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Meronk and Gradecki helping to propel Poland

The R&A
31 Aug 22
3 mins

While The 150th Open at St Andrews was special on a number of levels last month, it held added significance for the Polish Golf Union. 

After Adrian Meronk became Poland's first winner on the DP World Tour with his victory in the Horizon Irish Open in July, the 29-year-old then became the first-ever Polish professional to tee up in The Open. Finishing just outside the top-40 after four rounds on the Old Course, Meronk held his head high and is now placed 59th in the Official World Golf Ranking. For a country not always associated with golf, Meronk is attracting attention and acting as a role model for others in Poland. “Everyone back home in Poland is quite excited," said Meronk of his debut appearance. "It’s part of my job to grow the game. The more I play in these big events, the more people will watch.” “It was an enormous success for Polish golf,” continues Bartłomiej Chełmecki, General Secretary of the Polish Golf Union, of Meronk’s Open debut at the home of golf. “All of our members’ eyes have been set on Adrian’s performances on the DP World Tour, but his start in The Open was something exceptional.  “With his debut in the Olympics, playing in last year’s US Open, and his current high-profile finishes in DP World Tour events, there has been a steady increase in media attention. Our community is really excited about Adrian’s results.”

Challenge Tour win

Meronk’s successful summer built on the Challenge Tour success of Mateusz Gradecki, sealing his maiden win on the circuit in April at the Limpopo Championship. The 27-year-old became only the second Polish winner on the Tour following Meronk’s victory at the Open de Portugal in 2019. “Adrian and Mateusz are blazing a trail,” continues Bartłomiej. “They are two key names representing Polish golf in the professional arena. They are followed by a brave young generation as we now have a number of national team members who are studying in the USA and playing in the NCAA Division I. These include players like Alejandro Pedryc and Dorota Zalewska. Certainly, within a few years, they and other Poles will start competing in professional championships.” Poland’s success hasn’t just come overnight, they are building their youth programmes and bringing more young people into the sport as part of a long-term plan.
Poland's Kinga Kuśmierska finished runner-up in this year's Girls' U16 Amateur at Enville.

R&A support

Meronk and Gradecki are the first generation of players raised under The R&A-supported National Junior Development Programme and the National Team Training and Development Programme.   With financial support from The R&A, they have been able to lay the foundations for a national training system  and the results are starting to show. Bartłomiej adds, “We’ve been seeing increasingly more juniors in Poland practice the game regularly. The number of facilities is steadily increasing and the number of coaches is expanding. “In terms of Adiran and Mateusz, we should also appreciate the huge commitment from their parents, who themselves have been involved in the sport for years, the excellent coaching staff, and also the good conditions for their development at club level where they grew up (both trained at Toya Golf & Country Club Wrocław).”

Golf growth

Polish golf is developing at a steady pace with a five to ten per cent increase in the number of players every year. The Covid-19 pandemic had a positive impact on golf and people appreciate the opportunity for outdoor recreation at a safe distance from others. Many courses have gained new customers, as a result. Gender parity is still to be achieved but girls are practically the core of the current national team. In its ranks, Poland has several very promising juniors competing at a high level and producing noticeable results in international events. “These are all girls from clubs that actively participated in the National Junior Development Programme and benefited from The R&A National Body Development Grant funding,” notes Bartłomiej. This year’s R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur, a championship established in 2018 to help elite young girls on their development pathway, is a case in point. Poland’s Kinga Kuśmierska finished joint-runner-up at Enville in April behind winner Grace Crawford.

Bright future

Matylda Krawczyńska – who triumphed in the Slovak Match Play Amateur Championship and also played well at the Copa S.M. La Reina 2022 – Kleopatra Kozakiewicz and Maja Ambroziak are also achieving better results in international events. Given the progress, where does Bartłomiej see golf in Poland going over the next ten years? He concludes, “I am confident that we will maintain our current growth rate. The number of Poles in professional leagues will certainly increase.  “I believe that Adrian Meronk and Mateusz Gradecki will then compete successfully on the PGA Tour; we will have national team members in the DP World Tour and the Ladies’ European Tour; and their potential successes will fuel interest in golf among fans and the media. I look to the future with optimism.”