This past weekend, I covered the Dixie Amateur, a fairly important golf tournament for amateur golfers trying to establish themselves as the best in the country and world. Golfers came from 17 different countries and more universities than you could shake a nine iron at.
While there, I ran into Vanderbilt’s own Luke Zieman. Luke is a junior studying Human and Organizational Development. He took some time to sit down with me and discuss life as a Vanderbilt Athlete.
Shawn Allen: What’s the culture like on the golf team?
Luke Zieman: We’re just a big ol’ family. Everybody loves each like brothers; the coaches, we can go to anybody about anything. I like to say it’s like any other because I’ve never seen another team the way we are. I love being all my teammates and being around them every day. It’s just a really strong culture.
SA: Why do you think that is?
LZ: Coach Limbaugh. He does a great job of bringing in people who fits Vanderbilt’s culture. They are all great, down to earth people that if golf wasn’t their hobby, they’d succeed at anything they do.
SA: You say he brings in people who fit the culture, what are the defining characteristics of those people?
LZ: Hard workers. Very hard workers. They understand that they are playing for something bigger than themselves, that the team comes first. Obviously they are good players, but he does a good job of bringing in people who are compatible with anybody.
SA: What’s it like being an athlete at Vanderbilt.
LZ: It’s a lot of work. You’ve got to be on top of your school work, because if you don’t you’ll get an earful from Coach Limbaugh.
SA: At some universities athletes are easy to spot because of they wear their gear around or people revere the athletes. Are you easy to spot? Do people pay attention to athletes
LZ: Football and basketball players definitely wear the most swag of us all. We were blessed to get a bunch of gear from the program, but we don’t show it off.
SA: Speaking of gear, what’s in the bag. Tell me what you’re playing.
LZ: Alright- I’ve got the M5 driver, 10 degree loft. M1 3-wood, I really like it. PXG 2-iron through wedges.
SA: You play a 2-iron???
LZ: It’s a driving iron, it’s not a blade. I do have a teammate that has a blade 2-iron. [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t play a blade 2-iron. I have PXG down to the wedges. I carry four wedges, a PW, 50, 54, and 58.
SA: What’s your putter?
LZ: It’s a TaylorMade- a Mullen.
SA: How long have you had it?
LZ: I got it second semester last year. So just under a year?
SA: Are you superstitious- do you like to stay with a putter or bounce between them?
LZ: For the longest time, from sophomore year in high school to end of sophomore in college, I putted with the same putter. My putting was never great, it was functional. I feel like the putter change is a little something different to look at, and I like the putter a lot.
SA: What’s the best part of your game?
LZ: Driving. I usually drive it pretty straight.
SA: How long are you off the tee?
LZ: I can carry it 290.
SA: Holy crap. [Laughs] Are you serious?
LZ: Yeah, I’m one of the shorter ones on the team, too.
SA: What is something you do that you don’t think most people know about?
LZ: Community service. The SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Council) sets it up.
SA: What’s something you’ve done.
LZ: We served dinner for two hours at the women’s shelter to 200+ women and their children.
SA: What’s the relationship between the men’s and women’s programs?
LZ: We share the facilities. We’re close with them. They are great people and a great group of golfers. Their program has gotten really good. They are courteous to us, as are we to them, when we have things to do on the practice range.
SA: Are you on there at the same time? It is big enough to share?
LZ: If we are on it, then they will probably go play qualifying and vice versa.
SA: Most fun course you’ve played while you’ve been on the team.
LZ: Pebble Beach. That’s easy. It’s always gorgeous out there the time of year we go. I like Isleworth a lot down in Orlando. I haven’t been fortunate enough to Cabo, I’ve heard it’s great.
SA: Every time I write about it, I joke that it’s a trip sending college kids to Cabo on Spring Break. Ok, lightning round. What’s the best thing to eat McGugan?
LZ: Can’t go wrong with General Tau’s Chicken.
SA: Rice or Lo mein?
SA: What’s the worst thing to eat?
LZ: [Laughs] ummmm, there are a couple things. The grilled chicken can get a little rubbery.
SA: You’re not the first person to say that.
LZ: I hate complaining...
SA: It’s an observation. What’s the hardest workout you have to do?
LZ: That’s an easy question. It’s a stadium. You run up one aisle, over to the next and down, and snake the whole stadium.
SA: Is that off season? Weekly?
LZ: Depends on when our strength coach wants to put us through the ringer. [Laughs]
SA: What’s the best golf practice drill you do?
LZ: When I’m putting I like to do the tornado drill. Put the tees down three feet, four feet, five feet, six feet, seven feet all around the hole.
SA: How long does it take?
LZ: I mean, if you knock out seven in a row, about two minutes. If you keep missing, it could take you an hour.
SA: Why do you like that drill so much?
LZ: Because you’re focusing on making putts [not technique].
SA: Funniest guy on the team?
LZ: John Augenstein is funny. Harrison Ott is funny. Michael Sheers is unintentionally funny [laughs].
SA: Important question: is John’s hair as glorious as it looks?
LZ: [Laughs] Yeah, it sure is... and he’ll tell you about it.
SA: Smartest guy on the team?
LZ: Mason Greenberg. He got a 4.0 this semester in Econ.
SA: Strongest guy?
LZ: Probably me.
SA: Well, you’re a big dude. How big are you?
LZ: 6’3”, 230lbs... But I don’t hit it furthest. John Augenstein does. Well, actually, Mason Greenberg hits it the furthest, but John hits the furthest and straightest.