McKINNEY — The golf paths of Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler had crossed many times before at the junior level, so a professional pairing in their own back yard made perfect sense.
The two rising stars on the PGA Tour played alongside one another, plus fellow local product Jordan Spieth, during the first two rounds of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch.
The parallels extend beyond geographical proximity. Both had sensational amateur careers and currently in the top 30 in the World Golf Ranking, yet still searching for their first PGA Tour victory despite several close calls.
Scheffler, 24, is a Highland Park High School graduate who highlighted a terrific rookie season in 2020 with a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship.
Zalatoris, 24, graduated from Trinity Christian Academy and currently lives in Highland Park. He was in the top five at last year’s U.S. Open, then posted a runner-up finish at the Masters in April.
For both of them, however, the Byron Nelson is special. And so is TPC Craig Ranch, where the tournament will be staged for the next five years.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories here,” Zalatoris said. “I guess I’ve been competing here basically half my life.”
That includes competing in a foursome alongside Scheffler in a Northern Texas PGA junior championship event at the same course when they were 12.
“It was in the middle of August and it was so hot that I think we both took towels and dumped them in coolers and literally wrapped them around our necks and played with them on the entire day,” Zalatoris said. “I could probably name seven or eight times that we’ve played together, probably between, like, 9 and 15, where we were duking it out.”
Large galleries followed the trio around the course on Thursday and Friday, even with fan capacity restricted as a public health precautionary measure.
“It was a lot of fun,” Scheffler said. “Nice to hear some noise. Last few holes got a little rowdy, which was enjoyable.”
Spieth, of course, is a Tour veteran by comparison at age 27. The Preston Hollow resident and former Jesuit standout is a three-time major winner who beat both of his contemporaries over the weekend, tying for ninth place.
“They’re both obviously incredibly talented,” Spieth said. “I remembered being on the green in the group with these guys when I was 13 and they were 11. So what a kind of cool experience to see that now and obviously the success they’ve had.”
Scheffler was one shot ahead of Zalatoris after their two rounds together. However, Zalatoris wound up tied for 17th at 16-under par over four days, while Scheffler finished tied for 47th at 11-under.
“This tournament means a lot to me,” Zalatoris said. “I still have the autographed hats that I had. I was one of the kids asking for autographs from guys walking off 18. So it’s kind of fun seeing it all come full circle.”