From Michigan State golfer to educator to coach: Zach Rosendale’s journey through the sport
Rosendale loves playing golf, and now, helping others from Spartan varsity players to newbies, improve their games.
Finding an instructor for such a challenging and intricate game such as golf was always going to be difficult to find someone personable, helpful, kind and interesting. As a student at Michigan State, I turned to the professional coaches at the Forest Akers Golf Course and could not have found a more fascinating instructor than Zach Rosendale.
His journey in the game of golf almost ended early as he had eyes for a different sport growing up.
“I grew up playing hockey, that was my main sport. I remember when I was younger I just started hitting balls in my backyard when I was around 10,” said Rosendale.
Golf is in many ways a heavily mental-sided game, something that Rosendale took to early on.
“Golf and hockey are completely different. Hockey is very team-oriented, but you know with golf, it’s just you out there. It’s only you and I think I liked that aspect of it early on where it’s just down to me out there,” said Rosendale.
Like many who pick up a new sport, Rosendale had a parental influence in his introduction to golf. It was his dad's clubs being around the house that set him on his path to the greens and fairways.
“In the early days my dad would say to me, ‘you’ve got a pretty good swing, do you maybe want to go to the range sometime’, and I remember being really receptive to that. Once I started hitting I picked it up pretty fast,” said Rosendale.
He is also thankful for the sacrifices his father made early on to support his son's new passion.
“My dad is my biggest influence because of everything he did when I was younger, helping me travel to and play in different tournaments, helping me with access to a course. It was all so impactful,” said Rosendale.
It did not take long for Rosendale, a St. Johns, Michigan native, to raise some eyebrows on the golf course. He was only 12 when college coaches started to notice his skills, and he verbally committed to MSU at 14.
“I remember going into that meeting with the MSU coaches and not really knowing what the meeting was going to be like going into it,” Rosendale said. “When I got offered I committed on the spot, it was like I knew I was supposed to accept it. It added pressure but also freed me up at the same time.”
Commitments go both ways, Rosendale was very aware of that. With four years between verbally committing and arriving on campus, a lot could’ve happened. Rosendale rose to the occasion and had an incredible high school golf career which culminated in two team state championships with St. Johns as well as the individual state championship in 2017, a year where he was also named Michigan’s Mr. Golf in his senior year.
“Everything ramped up at the perfect time my senior year. Every single tournament there was something in the back of my mind where I knew I was going to play well. I knew when I got to the state finals that if I won it that I had a really good chance to win Mr. Golf,” said Rosendale.
Even though he felt good all season, the night before the second round of the state final he had a crucial talk with his swing coach when he was three strokes back from the lead, this talk calmed him down and helped him refocus to win the tournament.
“I started saying to him ‘I have to do this, I have to do that and I just don’t know that I can’. He calmed me down and said ‘just relax and play your game and the cream will rise to the top,” said Rosendale.
While Rosendale was a four-year letter winner for the MSU golf team, it is less the tournaments he remembers and more the moments with his teammates..
“A lot of the things I remember really aren’t golf related. More like going bowling one night, hanging out and watching a football game you know? The relationships I made with my teammates will last forever. Those are my best friends,” said Rosendale.
He was also roommates with James Piot. A former Spartan who would go on to win the U.S. Amatuer Open and put himself on the national stage for golf including an appearance at the 2022 Masters.
This friendship with Piot would propel Rosendale to experience things he never thought possible, such as caddying for his best friend at PGA tour events. But neither of them have forgotten their roots at MSU.
“James [Piot] and I went to Singapore and South Korea, and we just never would have imagined it. We joke about it but just thinning back to sophomore year we were trying to figure out what time we were going to Brody or what time the dining halls opened. It’s insane,” said Rosendale.
After his playing days were over at MSU, Rosendale became an instructor at Forest Akers and that’s where I come in.As someone who was new to the sport, I was nervous about signing up for lessons and taking instruction from someone who is a pro. I was browsing the options online, when I came across Rosendale. I noticed he was an Education major.
I was so struck by that and I thought, ‘Who else to teach me other than someone who themselves is trying to be a teacher?’ and I immediately signed up for a lesson.
I could not have picked someone more personable, entertaining, kind and helpful when it came to shaping my game. It was this connection that made me so happy when I saw that Rosendale had entered his next phase of involvement with the sport at MSU, when he was named as an assistant coach for the MSU women’s golf team. I pumped my fist in class when I saw the news come across my Twitter timeline.
He’s taken to his new role well and enjoys the day-to-day of it all.
“I’ve always wanted to be on the other side, I think being from Michigan State gave me a big leg up in the process because I know the culture. It feels like home here, I am around the office all day,” said Rosendale.
Rosendale stressed that he’s happy with where he is now.
“Right now I am just enjoying the ride, I am still learning my way around everything but I just love being around all of this so much,” said Rosendale.