GEARHART, Ore. — His first name is Zdravko, which maybe you can pronounce, but he lets people off easy — he’s “Z” throughout coastal northern Oregon.
Zdravko Barbic, 54, was born in Croatia in central Europe, moved to Southern California when he was 12, and now lives around here, where he is the head PGA professional and lead teacher at Gearhart Golf Links.
His bio on the golf course Website says soccer was his first love, but his life has come around to golf. Barbic says his wife Debra recognized golf’s weight in his life before he did: If you like golf that much, she said, why don’t you make it your job?
“She always tells me, ‘You don’t work — you love it too much,'” Barbic says.
Barbic is a skilled player — he’s played in Senior PGA National Championships (for club pros) in Virginia and Florida, and is aiming to qualify for this year’s event at Bayonet and Black Horse in Monterey, Calif.
He’s coach of the girls’ golf team at nearby Seaside High School.
When he teaches at Gearhart, he’s forced to drill his students mainly in short-game techniques — which would be his preference anyway — because the course doesn’t have a real practice range.
“I want to start them off with short chipping — just a nice, easy, short motion,” he says.
If a student can’t get the little stuff first, Barbic says, they won’t get the big stuff: “I always work from the green out.”
He gives on-course lessons to help his students figure out course management. He asks questions: Did they play other sports? Are they in general good health? He wants to know if they’re athletic or not, and whether they can follow directions.
“Some people really struggle,” Barbic says. “You almost have to put them in position and get them to feel it, and see if they can repeat it.”
If Z was seeing a student for the first time, and only had five minutes, he would use the time to teach proper grip and posture.
“I would let them know how important balance is when they make their swing.”