The Upper Deck Company is celebrating Will Zalatoris with a Game Dated Moment card after he was named the 2021 PGA Rookie of the Year.
Zalatoris finished the year with eight top 10 finishes and 14 top 25 finishes in his first year on the PGA Tour.
While Zalatoris had an outstanding first season on the tour, the fact that there were any rookies at all on the tour was surprising. Usually, a golfer is promoted to the PGA based on performance in the Korn Ferry Tour. Because of the pandemic in 2020, the only way to earn a spot on the tour was as a special temporary member. Zalatoris got that status last November after finishing in a tie for 16th at the Bermuda Championship.
“I think my first kind of 10 minutes, once I realized that it was going to be a two-year season, was going to be a little bit of a frustration,” Zalatoris said in a Golf Channel interview last Monday from the Fortinet Championship, where he is making his 2021-22 season debut. “I had to look at it like an opportunity. The fact that I was essentially given two years to go win three times [on the Korn Ferry Tour] and I knew that if I were to go win three times I would be that much more prepared to win at the PGA Tour level.”
Zalatoris defeated Garrick Higgo, who played in eight tournaments but did have a win at the Palmetto Championship, for the Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA’s top rookie. Rafael Campos was the only other rookie eligible for the award.
While Zalatoris may not be a household name to the golf fan or collector yet, his success on the tour is not considered a surprise to those who have been following him. He first appeared on the radar as a junior. At the age of 12, he qualified for the US Junior Amatuer and would win the tournament at the age of 16. He went to Wake Forest University and had four victories, 15 top fives and 24 top 10s in his collegiate career. He graduated from Wake Forest with an average score of 70.44, establishing a new school record.
He began the 2019 season with no status on the Korn Ferry Tour, but finished 60th on the regular season points list. He had three top-10 finishes in 23 starts. The highlight of his season was tying for third at the LECOM Health Challenge.
In 2020, Zalatoris played on the Korn Ferry Tour and earned his first title at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes.
He was granted Special Temporary Member status for the 2021 season and made an immediate impact. He tied for sixth at the U.S. Open for his first PGA Tour top 10 finish. He also hit his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour at that tournament, in the first round on the par-three seventh.
The highlight of Zalatoris’ season was his second place finish at the Masters. He was the only player in the tournament to record under par scores in all four rounds.
Zalatoris PGA Tour Rookie of the Year card will be available exclusively through Upper Deck e-Pack until Sept. 24. The printed card will ship in 6-8 weeks. His rookie card will appear in 2022 Upper Deck golf products.