School: Council Rock North
Favorite athlete: Rory Mcilroy and Claude Giroux
Favorite team: Philadelphia Flyers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Making it to match play of the US Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain outside of Seattle and beating the #1 player in the country in my second match.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My dad and I fell asleep in the car during a rain delay of a practice round for my Footjoy Invitational. When we woke up, everyone was finishing the round.
Music on iPod: Hip Hop and Rap
Future plans: Graduate with a business degree from Vanderbilt University and make the PGA Tour
Words to live by: ‘Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability and determination.’
One goal before turning 30: Win the US Open
One thing people don’t know about me: I was born in Plano, Texas, and moved because it was too hot. Little did we know we would become golfers!
By Mary Jane Souder
Ask Zach Herr to describe the perfect family vacation, and the Council Rock North senior’s response is anything but typical.
“Our family doesn’t go on vacation to a nice beach,” Herr said. “Our ideal vacation is finding a nice, big old golf tournament and a nice hotel, and we go out there and we’ll hang out for a week.
“That’s just who we are. We’re used to packing five people into a two-bedroom hotel room, and that’s how we make our memories. Stuff like that is what the family is built on.”
And what a family it is.
The Herr family is synonymous with golf not only in Lower Bucks County but on the national scene as well. Younger sisters Erica and Madeline also are elite golfers.
As much as this family enjoys its golf, it’s pretty clear they enjoy each other’s company even more. Last week, the Herr family found itself living out of one hotel room in Boston while Zach competed in the Deutsche Bank Junior Challenge Cup.
“It was two beds in one room, and I was sleeping on the aero mattress,” said Herr, who shot a 6 under 65 “We’re all crowded around the TV watching Criminal Minds and eating takeout pizza. It’s just the way our family is.”
Family always comes first for Herr, and after his mother – Cyndie Herr - was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, Herr and his sister, Erica, showed their support in the most extraordinary manner when they started the ZachAttacksCancer Foundation. After two fundraisers and golf tournaments, they cut a check for $85,000 for Fox Chase Cancer Center for cancer research.
Herr’s resume on the links is a dazzling one.
When he committed to Vanderbilt University in September of 2011, he was ranked sixth in the Class of 2013 and 29th overall in the Golfweek/Titleist rankings.
Highlights of his career include 14 top 10 finishes in American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) open events and three top 25 finishes at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions. Herr finished second in the 2012 AJGA Philadelphia Open and was 38th in the 2012 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, which featured the top 60 juniors in the world. In 2009, he was named an AJGA Rolex All American.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Herr finished ninth at the 2010 US Junior Amateur and was 36th in the 2012 Players Amateur. He qualified for the 2009 US Open Sectionals and was an alternate in 2012.
At the high school level, Herr won the District One title in 2010 and 2011 and is the defending SOL champion. He led his team to a PIAA state title in 2010, he is a three-time state medalist, and is a three-time runner-up in the Pennsylvania Junior Amateur.
“His abilities go right to the bag,” Rock North coach Richard White said. “He doesn’t have any weaknesses. He has a very good short game, he’s a very good putter, and he’s very good off the tees long.”
Herr got his start in golf rather innocently - after his father (Eric Herr) bought him a plastic Fisher Price golf set.
“My dad told me when I was little, I used to run around the yard and whack that club around,” Herr said. “Probably when I was six, he took his three wood, cut it off with a hacksaw in the garage and taped up the grip with electrical tape, and that was my club until I expressed an interest in the game.”
Herr’s first real set of clubs was a gift from his uncle, a regular weekend golf partner of Herr’s father at the time.
“My dad said I used to cry because I couldn’t go out and play,” Herr said. “He took me out, and before you know it, I started playing and he stopped playing.
These days, Herr gives his dad a 20 handicap if he can coax him onto the links for a friendly match.
The Rock North senior has been competing in tournaments for almost as long as he can remember, and Herr served early notice that he had what it took to succeed when –at the age of 10 - he finished second at the US Kids World Championships at Pinehurst.
The young golfer who finished third at that event – Michael Decker of Pebble Beach – will be Herr’s roommate at Vanderbilt next year.
“It’s a very tightknit community,” he said. “I play at a high level, and pretty much the people there are the people I’ve played with since I was 13.”
That tight relationship was underscored when Clancey Waugh, who Herr had played against in his first tournament ever at the age of seven, was deciding on a college. The Florida native was choosing between Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
“I said to him, ‘Dude, we grew up playing together. You can’t leave me now and go to a different school,’” Herr said. “It’s amazing how far back it goes. We’ve been friends for 10 years.”
Waugh opted for Wake Forest, but that hasn’t impacted the friendship that was born on the golf course.
“I think that’s something special for golf only,” Herr said.
Herr, who won his first AJGA tournament when he was 14, was highly coveted when recruiting time rolled around.
“Winning (the AJGA) is like winning a Junior PGA Tour event,” he said. “As soon as I won that, I got into some very big tournaments and got a lot of recognition from coaches.
“I was getting recruiting packages in the mail from Florida, LSU, Wake Forest, places I’ve only ever dreamed of going to.”
Herr narrowed his final choices to Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and LSU.
“Most kids get recruited in their late sophomore year (or) early junior year, so we were trying to stay ahead of the cue ball,” Herr said. “We went on a few visits to each, and my dad and I had many arguments and discussions about what I like and what he thinks is the proper fit for me because he’s been with me since I started the game.
“One night we sat down, and I said, ‘Dad, I think it’s Vanderbilt,’ and we made the call.”
Academics ultimately proved to be the deciding factor.
“Looking back on it, it was probably the greatest decision I ever made,” said Herr. “Look at all the people you hear trying for the PGA Tour, and they never make it but don’t have an education to fall back on.
“I wanted to make sure I could still live a good life, and I wanted to really give it my all.”
Interestingly, the contract of the Vanderbilt coach that recruited Herr was not renewed, and Scott Limbaugh, a former assistant at Alabama, was named the new coach.
“We were a little nervous,” said Eric Herr. “The athletic director got on the phone with Zach and me and said, ‘Don’t worry about this.’
“Their football coach (Neshaminy grad James Franklin) is unbelievable. He said, ‘I’ll have your son’s back when he gets down here.’”
Herr’s level of excellence on the links didn’t just happen. It is the result of hard work and, according to his high school coach, genetics.
“There’s certainly a work ethic involved, there’s certainly an attitude that’s involved, and there’s some background with lessons that’s involved,” White said. “But you have to be born with some tools.
“You have to have some natural ability, and I think Zach and the girls all have their share of natural ability that is purely genetic.”
A typical day for Herr includes working out at the gym and hitting balls for two hours.
“I gave him a pat on the head the other day and said, ‘You know what – in all these years, I never ever had to push you guys to practice,’” his father said.
Herr enjoys the never-ending challenge of mastering the sport.
“Every day it’s different,” he said. “Golf is all about patience. A lot of people aren’t cut out for it because they’re used to a fast-paced game, but golf is all about the mental part of it. If you can have a good mental psyche, you’re going to be set.
“When you make a birdie, you can’t get too excited because when you go to the next hole, you could hit a ball out of bounds, and before you know it, you’ll make two over par on the hole. You can’t let your highs get too high or your lows get too low.”
Herr – whose goal is to play on the PGA Tour - has experienced the highs and lows of his sport, but whether at a high or a low, he’s never been alone.
“It’s one of those things where one of us experiences it, we all experience it,” he said. “If one of us gets invited to a tournament, it’s a whole family trip. That’s just how we have fun as a family.
“My dad kind of gave me an ultimatum when I was younger. He said, ‘Zach, be as good as you want to be. I will follow you wherever you want to go. If you want to take this to the Tour, I will follow you there. If you want to quit tomorrow or you find something like fishing or hunting, do whatever you want to do as long as you’re happy. I said, ‘Dad, I want to be as good as I can be,’ and the girls followed along. Now it’s a whole family adventure to see who can get the furthest.”
The final chapter of his golf career is a long way from being written, but whenever it is, it’s a safe bet Herr will be surrounded by his family.