In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car Adrian Meronk guides us through his journey to becoming Poland’s first European Tour member.
I’ve spent most of my life in Poland. Although I was born in Hamburg, in Germany – my mother had taken a job to work in a hospital there – my parents decided to move back to their home country when I was two years old and we’ve lived here ever since. It was important that they went to Germany, though, as that was where my dad got really into golf. After he got hooked on it, it was inevitable that I would get into golf too. Whenever we went on holiday we’d go to hot places like Spain so we could play, and I would caddie for him in amateur events as he was one of the best amateurs in Poland – he played off three and would do really well as there weren’t many golfers in the country at the time!
Growing up I would always hang out with my neighbour, who had seven siblings, and they all loved sports – including golf. I tried everything, but I always knew that I was best at golf. I started to win a lot of junior events, which made me happy, and I kept wanting to win more so I kept practicing to get better. I made the national team when I was 14, which was a big thing for me as most of the guys were three or four years older. It was from that age that I really decided that I wanted to play golf in the future.
When I was 15 my family moved so I could be closer to a golf course. For three years before that we had to drive for two hours each way, so I could only play at a course once a week as there were so few courses in Poland. I’d practice my wedge game every day in our back garden instead, though, as I was so committed to getting better. My dad then got offered a new job, so it was an easy decision for the family to move, and we actually ended up living on a golf course, so every day after school I went to practice.
It’s funny how life can turn out, as just when we moved an excellent coach joined my local golf club, and he’s still my coach today. He’s called Matthew Tipper and he was the person who made me realise I was good enough to leave Poland and go out to college in America. After he told me that I had the potential to play professionally, I became even more focused and I started a programme, with four others, where after school every day from around 3pm, we would do four hours of training with him. My coach was with the David Leadbetter Academy and had transferred over to Poland from Mission Hills Golf Club in China. David had asked him to travel over to Portugal to join another academy, but he liked it so much training me and the rest of our group that he decided instead to set up his own academy at our club.
When I first went to college in America, it was really tough. I’d worked hard and had done well in junior events in Poland, so much so that I earned a scholarship to go out to East Tennessee State University. My first year was difficult because I only started learning English when I was 16, so to go over to a new country where the people spoke very differently to me was tricky. I had to catch up quickly as the culture and the people were like nothing I’d seen back home. That affected how I played in my first year, but when I got used to it, I got a lot better and my last two years were a lot better on and off the course. I played in the Palmer Cup twice, and won five tournaments, so overall it was a really positive experience for me, and I knew I definitely wanted to become a professional golfer at that stage.
When I first turned pro all my friends thought that I would be like all the other PGA pros in Poland. These guys had tried European Tour Qualifying School but none of them made it and they would compete in PGA events across Poland – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I thought I could do better. I’d had a much better amateur record and I’d managed to become the eighth best amateur in the world, so that got me some attention from my current management company, Hambric Sports, and, as they had some connections, I was lucky that when I first turned pro I was getting invites to European Tour events. So, then I became the first Polish player to compete in a European Tour tournament. After that I became the first Polish player to win on the Challenge Tour, and now I’m the first Polish player to be a European Tour member.
I’m very proud to have achieved what I have done already, but when you are the first guy from your country to achieve these things you have to be even more motivated to go further because you are being congratulated for breaking these records all the time. I’m still very aware that this is only the beginning and seeing guys who I used to compete against in college do so well – like Jon Rahm, Matthias Schwab and Thomas Detry – fills me with confidence that I can do well on the European Tour too. I’m very good friends with Matthias in particular, he’s a great guy, so I’m really looking forward to spending more time with him on Tour next year.
It is great to have other Polish sport stars congratulate me. Polish media aren’t too interested in golf yet, but to have guys like Jerzey Dudek (the former Liverpool goalkeeper) and Zbigniew Boniek (the former Roma and Juventus striker) send messages was huge because they are so well known in Poland and they are doing so much to grow golf. The sport is growing year on year at home, but we are still way behind other similar countries. I think that long term we will catch up with other countries, though, as comparing how things are to how they were ten years ago there’s a big difference. There are more courses, more players and there is more coverage too – we now have a Golf Channel in Poland. Hopefully the future is bright for Polish golf and I can continue to play my part.
⛵ @mkusznierewicz— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 11, 2019
⚽ Tomasz Iwan
Polish sport stars congratulate @AdrianMeronk on becoming the first Polish golfer to earn a European Tour card. 🇵🇱 pic.twitter.com/8OchNvbIrs