Miami for a one-day tour before taking a two-week break to spend time at his home in Mt Laurel. He spends 24 to 28 weeks out of the year traveling, but his family- his wife, Courtney, and two daughters, Hadley, 9, and Claire, 5- usually travels with him.

“One of my favorite things about the PGA is it is very family-oriented,” Sucher says. “It has what we call a tour school, where kids can stay and six to eight teachers rotate and make sure they keep up with their schoolwork.”

Sucher says being able to take his family with him has helped them share the love of the game together and even learn a little, or maybe even a lot.

“My wife plays for fun. At first she didn’t know much. Now she knows it all. When the kids leave the house, I’m sure she’ll enjoy it a lot more.”

It’s even possible that at least one of his two daughters could follow in his footsteps, but now is too soon to tell.

“I’m trying to get them started,” he says. “They’re great for two holes and then they’re done. Right now my younger daughter shows more interest than my oldest. I think from the age of about 10 to 13 is when they will really decide.”

As for his vision for the future, Sucher says he wants to focus on that constant and never-ending improvement that was encouraged by his father at such a tender age. At every level, from age 5 to 35, he has worked on getting better, while always remembering the fun he had playing with his friends and the sheer love of the game.

“With golf, it’s hard to plan for the future,” Sucher says. “I had a bad year last year. Four times I gained status and three times I lost it. Golf is like a roller coaster, with lots of highs and lows. Every year, everything changes.”

Sucher says the most important lesson he’s learned in his career is something he hopes to convey to his children—and it’s a powerful message for golfers and non-golfers alike.

“Golf is one of the few sports where the best in the world lose way more than they win,” Sucher says. “You have to go with the flow. You can’t get caught up in the little things. You have to focus less on the outcome and more on what you’re doing now.”

He keeps playing, and he keeps getting better.