Adrian Meronk, success that goes beyond golf

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Adrian Meronk, success that goes beyond golf

In the midst of the revolution that originated in golf for the money of Saudi Arabia, the victory of the Pole Adrian Meronk in the Irish Open contains its symbolism. It is the first success of a golfer from one of the countries that joined the Warsaw Pact, nations that never had golf as a lever in their development, not even in the upper classes.

Adrian Meronk, story

The label of a capitalist sport, fueled by the fact that every US president between 1953 and 1977 played it - from Eisenhower to Ford - deterred its promotion. Nor had golf courses proliferated previously.

Marianske Lazne was barely there in Czechoslovakia, founded in 1905, when the region belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had a spa town with thermal waters in Marienbad, and three clubs in Poland. The reasons why golf did not penetrate that society were several, moreover.

For times it was forbidden. Its status as a non-Olympic sport did not fit with the sports policies of the countries that embraced it as a tool to exalt nationalism. Also for mere geographical reasons, when the winters were really harsh, the territory was mostly covered in snow between November and March.

Russia, in fact, did not build its first 18-hole course until 1994 and many of its clubs are associated with Russian oligarchs, Abramovich among them, and mafias. Hungary did it in 1991, ten years before Bulgaria. Gary Player and even Miguel Ángel Jiménez, the latter in the Czech Republic in 2008, designed new routes.

The transformation produced after Perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall has meant a change, especially in Poland with almost 6,000 licenses in 2018. In 2010 there were 2,750. Meronk, who had already won a Challenge in Portugal in 2019, the second division, is the most prominent.

Helped by a Welsh teacher and also by his studies in East Tennessee, a center he reached with a scholarship, the Pole has reached the top, as was the wish of his father, who took him to the Toya Golf Country in Wroclaw, three hours from his home, from a very young age and who, when it was a marginal sport, became champion of Poland.

Meronk now dreams of becoming the first player from the former communist bloc to play in the Ryder Cup. This year he has finally made it into the top 100 in the world rankings. The movements in Europe, caused by the LIV Golf Invitational, may favor him next year at the Rome event.

It is the advance guard of a nucleus of players that is still minimal. The next, by ranking in those latitudes, is his compatriot Mateusz Gradecki, ranked 389 in the world ranking. Among the 1,803 best players in the world there are only four Czechs and Rory Sabbatini, now a Slovakian, born in South Africa and with an American passport, who became a national to play in the Tokyo Olympics.