Sports were big for Nick Wallace as a youth and in high school at McClatchy in Sacramento.
He went year-round, season to season, playing soccer, basketball, and baseball.
He went on to play soccer in college, both at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento and then at San Francisco State.
He took his game to another level, turning professional and playing soccer, as a defender and midfielder, for the Reno Rattlers, Sacramento Knights, and Sacramento Scorpions of the now-defunct United States Interregional Soccer League.
“As you can probably speculate from my sports background, I’m very competitive,” said Wallace. “I’ve been playing sports my whole life.”
He has also been around athletes his entire life, with his family at the top of that list. His mom, Bina Wallace, was the badminton champion of Nepal. His dad, Frank Wallace, played basketball and was also on the track and field team at Stanford.
“My family all comes from a very athletic background,” said Wallace.
Wallace took on another sport, as he became interested in golf and went to work at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex – a 36-hole facility that features the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, Arcade Creek Course, Super Shop, and driving range area with Toptracer Range – in Sacramento.
“I got into golf when I was about 23 with some of my soccer friends, just for fun, got hooked, and got a job at Haggin Oaks,” said Wallace. “I’ve been playing golf for quite a bit, but never really aspired to be a pro golfer. A 7-handicap is about the best I ever was.”
He works as a sales associate in the Super Shop and plays indoor soccer twice a week to stay in shape.
He also happens to be one of the top players in the country at FootGolf – “a precision sport, in which players kick a soccer ball into a 52cm cup located away from golf greens in as few shots as possible,” according to www.footgolf.net.
“The game combines the two sports (soccer and golf), being more closely related to golf. FootGolf can be as fun or competitive as you want so you can invite your non-golfer friends and family to spend the day at the course with you. Footgolfers play like golfers and have a lot of fun on the course.”
Wallace is a professional player at FootGolf and is No. 5 in the American FootGolf League Rankings, according to afgl.bluegolf.com.
“Two of my favorite passions are golf and soccer,” said Wallace, 45, who has been at Haggin Oaks since 2003. On his bio page, at www.hagginoaks.com, Wallace says:
“FootGolf is also one of my passions. Due to my extensive soccer and golf backgrounds, FootGolf is my new favorite!”
Wallace tied for second place at the American FootGolf League Tour’s U.S. Open-FIFG/Region 1/AFGL tournament, June 4-6, at Reunion Resort, in the Orlando and Kissimmee areas of Florida. Wallace had rounds of 61, 64, and 62.
The American FootGolf League Tour, now in its ninth year, offers competitive tournaments and “gives players a chance to play the best FootGolf courses in the country,” according to www.bluegolf.com/amateur/programs/afgl/about.html
“Competitive players from around the world have the opportunity to test their skills on some of the toughest course designs available. The AFGL and American FootGolf Federation created the necessary structure to facilitate and promote the sport of FootGolf in the United States of America.”
Wallace, a 1994 graduate of McClatchy High, was named captain of the U.S. National FootGolf Team in an announcement on Jan. 13 by the American FootGolf Federation at www.footgolf.us.
“The Board of Directors of the AFGF (American FootGolf Federation) invited him to join in a project for the next two years and he has accepted to volunteer as the Captain of our national team,” the report, at www.footgolf.us, said.
“This FootGolf veteran has also been a member of West Coast FootGolf Club for four of their five U.S. National Championship titles. Nick has been in the golf industry for eighteen years and has played soccer and/or coached soccer most of his life. With his unique background in both golf and soccer, Nick is an excellent choice for captain of Team USA.”
Wallace will lead the U.S. National FootGolf Team, both as captain and a team member, at the FIFG (Federation for International FootGolf) FootGolf World Cup in 2023. It will be held in Florida, at Reunion Resort, in the Orlando and Kissimmee areas, and Walt Disney World Resort, in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.
His background in the sport includes:
- Winning a world title as a member of Team USA at the FIFG FootGolf World Cup in 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Winning a bronze medal for Team USA in the 2018 World Cup in Marrakech, Morocco.
- Being invited twice to the Jansen Cup.
“It is a world sport,” said Wallace. “It’s basically a hybrid of golf and soccer. There’s definitely a lot of players that participate throughout the world. It’s big in Europe and South America.
“The U.S. is definitely one of the top players in the game.”
FootGolf has enabled Wallace to stay competitive as he trains and competes in events during the year.
“I definitely enjoy the competition,” he said. “When I started getting older, and after I stopped playing a lot of high-level soccer, this sport came around, and it kind of brought back those competitive juices.
“When they had these national competitions, and I started doing well, it just kind of brought back that competitive fire that I was missing.”
He has 13 holes-in-one playing FootGolf.
In recent events, Wallace:
- Shot 63 and tied for seventh place at the Arcade Creek Course at Haggin Oaks, April 10.
- Shot 55 and tied for fourth at the Monarch Bay Golf Course in San Leandro, April 11.
- Shot 57 and won the AFGL California 50-Lights of Indio at Indio Golf Club, June 26.
- Shot 64 and tied for eighth at the AFGL California 50-Tahquitz Creek in Palm Springs, June 26.
- Shot 70 and tied for 17th at the AFGL California 100-Desert Willow in Palm Desert, June 27.
A look at FootGolf
According to www.footgolf.net, the game of FootGolf is played with a size-5 soccer ball, “from the teeing zone with each player aiming for the hole on the green zone in the fewest number of kicks. It is played with minimal supervision of a marshal and depends on the integrity of the player to show consideration for other players and to abide by the rules. All foot golfers should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner demonstrating courtesy at all times and sportsmanship regardless of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of FootGolf.”
The website adds:
“When on the fairway, the player furthest from the hole plays first. If any ball is in the way or in a position which is an advantage to you, it must be marked and removed. If your ball interferes with another player, you can mark it. If you hit another ball on the fairway, the other player must replace their ball to the original position.”
The website also adds:
“When putting, you can use the toe or instep but NOT the sole of your shoe to roll the ball.”
The par-3 holes are between 50-150 yards, the par-4 holes between 150-200 yards, and the par-5 holes between 200-300 yards. There are flags in each hole, with the holes about two feet deep.
“Basically, you’re playing golf with a soccer ball,” said Wallace. “Like golf, you’re trying to use course management to kind of navigate the course, avoid the bunkers and avoid the water, try to keep yourself below the hole and shape shots around trees. There’s definitely a lot of strategy involved, just like golf.
“Playing soccer regularly helps with keeping me strong and my accuracy with my tee shots. The putting and the chipping and the pitching are things that I have to practice on my own.”
He has two events coming up:
- Sept. 11-12, AFGL Nevada 250, Chimera Golf Club, Henderson, Nevada.
- Nov. 4-7, U.S. National Championship, Brazell’s Creek in Reidsville, Georgia.
FootGolf at Haggin Oaks
Haggin Oaks offers FootGolf after 1 p.m. at its Arcade Creek Course. According to www.mortongolfmanagement.com:
“FootGolf, which combines the popular sports of soccer and golf, made its Northern California debut at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento with the California FootGolf Challenge on July 14, 2013.
Local players were invited to join enthusiasts from throughout California in a tournament where athletes use soccer balls on a traditional golf course with 21-inch diameter cups. The rules largely correspond to the rules of golf.”
According to the Haggin Oaks website, www.hagginoaks.com:
“The Haggin Oaks FootGolf Course has 18 holes built within the front nine of the Arcade Creek Golf Course at Haggin Oaks and is designed to be able to play both traditional golf and FootGolf simultaneously.
“To play FootGolf, athletes use soccer balls on a traditional golf course with 21-inch diameter cups. The rules largely correspond to the rules of golf.
“FootGolf uses golf’s basic model including tee boxes, greens, bunkers, hazards, and 18 holes of play. Scorecards display par scores for each hole as in regular golf. The sport is governed by the Federation for International FootGolf and has grown primarily internationally.
“The sport is played in the traditional format of up to four players per group with FootGolfers either walking the course or using golf carts. Holes are roughly half the distance of a regular golf hole. While the soccer ball doesn’t travel as far in the air as a golf ball, it will roll much farther in the fairways.”
Wallace’s personal low score at Haggin Oaks, at the Arcade Creek Course, is 54.
To make a starting time, call (916) 808-2525.
According to www.hagginoaks.com:
“To play, you must be dressed appropriately. Indoor soccer shoes. Turf soccer shoes are recommended (no soccer cleats). A size 5 soccer ball is recommended.”
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.