Zach Pollo

Marty James Writes About California Amateur Championship Winner-Zach Pollo

As the winner of the 112th California Amateur Championship, Zach Pollo got to take a close look at the trophy that was presented to him on Saturday, June 24 at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City.

He saw some of the biggest names in golf – Johnny Miller, Ken Venturi, Mark O’Meara, Xander Schauffele. Each of them have previously won the state amateur, one of the biggest events of the year. Their accomplishments have been immortalized as their names are engraved on the trophy.

“It’s pretty cool to put your name on that,” said Pollo, a resident of Rocklin (Placer County). “It’s a good feeling, just knowing that you’re in there with some of the greats to play the game.”

At just the age of 18, Pollo is a rising star in the game. He made an immediate impact at the University of Arizona, as he played in all 12 tournaments during the 2022-23 season for the Wildcats. He was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. He was a co-individual medalist, leading the Wildcats to the Arizona NIT team title in March at Omni Tucson National Resort. His 72.53 scoring average ranks as the sixth-lowest by an Arizona freshman in program history, according to Arizona Athletics, at He was named Pac-12 Co-Golfer of the Week in March.

“This first year was as good as I could have envisioned,” said Pollo, a 2022 graduate of Whitney High School-Rocklin. “It’s been a great year. I’m looking forward to next year.”

“I think I always try to be the hardest worker I can. So, I think that’s a big part of my success in the last year or so. As a whole, I try to just put as much time as I can into practicing. I feel like if I do that, more than some other guys, that it will kind of reward you. It will kind of pay off in the end.”

Pollo got his summer season off to a great start, as he spent the week of June 19-24 playing at the California Amateur Championship, which is put on by the Northern California Golf Association and Southern California Golf Association.

By shooting 73-70 – 143 and finishing in a tie for ninth place in the 36-hole stroke play qualifying, Pollo advanced to match play. There were 156 players in the field. Only the low 32 players from qualifying advance to match play. In match play, Pollo won in the Round of 32, beating J.R. Warthen of Avila Beach, CA, 1 up. In the Round of 16, Pollo beat Ivan Barahona of Van Nuys, CA, 19 holes. In the quarterfinals, Pollo won, 2 and 1, over Ethan Chung of Eastvale, CA. In the semifinals, Pollo beat Davis McDowell of San Rafael, 19 holes. In the 36-hole final, Pollo won, 5 and 4, over Dylan Oyama of Carlsbad, CA.

Pollo became one of the youngest champions in the history of the event.

“I knew going into it, you kind of just tell yourself, if you want to make it all the way, you’ve got to go through a lot of golf, a lot of holes, and just mentally kind of prepare yourself. And then once you get in the moment, you’ve just stay locked in,” he said.

“You’re so focused on being out there that you kind of forget how much golf you’ve played. And then kind of afterward you’re like, now I’m really tired.”

Pollo’s parents, Jay and Carrie Pollo were on hand to see the final match.

Pollo’s putting was key in the finals. He eagled the par-5, 14th, the 32nd hole of the finals.

“My game felt really good all week. I was steadily around 2-3-under par in each match. And then in that final match, just a few more putts went in, and I made a couple of really long ones. The next thing I knew, I was 7-8-under,” said Pollo.

“It kind of just came to me. I didn’t really feel like I did anything special. Just played good all week. I think it kind of just came to me at the end. Obviously, it feels great to be able to put it together like that and know that you’re the last one standing.”

Lake Merced Golf Club, a par-72 championship layout that was founded in 1922, presented a difficult test with firm, tight fairways, and fairway bunkers. The course, according to the club’s website, “is defined by its natural beauty. Enhanced by dramatic elevation changes and carved into tree-lined, manicured fairways, the course is nationally recognized as a tough but fair test of golf.”

Lake Merced has hosted U.S. Golf Association, LPGA, college and NCGA events over the years. This includes U.S. Open qualifying, 1990 U.S. Junior Amateur, 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, 2009 NCAA West Regional Championship, Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic (2014-2016), and LPGA Mediheal Championship (2018-2020). Lake Merced underwent a “whole-course restoration” in 2021, according to its website, with the design by Gil Hanse. Hanse is the President and Lead Designer for Hanse Golf Course Design.

“It’s a really well-designed course,” said Pollo. “I think it’s a perfect course for match play because there’s certain holes where you can kind of go for it a little bit. And you can also lay back. Typically, I’m the kind of guy who, when I get to match play, I feel like it’s worth it to kind of take a few more risks.”

“I found myself laying back a lot and kind of hitting sort of low tee shots with a little less club that kind of just rolled up there. Because there’s a lot of fairway bunkers out there, if you go in them, there’s a good chance you’ll have to lay up.”

Pollo was red-hot late in the final match, as he was 8-under over his last 14 holes, the NCGA reported, at

“It definitely kind of boosts your confidence for sure,” he said of the win. “It kind of just validates the work that you’ve put in and makes you realize, just keep doing what you’re doing and put more work in and keep it going.

“It just feels really good. I know that that only comes with staying committed to your game plan and staying committed to your training. Hopefully, continue putting that work in and seeing more results.”

Pollo plays out of Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin. He is very appreciative and thankful for all the help and support that he has gotten from Tom Morton, his coach. Morton is a PGA Member and is with the ownership team at Morton Golf. Morton is President of the Morton Golf Foundation and the PGA Director of Player Performance for Morton Golf. Morton is a board member of First Tee – Greater Sacramento and chairman of the NCPGA Player & Teacher Development Forum.

Morton’s honors include:

* NCPGA Apprentice/Assistant of the Year, 2002.

* NCPGA Horton Smith Award Winner, 2006.

* US Kids Top 50 Junior Golf Instructor in the World, 2006-2008.

* Northern California PGA Junior Golf Leader of the Year, 2008.

* NCPGA Junior Golf Leader Award Winner, 2008.

* Northern California PGA Junior Golf Leader of the Year, 2012.

* Northern California PGA Player Development of the Year, 2012.

“He’s been great. He’s always been there along the way. I could not do it without him, for sure,” said Zach Pollo, who was named the most valuable player of the Sierra Foothill League for Whitney High.

This summer, Pollo will play in the 2023 U.S. Junior Amateur, July 24-29, at Daniel Island Club (Ralston Creek), Charleston, S.C., and Daniel Island Club (Beresford Creek), Charleston, S.C.

He will also play in the Southern Amateur Championship, July 19-22, at The Honors Course, in Ooltewah, Tennessee, and the U.S. Amateur qualifying, July 10, at Granite Bay Golf Club.

Pollo played in both the U.S. Junior Amateur, at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, and the U.S. Amateur, at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., and Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J., last year.

Pollo had a standout freshman season of college golf for Arizona. His final score of 13-under par at the Arizona NIT tied for the 12th-best tournament score in relation to par in program history, Arizona Athletics reported, at He shot a season-low 65 in the first round and finished second at The Arizona Thunderbirds Intercollegiate, in January at Tucson Country Club.

Pollo said the experience of getting to play college golf has been phenomenal.“I expected a great year. I expected the team to be really good,” he said. “Just being there with the guys and coaches is great. The schedule we play is great. Everything about it was super cool. Can’t wait to get back for Year 2.”

Arizona finished in a tie for eighth place at the NCAA Morgan Regional in May. It was played at The Institute Golf Club in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Arizona was seventh at the Pac-12 Championships, played in April at Stanford Golf Course. Pollo is joined on the Arizona team by Sam Sommerhauser, a senior, who is also from Rocklin. Sommerhauser also went to Whitney High.

Chase Sienkiewicz, a 2019 Jesuit High-Carmichael graduate, played four years of college golf at the University of Arizona and graduated in May from the Eller College of Management with a degree in business marketing. He recently turned professional and is now on PGA Tour Canada. He makes his home now in Dallas and plays out of Stonebriar Country Club, in Frisco, Texas.

* 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.

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