Nick Rodger: Meronk blazing a trail for golf in homeland

Cradling my baby son in one arm while trying to type on the laptop with the other hand – an unwieldy kerfuffle that’s as awkward as Admiral Nelson attempting to change the bed sheets on HMS Victory during a raging tempest – I suddenly had a thought. Not a very meaningful thought but a thought nevertheless.

In the animal kingdom, I reflected, a gazelle can shoogle and totter itself on to its feet within minutes of being born and can burst into a life-saving jouk after an hour or so at the first whiff of a lurking pack of shrieking Hyenas hell bent on devouring it.

As for the early stages of human existence? Well, we can’t even burp without some form of back-patting assistance let alone leg it from mortal danger. Funnily enough, the winding process of a young ‘un remains broadly equivalent to the tried and tested method the sports editor employs to cajole a column out of me on a weekly basis.

Thankfully, there’s always something to write about in the non-stop world of golf. Take Adrian Meronk’s thumping triumph in the prestigious Australian Open at the weekend, for instance. The 29-year-old’s five-shot victory over former Masters champion Adam Scott saw him claim his second DP World Tour title of 2022 and etch his name on to a shimmering roll of honor that includes the likes of Gene Sarazen, Peter Thomson, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Rory McIlroy.

Golf Australia, the governing body of the game down under, opted for a bold approach by playing the men’s, the women’s and the all-abilities national championships at the same time. They certainly got a bold winner in Meronk who eagled the last with a thrilling final flourish and punched the air so hard with delight, it is still nursing a bruise.

At a towering 6′ 6”, it’s hard to miss Meronk. He is making himself impossible to ignore too with his exploits as he continues to blaze a trail for golf in Poland. Let’s face it, the central European nation is hardly a hotbed of the Royal & Ancient game.

In fact, one of the country’s most noteworthy golfing episodes in recent years – if noteworthy is the word – was performed by the hapless Pawel Japol during the European Challenge Tour’s Kharkov Superior Cup in 2013 where he cobbled together an eye-watering round of 109. By all accounts, it was a fairly steady card sullied by five pars. Japol hasn’t been seen since but Meronk continues to make mighty strides.

“Golf is still quite a hard sell in Poland,” Meronk told the Scottish golf writers a few seasons ago when he was plying his trade on the second-tier Challenge Tour and competing in the Scottish Challenge at Spey Valley. “There needs to be some success so people can follow it. I hope I can be the first one.”

That was in 2018. Here in 2022, Meronk, who also won July’s Irish Open, continues to fly the flag for his country with pioneering gusto. He currently sits second on the Race to Dubai rankings and is very much in the European Ryder Cup picture. He has also hoisted himself up to a career high of 52nd on the world rankings. The only other Polish player registering on the global order of merit is Mateusz Gradecki at No.377.

Born in the same year – 1993 – that the Polish Golf Union was formed, Meronk is single-handedly driving the game in his homeland. The first Pole to win on the Challenge Tour, the first Pole to earn a DP World Tour card, the first Pole to win on the main circuit, the first Pole to play in The Open …

I’ll not be the first to use the obvious line but Meronk is, well, a Pole apart.

AND ANOTHER THING

Hey has to go. No, it’s not the infuriated cry directed at this scribe from The Herald’s heid honchos. It is in fact the holler directed at Greg Norman from golf’s most powerful voices.

Rory McIlroy started it off recently by saying there was no way a peace deal between the status quo and Norman’s LIV golf rebellion could be reached while the combative Australian is at the helm. Tiger Woods echoed McIlroy’s robust sentiments last week. Norman, of course, is reveling in the acrimony and couldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX about their declarations.

In the six months since LIV held their first event on UK soil, the Saudi-backed series has delivered a series of meaty blows to the stunned PGA and DP World Tours. That LIV’s expanded 2023 series will include a stop at Valderrama, one of the cherished heartlands of the European circuit, Norman gives another chance to cock a snook at the establishment.

As bullish as a gorilla at the height of the mating season, Norman will no doubt give himself top marks at the annual job appraisal. His Saudi paymasters will probably be happy with his divisive endeavors too. Despite Tiger and Rory’s pleas, it seems the Great White Shark has plenty of bite left in him yet.

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