Zach Vinal is the Director of Golf at The Yards, which is one of the newest golf clubs in Ponte Vedra Beach, having opened in 2020. He brings an array of expertise to the position, having spent time as both a successful collegiate golfer and a history of teaching the game and overseeing the operations of a golf club.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m originally from Syracuse, New York, the coldest place in America, and I had a very decorated junior golf career. I was all-state five times and was heavily recruited to play Division-1 golf and ended up committing to Maryland University.
My older brother went to Binghamton University, which was only an hour away (from Syracuse). Unfortunately, my dad got sick, and it was just easier to stay close to home.
I’m a big believer in why things happen and that everything happens for a reason, so I ended up going there (Binghamton) and we had a great team that made the NCAAs a couple of times, and I was an All-American my junior year.
I planned on staying at Binghamton to get my masters, but ended up actually getting rejected from grad school, which was funny because my GPA and all that stuff was outstanding to say the least. But then I got an offer for a job in California, and although I had zero interest to move to California, I went out there for one day and saw that it was 72 degrees and sunny and everyday was like that, so I ended up spending almost 11 years in Southern California and wound up getting my master’s at Long Beach State University in kinesiology and sports management.
What was the path like to your current role as Director of Golf at The Yards?
I started working at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, and Mike Miles, who is my GM here, was one of the teaching pros there. I started working there in 2008 and began assistant golf pro and spent nine years there before going back to New York in 2018 to be the Director of Golf at Lakeshore Yacht and Country Club.
I spent three years there, and it was always part of the plan for me to come down here to Florida.
Mike called me in August of 2020 and asked when I could get here.
I think I’m done moving. This is it for me.
Basically, all the coolest things I’ve done in my life has been because of golf.
How do your varying experiences help in your current role?
Mike put it to me best after I was very close to qualifying for the U.S. Open one year, but I played terrible, and it was huge let down because I was expecting to be playing in the U.S. Open.
He said, “Zach it doesn’t matter, whether it’s work, life or golf, you’re going to learn a lot more when you get your butt kicked than when you succeed.”
It helped me learn a bunch about getting to this point, because now I know all the stuff not to do. I’ve learned how much of the golf industry is really a people business.
When you come to work, what do you look forward to the most?
We probably have the best staff of people that I’ve ever worked with, as far as understanding the day to day.
In the country club business, something is different every single day. Being able to do all those different things is probably the most fun.
This is my 14th year teaching golf, and having people understand the joy of hitting a really good golf shot and being a part of that is a pretty rewarding experience.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
The hardest part is just trying to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of a member’s standpoint, as far as understanding the vision and the reasons behind why we make decisions.
Having that group of people believe in what you are doing is big.
It’s the hardest part, but also the most rewarding, because when you see that membership grow you know you’re doing something right.
What do you enjoy most about living in Northeast Florida?
Growing up in Syracuse was great, but once you get to that no winters component, it is one of the greatest things. Knowing that it’s 3 (degrees) in Syracuse and I get to come to this everyday is pretty darn nice, although I would love to work on the humidity component.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I watch a lot of golf, because I have some friends who are on tour, and I try to be as supportive of a friend as I can.
My girlfriend and I like to be outside, and we’re going to start taking tennis lessons and doing what Florida people do.
I’m pretty normal, but a big sports guy, so it’s fantasy football and all that kind of good stuff.
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