The new documentary The Short Game follows eight talented young golfers from around the globe as they compete in one of the toughest youth tournaments in the world: the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, NC. One of those kids is ZamokuhleNxasana (pronounced Zam-oh-coo-layNox-ah-sana, or Zama for short), a 9-year-old from South Africa who dreams of becoming a professional golfer. When we meet him in the movie, it’s the year 2012 and he’s preparing for his second trip to the tournament. His goal for the tournament is a simple one: Be better than last year.
With his upbeat personality and great attitude toward the game and tournament, Zama is one of the standout kids in The Short Game. In October, he talked with Sports Illustrated Kids from his home in South Africa about golf and the experience of being in the movie.
How old were you when you started playing golf?
Three years old.
Wow, that’s pretty young. Why did you start?
Because my dad played golf and he said I have to play also. And I love the game.
What’s your best score?
Three under par. Minus-three in nine holes.
Wow, that’s really good. I’m a terrible golfer. I was watching the movie and thought, “I’ll never be as good as Zama and these other kids.”
You have to practice! Then you’ll get better!
I hope so. You’ll have to come be my coach.
Uh, I don’t think I have the time.
Are you going to school?
Yep. I’m in third grade.
What’s your favorite subject?
In the movie you’re really positive, even if you miss a shot. How do you stay so positive and upbeat?
I just hit the ball, that’s all. I just hit the ball and if it’s bad I forget that shot.
Who are your favorite golfers?
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, because they’re good players.
Do you try to play like them.
Yes! I’m trying to be like them when I grow up!
Do you play any other sports?
Yes. I play soccer and cricket, swimming, tennis… and what else? That’s all.
If you didn’t play golf, what would be your favorite sport to play?
What position do you play?
I play defender.
That’s the the position I played in soccer when I was a kid, too. But I wasn’t good at soccer, either.
(laughs) What were you good at?
I played baseball. I was OK at baseball.
Baseball? I like baseball, too, I play tee ball.
What do the kids at school think about you being in a movie?
They are really happy and they’re calling me a movie star! Everyone, like, knows. And the part everyone knows is, “Do you have a girlfriend yet?”
(laughs) Well, do you have a girlfriend yet?
I had one, but she moved complexes. She moved to a different complex from me.
So what do you hope to be when you grow up?
A professional golfer.
If you can’t be a golfer, what else would you like to do?
Tennis! Well actually, not tennis. Swimming.
I thought you liked playing soccer.
Yeah, but soccer is a bit too dangerous. If you get hit you could get hurt.
In the beginning of the movie, you said your goal for the 2012 tournament was to better than you were in the last one. In the 2013, you finished in eighth place with a score of +6. What’s your goal going to be for next year?
To finish in the top three.
That’s a good goal. But it’s going to be tough.What are you doing to practice?
I’m working on my short game, putting, and just hitting some balls.
What advice would you give to kids who wanted to try golf?
Just go out the range and just practice, practice, practice. You’ll just get better and better.
A lot of kids who read this interview will be in America and they might not know much about where you are in South Africa. What is the one thing about your country your would like kids in America to know?
The Rainbow Nation. It’s a beautiful country.
What’s the most beautiful part of it?
We’ve got game reserves. You can see lion cubs, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs. I saw a leopard with some cubs.
What’s your favorite animal?
Cheetah, because it’s fast.
When I was a kid I really liked zebras.
My mom does do. Maybe because my name starts with that, with zed, so she likes zebras. (laughs) Do you know when the movie is going to come out in South Africa?
Oh, I don’t know. I hope soon!
Oh. Is it out in America?
Yeah, it came out in America. I’m in New York and it was in a few movie theaters here.
Oh! That’s really nice!
Yeah. So if you walked down by one of these movie theaters, it would say “The Short Game” and have a big picture of Zama on the street.
Are you trying to be funny? (laughs)
Uh, yeah. I’m joking.
(laughs) I can’t wait until the movie comes here to South Africa!
The Short Game premieres on Netflix on December 12.
Photos courtesy Netflix