After nearly a decade of chasing the dream as a touring golf professional, Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet is making a career change.
The 2009 Coastal Carolina graduate has accepted a job as the assistant women’s golf coach at Colorado State University and leaves Thursday for Fort Collins, Colo.
Byrd hasn’t given up competing entirely, however, and said he has the blessing of the school to maintain a playing schedule in the college golf offseason over the coming year.
“I certainly will not stop competing. But I’m also now invested in the coaching life,” Byrd said. “They’ve got some great facilities and want their golf programs to succeed. I felt it was the time to start there. It just all made sense.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sun News
Byrd will be the assistant to new Rams women’s head coach Laura Cilek, a 2011 Iowa graduate who was hired on July 15 after spending the past three seasons as Oregon’s associate head coach.
Byrd traveled to the campus, which is about an hour’s drive from Denver, last week after being offered the job and signed a contract Monday night.
“She’s a young and up-and-coming coach and I wanted to work for someone who wants to win,” Byrd said. “She wants to build the program there.”
Byrd’s wife, Ali, a teaching professional who has worked at the Steve Dresser Academy at True Blue Golf Club in Pawleys Island, and the couple’s two young children will move to Colorado in the near future.
The couple will also continue to operate their online travel agency, Where To Next Travel.
Byrd, 32, played the Sunshine Tour based in South Africa last season and intends to return to Africa for at least a pair of European Tour events in December.
He finished 46th on the Sunshine Tour money list with about $23,500 earned in 12 events and has full status on the Sunshine Tour and partial European Tour status.
But his playing career has been stalled by a lack of funding and he also recently had a wrist injury. So he started applying for college coaching positions.
“I want to keep playing but I have to provide for the family,” Byrd said. “I’ve toyed with [coaching] for three or four years. I enjoy the player development side, enjoy working with kids. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and it keeps me in golf.”
In his playing career, Byrd has reached the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and Web.com Tour Q-School, played in the 2011 U.S. Open, and played in events on the Web.com, Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada, LatinoAmerica Tour, European Tour, Sunshine Tour and several developmental tours.
In addition to the two events in December, Byrd may travel overseas to play in events in November and January. “I’m not giving up professional golf, I’ll just play less of it,” said Byrd, who plans to work his playing schedule around recruiting.
Byrd has resided on the Grand Strand for two decades, as he moved to Calabash, N.C., from Greensboro, N.C., at the age of 10 and was a member of The Surf Golf and Beach Club prior to attending CCU. He expressed appreciation for the staffs and members at Wachesaw Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach, Prestwick Country Club and The Dunes Golf and Beach Club for their support, as well as his longtime swing coach Mike Schroder.
“They have done everything they can to help my career,” Byrd said. “It’s tough to leave this community. The toughest part of taking the job for me is leaving everybody here.”
Byrd said he expects Cilek to handle the bulk of recruiting and expects his duties to include running practices, traveling to tournaments and possibly overseeing team workouts.
Cilek replaced Annie Young, who left CSU after five seasons for the head coaching job at Tulsa. Rams 2017-18 assistant coach Tommy Baker accepted the head coaching job at James Madison.
Colorado State is coming off a third-place finish in the Mountain West Championship – the team’s best finish since 2010 – and junior Katrina Prendergast and sophomore Ellen Secor each qualified for an NCAA regional.
Byrd said he plans to enter the PGA of America program to eventually play in PGA section events, and would also like to eventually coach at a school in one of the Power Five conferences or back at Coastal.