‘Walking model of the Butler Way’

Sophomore Leo Zurovac has high expectations for himself and his team this fall season. Photo by Claire Runkel

CYBIL STILLSON | SPORTS REPORTER | cstillson@butler.edu 

Few people can say they have stepped foot on four separate continents, let alone lived on three of them. For Leo Zurovac, though, this has been his journey, a journey that has now led him to Indianapolis to be a shining member of the Dawgs’ men’s golf team. 

From Switzerland, to Kenya, to Spain, to Croatia and now to Indianapolis, the sophomore brings a unique, universal perspective of the game in addition to his ability to shoot under par. 

Zurovac’s story began in Europe when he was born in Switzerland. Shortly after, his family moved roughly 4,000 miles south to Africa where his father worked as an epidemiologist studying malaria in Kenya. It was there, around the age of four or five, that Zurovac was introduced to golf and developed a love for the game that has taken him around the world. 

When asked about living in Africa, Zurovac expressed his gratitude for the opportunity. 

 “It’s different from the rest of the world out there today,” Zurovac said. “But it is also a good experience, something that you need.”  

While most think of Kenya’s scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife and safari, it is worth noting that there are over 30 golf courses in the country. Despite the lack of advancement in golfing technology and coaching compared to the United States, Zurovac credits his first swing coach, Ali Kimani, for helping him develop and grow his passion for the sport. 

“If I had never met him, I don’t think I’d be where I am today, just because he guided me as a kid but also wanted me to thrive in the game by pushing me,” Zurovac said. 

Since there were limited junior golf events in Kenya, Zurovac played in men’s events during his time there. This helped him mature both on and off the course and pushed him to keep improving his game. Zurovac also credits the fact that since there was little to no technology to help him, he learned to be creative on the course by hitting different shots based on what he saw rather than depending on data and numbers.  

Zurovac’s school in Kenya required its students to play a sport each semester, making him a multisport athlete. He played football, tennis, field hockey and cricket, swam and ran track, all the while continuing to work on his golf game. At the age of 14, he ultimately decided to focus on golf and moved back to Europe to attend the Jason Floyd Golf Academy in Spain. 

“My main decision to go there was because the coaching staff was one of the best in Europe, if not the best,” Zurovac said. “Going to an international level where I’d be playing internationally all over Europe [allowed] me to expand my game in a way, [gave] me new opportunities [and the chance to] meet new players and make new friends.” 

Zurovac’s time in Spain took his game to a whole new level. 

The Jason Floyd Golf Academy, located in the Andalusia region in the south of Spain, is designed for students ages 10-18 who want to focus on their golf and academics without having to compromise one or the other. The academy partners with Sotogrande International School so students can graduate with internationally recognized academic qualifications. The program is structured similarly to a college training schedule, where students take classes for half the day and practice golf the other half. Zurovac trained under the instruction of coach Jason Floyd who previously taught players on the PGA Tour, Asian Tour and European Tour and worked with players on the Ryder Cup team. 

“My coach in Spain really developed my game, to the point where I understood the game more by using Trackman, numbers and data to help me improve,” Zurovac said. 

 And improve he did … 

With both of Zurovac’s parents being from Croatia, the family returned to their home country after his time in Spain. According to Zurovac, at the age of 16, he became the youngest player to qualify and earn a spot on the Croatian National Team. He competed in the World Amateur Team Championships in Paris, the Spanish Amateur and the British Amateur. He continued to add to his already impressive resume by winning the 2021 Croatian National Junior Championship, the Kenya Junior National Amateur and the Triple A European Classic

During his college recruiting process, Zurovac said the incoming recruits, coaching staff and practice facilities were just a few things that made Butler stand out compared to the other schools on his list. He also said the opportunity to study finance in the Lacy School of Business was a factor in his decision as well. 

“Being on the golf course, I’ve built a lot of connections with successful people,” Zurovac said. “I have been inspired by many of them, and I look forward to making many more connections throughout my career.”

Colby Huffman, head coach of the men’s golf team, said he could tell Zurovac was a special player from the moment he watched a swing video he received from Zurovac’s recruiting agency. 

“Leo brings great enthusiasm and energy to the team,” Huffman said. “He is very charismatic and also competitive which rubs off on the people around him. We’re glad he came to Butler.” 

It is evident Zurovac’s teammates feel similarly to Huffman. 

Fellow sophomore Derek Tabor said Zurovac is the epitome of The Butler Way, the governing philosophy of the Bulldogs. It demands commitment, denies selfishness, accepts reality yet seeks improvement every day while putting the team above self. 

As a first year, Zurovac competed in five events for the Bulldogs. His best finish came at the Advance Golf Partners Invitational last spring, tying for 28th out of 118 players. This tournament also included his lowest round of the year, as he shot a three-under-par, 69, during the final round. 

Zurovac credits his teammates for helping him adjust to college life here in America. He and classmates Kenny Leseur of Bermuda and Will Horne of England make up the trio of international players on the men’s team. 

“It was very easy to bond given our European heritage,” Horne said. “We get on really well from [the] start till now. And we all share a love for golf, so it has been very easy.” 

Zurovac and the men’s team got off to a fast start this fall season placing second out of 10 teams in the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational hosted by Ball State University. The Bulldogs will head to the Miami of Ohio Virtues Invitational for their next tournament on Sept. 25. 

Zurovac is looking forward to this sophomore season with big goals. He wants to have a scoring average under par, qualify for the NCAA Division I nationals as an individual and win the Big East Conference Tournament as a team. 

The Hoosier State will certainly not be the end of Zurovac’s journey, though, as he intends to pursue a professional golf career upon wrapping up his time here at Butler. If his past is any representation of the future, Zurovac’s golf spikes could land on a couple more continents with that goal in mind.


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