Sports

Zokol tunes into Predator

Dick Zokol at the 1993 Xerox B.C. Open at Predator Ridge Golf Resort. - Morning Star File
Dick Zokol at the 1993 Xerox B.C. Open at Predator Ridge Golf Resort.
— image credit: Morning Star File

Last time (Disco) Dick Zokol was a big deal in these parts was during the 1993 Xerox B.C. Open at Predator Ridge Golf Resort.

Unfortunately, many felt he left town a villain after getting disqualified from the pro tournament for signing an incorrect scorecard. He four-putted one green and carded a nine on the fourth (the water) hole on the Saturday, signing for a 79.

He wasn’t around on the Sunday, but fans soon fell in love with California surfer boy Eric Woods, forgot about Zokol, and went bonkers when Woods won the Open.

The Vancouver Province ran an article highly critical of Zokol, who wrote his own column in the Vancouver Sun, carrying the headline: Predator Ridge a good course which should be great.

I was media director for the B.C. Open, headed by Cec Ferguson, and kept the column in my filing cabinet, reading bits of it to Zokol.

Zokol apologized for the DQ while saying “the average golfer simply isn’t able to play very well at Predator Ridge. It’s too difficult even from the white tees for them.”

Added Zokol, in his column: “Walking to the 18th green I must admit I wanted to get out of there. I was in the middle of shooting 80 and I saw (his wife) Joanie and the kids watching. It was the first time the children had come to a course during a tournament and they gave me a big hug when I finished. My mind was wandering.”

Predator Ridge has since become more player friendly, and the other day, named Zokol as executive director, golf development.

“Where the irony is, that experience 20 years ago represented the worst media experience in my career,” Zokol told me Friday morning. “I recall reading that (Province) article after. I was fine with the article. What made it look bad and sour grapes on my part, was the fact that I got disqualified, and then I was critical to the golf course. I stand by that (his own) article. Had I been leading the golf tournament, I’d still be saying the same things.”

Zokol, who captained the Brigham Young Cougars to the 1981 NCAA golf championship, has been kind of like the Jeremy Roenick or Brett Hull of pro golf, except with a university degree to better express himself.

He studies and loves the game of golf, and he has an opinion. So much so that he may write a book one day despite the fact “I’m a horrible writer; it takes me a month to write a paragraph.”

The Magee Secondary grad played junior golf at Marine Drive in Vancouver, where he would earn three bucks on a Saturday caddying for the likes of businessmen Poldi Bentley (founder of Pacific Veneer which later became CanFor).

He won the 1981 Canadian Amateur Championship, in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff over Blaine McCallister, then turned professional, and joined the PGA Tour later that year.

Zokol had 20 top-10 PGA finishes, including a win in 1992. His best finish in a major was a share of 14th at the 1993 PGA Championship.

“There’s a zillion people that can teach the golf swing. The mental side of the game, to me, is where there is a big void. Literally how you prepare to think and manage, and there is a lot of opportunity there, and it’s a direction that I take very seriously.”

He earned the Disco Dick moniker in 1982 by wearing a Sony Walkman on the golf course. The music moved him.

“My first year on the PGA Tour, I went from playing six months on tour to not being able to make a cut. And then, the moment I put headphones on, I led the golf tournament after the first round, the second round, the third round. That discovery, what does that mean in what goes on in the mind? From that point on, through the ‘80s and ‘90s, because I couldn’t compete on an equal basis with Fred Couples and Davis Love physically, but mentally, that was the only way I could equal (them).

“It was desperation and trying to figure it out intuitively. I knew my game was really good at the time, at that moment, but with the anxiety that all golfers have – and it doesn’t end when once you become a professional, let me tell you that – I knew I needed to calm down, intuitively, so I said, ‘listen to music.’ So something happened and over the past 30 years now, I’ve found those answers on what actually happens in the brain.

“Ten years ago, I started writing and I’ve never done anything with it. I’ve got 100,000 words written for a book that is very rough, obviously very raw so it may give me time to do that, and I believe there’s some breakthrough stuff in there that none of the sports psychologists (have). They’re sniffing around the right area, but they’re not connecting all the right dots.”

In another ironic twist, Zokol said the USGA recently banned listening to music. The head of rules was a BYU teammate so Zokol half-joked “so I’m writing him a letter.”

The son of a dentist, Zokol and his wife have three grown children, twin boys Garrett and Conor, 24, and a daughter, Hayley, 21.

“The boys did a couple of years of collegiate golf down in Texas, and thank God, they said ‘enough of that,’ and they came back and got a degree in economics.”

Zokol played for Karl Tucker at Brigham Young, calling the late, great coach a father figure.

“He was a very, very special person. You become a product of it (BYU) without even knowing it. It was a place, you go there, you’re pliable and you get molded that way, and if had I not gone there, there’s no way I’d been a golfer.”

 

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