BY DENNIS SILVA II | firstname.lastname@example.org
More nerve-wracking than any pressure shot was the recruiting obstacles a global pandemic presented to Tompkins senior golfer Zach Asaro this spring.
When the high school golf season was postponed in mid-March and then eventually canceled less than a month later, it stunted an impressive season for Asaro, an all-district performer. He was hoping to strut his swing at the district and, hopefully, regional and state meets, searching for a scholarship offer from a bigger school after receiving interest from NAIA and NCAA Division III programs.
Those meets never took place. But Asaro, through persistent mobile and virtual contact with University of New Orleans men’s golf coach Jeff Lorio and leaning upon the faith and trust of sights and a program unseen, earned that shot at a better school, committing May 1 to play for the Privateers, a NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.
Asaro started establishing communication with Lorio around spring break, not long before the Falcons’ season was done away with. Asaro has history in Louisiana, with the fondest memories of his childhood being when he grew up there for three years from the ages 8-11. The grandson of women’s basketball coaching legend Van Chancellor, one of Asaro’s more endearing sports memories is following Van Chancellor’s LSU team and going to Tampa when it made a Final Four run in 2008.
Yes, Asaro admits the cancelation of his senior season was tough.
“I think it was important,” he said. “It would have given the coaches an opportunity to see me play a bit more.”
But he also doubts his ultimate decision would have been affected.
“I might have had an extra opportunity or two, but I probably still would’ve chosen the path I chose,” Asaro said. “I’m in love with going to the University of New Orleans.”
Asaro, who lived in Katy up until he was 8 and then moved back when he was 11, simply loved a place he’s been before, as well as Lorio. But for of his prospective collegiate athletes, Tompkins golf coach Jeff Mudd said the cancelation of the season was drastic.
“It was a lack of opportunity to showcase your skills a few more times,” said Mudd, who has three seniors who will play college golf—Asaro, Elina Sinz (Auburn) and Caleb Allen (Oklahoma City University). “The district tournament is a big one, and obviously the regional and state tournaments. With those being thrown out the window, we lost a lot of our season and the last push of trying to decide where some of these kids want to go to school.”
Mudd has two up-and-coming talented players in junior Greg Dupont and sophomore Colt Tenpenny who could have benefited from a complete season of evaluation, particularly for a program as strong as Tompkins’.
“It’s extremely tricky to navigate right now,” Mudd said. “This is unprecedented. Nobody knew what to do and everybody is still trying to figure out the best way to handle all this. With golf, yeah, you can see the scores, but you’d really like to talk to that kid and see where they are mentally and figure out what they’re makeup is.”
Asaro and Lorio communicated often through emails and text messages. Lorio discussed his expectations for student-athletes in his program and did his best outlying a vivid picture of Asaro’s role. Asaro sent videos of his swings or score results.
Asaro was a natural fit. He has a lot going for him. His work ethic is admirable—he and Van Chancellor are at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club every day practicing and playing—and he has worked hard to improve his mental approach to the game.
“Learning how to play golf is big, and that means not getting upset at the little things and controlling what you can control. Just playing the shot you have at that moment,” Asaro said. “Golf is all mental, and Coach Mudd and (Tompkins assistant) Coach (Jason) Gigante were big pieces in teaching me how to do that, so I’m really grateful for them.”
Asaro fared well and worked his way to that bigger-name college he desired. As for others, Mudd said he could see this pandemic having an impact in the future.
“I think this is going to change college recruiting,” Mudd said. “I think there will be even more of these coaches looking further in advance at kids. Same thing with high school golfers, as far as putting their scores out there and putting themselves out there earlier in their high school career, instead of waiting until they have to make a decision.”