Meronk is the Pride of Poland at Olympia Fields August 17, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill. By Stuart Hall

Adrian Meronk, who grew up playing golf in his native Poland, has seen plenty of success since moving to the U.S. to play at East Tennessee State. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Adrian Meronk remembers his father, Andrzej, going to great lengths to ensure that his family could play golf in their native Poland. There was virtually no golf to speak of in the eastern European country during the Communist era from post-World War II through 1989, so there is a relative scarcity of courses. The Meronks could not simply hop in their car and enjoy a local municipal course.

“We drove three hours every week just to play,” said Meronk, 22, who is No. 39 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and is believed to be the first player from Poland to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship. “When I finished school on Friday we would get in the car and go play golf for the weekend. We would play 18 holes on Saturday and 18 on Sunday, then drive home.

“I started playing when I was about 7 and I grew up on the golf course because my father was always taking me with him,” added Meronk as he opens play in the 115th U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club.

When Meronk was 16 and entering high school, the family moved to Wroclaw, buying a home at Toya Golf and Country Club. By then the lanky 6-foot, 6-inch Meronk envisioned a possible future in the game.

Given that Poland is not widely considered a golf hotbed, the opportunities for Meronk to challenge his game were limited. Yet in 2011, Meronk blossomed.

In addition to winning the Polish Junior Championship, he finished second at the Polish Amateur Championship, fourth at the KeNako South African World Championship and reached the Round of 16 in the British Boys Amateur Championship.

Meronk’s play caught the eye of East Tennessee State University coach Fred Warren, who has a history of recruiting internationally. An 11th-place finish at the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship in Coral Gables, Fla., at the end of December 2011 earned Meronk a scholarship offer.

“The golf program looked good and there were a lot of guys from Europe, so I went there,” said Meronk, a rising senior and business major who is the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year. “It was a little bit [of a culture shock in Johnson City, Tenn.]; it took me about two months to get used to it.”

Meronk has adapted quite well, and is hopeful of going the distance this week.

“Obviously the goal is to reach match play, and then anything can happen,” said Meronk, who went 3-0-1 in June in the Palmer Cup, a collegiate Ryder Cup-style competition. Among his wins that week was a 3-and-2 singles victory over Stanford University’s Maverick McNealy, the college player of the year. “I’m feeling comfortable.”

Whether in Poland or Illinois, Meronk has a way of making himself at home on the golf course.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.

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