Zack Byrd’s first collegiate coaching job has lasted just five months.
The Coastal Carolina graduate and former nine-year Murrells Inlet resident has left his job as a Colorado State women’s golf team assistant to accept an assistant’s position with the University of Mississippi’s women’s team.
“I wasn’t really looking for a job, but when the SEC calls you answer the phone,” Byrd said. “It gets us closer to family, back closer to home and in the best conference in women’s college golf.
“That was my plan to try to get into the SEC in a couple years and fortunately it worked out in six months.”
He was hired by Kory Henkes, who is in her fourth season leading the Ole Miss women’s program.
Henkes, previously Kory Thompson prior to marriage, is a good friend and former University of South Carolina teammate of Conway native Kristy McPherson, and McPherson informed Byrd of the opening and helped arrange for his interview at Ole Miss.
The Rebels had the best season in program history in 2017-18, winning three times in the fall season and reaching the NCAA Championship for the first time.
This past fall, the Rebels finished second to Byrd’s former Colorado State team in an event hosted by the University of Denver, and finished between fourth and ninth in four other tournaments to rank 44th in the nation according to Golfstat.com.
Henkes missed much of the fall season on maternity leave and the team was coached in her absence by four-season assistant Drew Belt, who has left the program.
“Kory has done an incredible job in the time she’s been there,” Byrd said. “They’re a young, very talented team that I have a feeling can go quite a long way in the next few years.”
In his short time in Fort Collins, Colo., Byrd helped the Rams post their best fall three-round average (292.1) since at least 2011, including a 4-under 860 at Denver for the second lowest three-round score in program history and first win in more than a decade.
“The hardest part, obviously, is leaving the girls here in the middle of the year, but it’s too good of a job to turn down,” Byrd said. “. . . Ole Miss is a much better job, which comes with much more responsibility, which I’m perfectly fine with because I want to be a head coach.
“This is way further ahead of where I thought I’d be after six months.”
Byrd played professionally for a decade after finishing an All-American career at CCU in 2009.
He twice reached the finals of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament to earn conditional status on the Web.com Tour, played in the 2011 U.S. Open and was most recently a member of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa in 2017-18.
Taking the Ole Miss job puts his pro touring career further behind him, though he intends to earn status with the PGA of America over the next several years and play in its Gulf States Section events.
“I’m going to pursue coaching until I’m 50. I’m going to certainly play as much as I can professional events-wise, but I’m trying to jump into the head coaching world,” Byrd said.
“I haven’t missed playing as much as I thought I would, which is shocking, I thought it would be a lot harder,” he continued. “But I think it’s because I enjoy what I’m doing so much. . . . It has kind of confirmed the fact I want to do this and move up in the field and try to become a head coach.”
Byrd will move to Oxford, Miss., with his wife Ali and daughters Payton and Avery.
He said he would be interested in a men’s coaching job but may remain in women’s college golf. “I really enjoyed coaching the women. I feel like they want to learn more. They are so open to learning,” Byrd said.