Newspix / Adrian Meronk is climbing the ranks of world golf.
May 26, 2023, 06:10
Conquest of Italy, playing with the stars and millions in the account. Adrian Meronk is having the best time in his career. – Once the organizers hung the Monaco flag next to me. However, they have already learned that Poland has a world-class golfer – says the 29-year-old.
Adrian Meronk is going like a storm. In early May, he won the DS Automobiles Italian Open tournament near Rome, delighting the media from the Apennine Peninsula. This is another important step in the career of the Pole, who triumphed in the Irish Open and Australian Open last year. Meronk is on its way to a permanent place in the PGA Tour – the most prestigious league of professional golf.
– I feel like I’m tearing down the walls. We know what it was like with Adam Małysz, Justyna Kowalczyk or Robert Kubica. At the beginning, everyone made big eyes at the tournaments. “Pole playing golf?!”. The first year in the USA was so difficult that I wanted to pack up and go back – the golfer tells us.
Dariusz Faron, WP SportoweFakty: How did you celebrate your recent victory in the Italian Open?
Adrian Meronk, the best Polish golfer, winner of the Italian Open 2023: There was no time for that. A quick dinner and a trip to the airport, then preparation for the golf Grand Slam in the USA. I had to put the feta down. On the other hand, my success reverberated in Italy and several other countries, because it is in this field that the famous Ryder Cup will take place in September.
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Bigger than in the country.
In Poland, I see that something has also moved. Certainly, the interest of the national media is much greater than before. On the other hand, golf is much more popular abroad than in Poland. I don’t have a problem with it, because I don’t have the pressure for glass. On the other hand, it’s nice when your successes are noticed and appreciated in the country. If we want more and more people to play in Poland, we need to talk about golf as much as possible.
You ended 2022 in the top 50 of the world ranking as a Polish raisin. Do you feel like you’re tearing down walls?
Definitely. We know what it was like with Adam Małysz, Justyna Kowalczyk or Robert Kubica. I hope that I will contribute to the promotion of golf in Poland. That’s one of my goals. As the first Pole at the forefront of golf, I feel responsible for this.
The commentator and promoter of golf, Andrzej Person, recently stated that we must be ready for an outbreak of meroncomania. Please don’t be offended, but I highly doubt this scenario.
Certainly not yet. I would have to constantly win big tournaments or win a medal at the Olympics, then it would be easier. Golf is not tennis yet. Let’s not kid ourselves – tournaments that arouse great interest abroad are not yet treated as something attractive in the country. I hope that this will change and the Polish media will write about golf as often as foreign media.
You were born in Hamburg. What did your parents do in exile?
Mom was a nurse and dad was doing odd jobs. Two or three years after I was born, we returned to Poland, so I don’t remember the German chapter very well.
Is it true that you used to break windows with a golf club as a kid?
There is a family story. Apparently, as a three-year-old, I actually swinged a golf club, breaking a window. I remember the first shots in the house and a couple of lamps broken by rubber balls. Mom got a little angry. And my dad was happy that he introduced me to the love of golf. As a young boy, I practiced a lot of sports: football, boxing, volleyball, skiing, I even jumped high and ran 300 meters on athletics Thursdays. But I chose golf. In elementary school and middle school, my peers used to play football or go with their parents to the lake, and I – to a golf tournament near Szczecin. Depart Friday, return Sunday evening. Colleagues made big eyes. “Golf?! What is this?! Who plays it today?!”. During the week, I accompanied them to more popular sports.
Adrian Meronk tried his hand at golf as a child (photo: private archives).
The love for golf was instilled in Adrian Meronek by his father (photo: private archives).
After high school, you went on a scholarship to the USA and you couldn’t find yourself there. Why?
I flew to East Tennessee. The first year was really hard. I went alone, I didn’t know anyone. My English wasn’t great because I started learning the language at the age of fifteen. I went alone to the other end of the world. The middle of America, an image far from the beautiful metropolises known from movies. Different culture, food. I saw a country where people drive huge cars and puff strangely – I didn’t understand what my colleagues were saying to me at all. I’m glad I persevered, because thoughts quickly appeared: Is this for me? Am I fit for this? Fortunately, I had many Europeans on the team. Over time, I learned to live alone, away from my loved ones, it was a good school for these times, when I am on the road almost all the time.
In your first year, you called them with tears in your eyes that you had enough?
I’m a person who tends to shut up when there’s a problem and try to solve it on my own. Now that has changed a bit. At that time, however, I did not talk to my parents about my dilemmas, I clenched my teeth. I was just thinking about getting better every day.
A lot of golfers go to the US at a young age and then drop out. The Lord is not lost.
Flying to the US and playing in the NCAA is the best way to turn pro. In college, I was very hardworking, I moved forward a lot. I felt that was it.
How did the Polish golfer find himself among the best?
I often represented Monaco in tournaments, because the organizers confused the Polish flag and hung it upside down. It pissed me off. Everyone around made big eyes: “Pole plays golf?!”. It was difficult for me because I had no one in my country to look up to. I had to learn everything the hard way, blaze trails. It’s always easier when you can ask someone about their experience, what they can advise on what to avoid. But I wouldn’t trade with anyone, because hard times shaped me. I am proud to be Polish. That’s how my parents raised me.
You once said that golf is the loneliest sport in the world. Please expand.-
We are constantly traveling alone – hotels, airports, golf courses, and so on. Training lasts about five hours, sometimes no one accompanies me. If you want to be a golfer, you have to feel good about yourself. This loneliness can be difficult, although I don’t have a problem with it. I’m an only child. As a child, I could throw two hours into the basket by myself. I’ve always been able to organize my time.
What goes through your head before a big hit?
There is a race of thoughts. One round lasts about five hours, we hit 70 times. Talking to each other helps to keep you motivated. I keep telling myself, “You’ve done it hundreds of times for training, so just do it again, treat it like a training round.” Another important factor is working on the breath. I have been working with a psychologist for four years. We focus mainly on calming down through the appropriate rhythm of breathing. I also do a visualization before each shot because it helps and relaxes the body.
How many sticks have you broken in your career?
I could get to five.
You couldn’t control your emotions?
Yes, especially as a junior, I couldn’t put up with a bad shot, let alone a worse tournament. It was a real massacre. I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t answer the phone. I had to digest it alone, the bad performance was eating me up inside. Honestly, it was very intense and unhealthy. In retrospect, I am aware of that. Today I know what mistakes I made. When I feel bad emotions coming, I try to calm them down. Breaking clubs, to put it mildly, is not welcome on the golf course. It’s like when a tennis player throws a racket. Emotions, however, are so great that it is difficult to control oneself. I have a few golfers in my mind who do this on a regular basis. Just type it on YouTube and see what they do – they throw a stick at a tree, break it on their knee, or throw it into the water. Golf is a game of mistakes, there are always plenty of them.
Adian Meronk is the only Pole among the world’s best golfers (photo: private archives).
Golf is perceived as calm and static. Please tell me about the most surprising situation in the field.
I remember the tournament in Turkey when we played by the sea. One of the players played near the flag, suddenly a crow came and took the ball. After a while she threw it into the water. In Florida you have to watch out for alligators, in Australia – for kangaroos. In Africa, we play next to the Kruger National Park. Near the holes, elephants, lions, giraffes walk around … The whole zoo in the wild. I always try to make friends with the course I play. I like Dubai, Spain and Portugal the most. I don’t know if it’s because of the grass or the general environment. I like when the course is situated by the sea.
You once said: I wish I was a perfectionist. Why?
There is no such thing as perfection in golf. Everyone strives for it, but no one will achieve it – I had to learn it. I’ve trained too much in the past. I was grinding the shot for hours, wasting too much energy. I’ve already learned that you need to find a balance between training and recovery. Perfectionism made it difficult for me.
How often do you train?
Five times a week, six, seven hours a day. In addition, there is a gym, regeneration with a physiotherapist. I have a large staff: golf coach, physical preparation coach, psychologist, caddy, without whom it would be rather difficult for me to win any tournament, because he is an incredibly important person in the entire golf puzzle. I also have a manager and a communications person.
Last year you played with the legendary Andriy Shevchenko. What’s the story?
Every year there is the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where a professional plays the entire tournament against an amateur. The second group includes former footballers, celebrities, businessmen, etc. Michael Phelps, Michael Owen, Michael Ballack, Luis Figo, Hugh Grant and Justin Timberlake. I was paired with Shevchenko, which, as a football fan, I was very happy about. Mr. Andriy is a nice man and a very good golfer. I know Jurek Dudek very well, so I asked about Istanbul and the memorable Champions League final between Milan and Liverpool. He didn’t really want to talk about it (laughs).
Adrian Meronk and Andriy Shevchenko (photo: private archives).
I saw your picture with George Bush. You have influential friends.
It happened to be at the 2012 tournament in Georgia. One of the biggest junior competitions I’ve played in. The guest of honor at the event was George W. Bush. When he ran into one round, the Secret Service shut down the entire field. We couldn’t even leave the room and waited for him to finish. Later we had dinner with him, where we took commemorative photos. Bush even had a little speech. The former US president is an avid golfer, so the speech was about sports.
For winning the Italian Open you took half a million euros minus tax. What’s it like to be a millionaire?
Golf is my job which I love. That’s why I don’t care too much about money. It’s nice to earn by yourself systematic work, but the most important are the points in the ranking. During the tournament you don’t think about money, you are in a different world, because this is the only way to reach your highest level. If I had been constantly analyzing how much a shot was worth, I would have failed. I try to invest my money wisely, but that’s really a side issue. This is an important period for me – I’ve already gained experience, but I’m still quite young. I want to score as much as possible and see where it takes me. You can write that the millions you mentioned have been dug up for now.
You say in interviews that you take it step by step. And I have the impression that you make your dreams come true at an express pace.
True, over the past two years, these steps have actually been very large. I feel confident on the golf course, which translates into results. This year will be my first time playing all Grand Slam golf tournaments, it’s something new for me. I have to adjust the calendar to important starts, I prepared a bit differently. The goal is to get a PGA Tour card for next year. I hope to keep making progress. And I will go even higher. My time is slowly coming.
So maybe in the near future they won’t hang the Monaco flag over you?
It doesn’t happen anymore. The organizers learned that Poland also has a man who plays golf at the world level.
Dariusz Faron, journalist of WP SportoweFakty spoke