PGA of Poland Member, Adrian Meronk, earns further accolades this week as he competes as Poland’s first ever Olympic Golfer, having already become the first Polish European Tour Member, European Tour winner and US Open competitor – not a bad collection considering this was all in the past two years spanning the pandemic.
Much of this success is undoubtedly connected to his 11-year partnership with PGA Professional, Matt Tipper, who spent eight years living and working in Poland as the development of the sport continued to accelerate.
What does @pgapolska Member, @adrianmeronk, competing in the Men’s @OlympicGolf mean to Polish golf, and what pressure might it bring…? Adrian’s PGA Pro Coach, Matt Tipper (@academy_toya) explains more…
— Confederation of Professional Golf [CPG] (@cpg_golf) July 30, 2021
“Adrian was a junior member at Toya Golf and Country Club where I had started working – I saw him hit balls and it was like ‘ok, this kid is good – proper good’,” explains the Brit.
“We started working together – first, we built a programme, then the plan had to be an accelerant to bring him up as he was already 16 or 17 at this time, and then we needed to get him competition. The most important thing for me was that I didn’t screw him up in the process of doing this!
“We had PGA of Poland Board Member, Filip Naglak, who did a great job on the fitness side of things, and then we said ok, he really needs to go to college in America. We called in a few favours and he ended up getting a scholarship to East Tennessee State University. We sent him for his four years of college and I coached him the whole time, mainly online back and forth.”
Meronk is already a widely recognisable face in Polish golf – his continued rise has led to more national coverage and awareness. The Olympics is an even greater springboard for awareness of the sport amongst the general population in Poland.
“All the golfers in Poland are very, very proud of him,” adds Tipper. “He is out there on his own a little at the moment – although Mateusz Gradecki out on the Challenge Tour will no doubt be joining him soon.
“Golf is still very young in Poland but even from the time when I first arrived there to now it has changed dramatically. There are so many more kids playing and the sport is much more accessible than it was. Adrian competing in the Olympics, and then continuing to get better, will only highlight this more.”
When it comes to this week’s Olympic experience, Coach Tipper is confident that Meronk is not just there for show:
“I honestly believe that, on his day, I’d put him up against anyone in the world and I would fancy his chances. Ultimately, we’re going to be excited when we step on the tee on Thursday morning. We prepared well, we’ve got here in plenty of time. He is hitting it great. We cannot do anymore, really. It is up to him now – this is the worst time for me as there is not a lot more I can do!”
Whilst the competition is the number one priority, the opportunity to be part of the Polish Olympic Team, both for player and for coach, has been an experience of its own:
“You know we’ve all watched many Olympics on TV and the one thing that most people say is amazing about the Olympics is the village…and everything they say is absolutely right. So many countries in one place and everyone is working as one…it’s fantastic.
“The gym is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. We went in there once and once is the only time I’ll be going in – there was this guy who must have been squatting 200kg and he looked and me and I just thought ‘ok I need to leave’.
“Adrian had the chance to mix with other athletes a little bit and I did with other coaches as well, and that really makes us feel like a part of the Polish team family. I am lucky to be in an apartment with a couple of judo coaches and a couple of tennis coaches who coach amazing people, so it is great that we can actually sit down and talk about each other’s sports and discuss how and what they do with their athletes.”
Navigating the schedule and COVID-19-related arrangements and measures has made for a unique and challenging experience but equally has allowed the pair to arrive a little earlier than usual and ensure the prep work is done…
“The golf course this week is magnificent – there are no excuses. It is right in front of you. There are no hidden little things the greens are the best greens I’ve seen all year and they are absolutely phenomenal. The green complexes themselves are quite slopey and things like that. So, firing at the flag is not necessarily the best thing to do.
“His desire is to go out there every week and win – but of course if he doesn’t, all we can ask is that we give 100%. Although if he does win, I might have to change my flight on Monday morning…”
But, regardless of the result, Meronk is setting the bar for those from Poland, and the region:
“Adrian is a wonderful ambassador for Eastern European golf – and we are both proud to be here to wear the team colours and wave the flag for Poland.”