At 61, Szewczul Cherishes Every Championship Start
August 17, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill.
By Stuart Hall
David Szewczul played his first U.S. Amateur Championship in 1982 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. So when the USGA announced its return to Brookline in 2013, the 100th anniversary of amateur Francis Ouimet’s landmark U.S. Open victory on the same course, Szewczul got an idea.
"I said to my wife that it would be a great thing to go back,” said Szewczul, 61, of Farmington, Conn. "I played there in ’82. [Szewczul’s son] David wasn’t born. So with all the Francis Ouimet hoopla, I thought it would be a neat thing for him to go and caddie for me and share the experience."
As he had done 31 years earlier, Szewczul failed to make the cut. But the result was secondary to the sentiment.
Szewczul is the second-oldest player in this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club. Reigning U.S. Senior Amateur winner Pat Tallent, of Vienna, Va., is the oldest at 62. Only five players over the age of 50 are in the field, whose average age is 22.16.
Szewczul, a director of sales and marketing for Merrill Industries, said he will need “two perfect rounds” to advance to Wednesday’s match-play bracket, but that is not the overriding motivation for playing.
“It’s testing yourself against the younger kids and seeing where you stand,” he said. “I’m at a better place with my game. I’m a better ball-striker and I know the game better and am making better course-management decisions and club selections. It comes with age and experience, and knowing what you’re capable of doing and not doing.”
It’s also about enjoying the moment.
"I don’t think these younger kids know what they’re going through and what they’re experiencing,” said Szewczul, who is playing his seventh U.S. Amateur and 26th USGA championship overall. "It just does not get any better than this and then to have my son with me. We don’t do this for a living, so you had better enjoy it."
As Szewczul speaks about his passion for this championship, tears well up, because in 2001 he suffered a left-wrist injury so severe that doctors told him he would never be able to play the game again.
Four surgeries, including a reconstructive procedure, combined with 30 months of rest and rehabilitation, had him back in time to qualify for and play in the 2004 U.S. Senior Open alongside Arnold Palmer at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo.
"To me every day playing is a bonus when you’ve been told something like that,” he said.
Dave Szewczul, 20, a sophomore on the Providence College golf team, is again on his father’s bag, but the elder Szewczul knows the roles may soon be reversed.
“He already outdrives me by 30 or 40 yards,” he said. “Maybe one day I can caddie for him in one of these.”
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.