Never meet your idols, the saying goes. Try telling that to Adrian Meronk.
During the Open Championship in July, the Polish golfer reunited with Tiger Woods for a photo. Twenty-four hours later, he was chatting with the 15-time Major champion for nine holes of the legendary St. Andrews Old Course.
The fact that Meronk even competed in the same tournament as his childhood hero was in itself a pinch moment. Just two weeks before at the Irish Open, the 29-year-old made history by becoming the first Pole to win the DP World Tour, securing his maiden ticket to the 150th major.
Spotting Woods on the green on Monday, Meronk seized his photo opportunity, believing another chance was unlikely to present itself once competition started on Thursday.
Imagine his shock then when, strolling over the 10th tee for his practice lap at 8:45 a.m. the next morning, he saw no one but a lone Woods, preparing for his opening practice. After asking him if it was okay to join, Meronk spent the rest of the morning side by side with golfing royalty.
“It was probably one of my childhood dreams, so I got a lot of messages from back home and it was very exciting for me,” Meronk told CNN’s The Jazzy Golfer.
“I kinda dug out his brain. He was very nice to me, quite talkative too, so I was quite surprised.
What would you ask your idol? For Meronk, it was important to start with competitive advice, especially since Woods is a two-time Open champion at St. Andrews.
With the Open potentially not returning to St. Andrews until 2030, speculation had swirled that the 150th edition would be Woods’ last at the Scottish venue, particularly given his physical difficulties.
The 46-year-old had made a remarkable return to the sport after injuries sustained in a car crash in 2021, with a return to St. Andrews being his main focus during a harrowing recovery process.
“I started with some tips on the course, some lines and stuff like that,” Meronk recalls. “A few tips on how to handle putting when it’s really windy.
“Then he told me about his first Open at St. Andrews, because he asked me if it was my first Open.
“I asked him how he was feeling, how his health was and stuff like that, just occasional stuff. He was very open. »
The legendary golfer’s tournament ended in emotional scenes on Friday as, after missing the cut, a tearful Woods was serenaded onto the 18th fairway by a St. Andrews crowd. For Meronk, it was a standing ovation worthy of the greatest of all time.
“Probably for most guys here he was the idol and to be honest he still is,” he said. “With what he has achieved, I would say he is definitely the greatest in our sport.”
Unlike Woods, Morenk’s time at St. Andrews went the distance. Enduring a nightmarish start at three out of 75, the Pole roared with an impressive 68 to make it into the weekend, where two strong runs of 70 and 69 saw him record a solid 42nd place on his Open debut. .
It marked the final culmination of a great season for Meronk, his best on the DP World Tour since turning pro in 2016. end to its near-misses. with a three-stroke win in Kilkenny, Ireland.
“Being able to win on the DP World Tour has always been a goal of mine, always a dream,” Meronk said. “To be able to do it in Ireland, at the Irish Open, in such a historic event, it was a very good feeling for me.
“I had a great season this year, I was very close a few times, so it was also such a relief for me that I finally got through.”
As well as writing a winnings check of over €974,000 ($947,690), the triumph also wrote Meronk into the history books as the first-ever Tour of Poland champion, a country that is not not renowned for his golf prowess.
Comfortably the highest-ranked Polish golfer at 64th in the world, Meronk’s highest-ranked compatriot is Mateusz Gradecki at No. 341. After that, there are currently no Polish golfers in the top 2,700.
“It made [feel historic]”, Meronk said. “More and more people follow me in Poland but also all over the world. There are a lot of Poles everywhere.
“There were a lot of Poles in the crowd congratulating me and I got a lot of messages from home, so it was really exciting and it also motivates me to go even further.”
At 6ft 6in tall, Meronk uses clubs that are longer and have different lie angles to accommodate his hulking frame. To counterbalance his natural inclination on the ball, Meronk repeats a rigorous posture exercise five times before each session. While his longer levers allow him to drive the ball greater distances, he believes his height presents a trade-off in the short game.
“I’m probably going to have to catch the other guys with precision,” he said.
“I need to work on that a bit more, especially around the green and short game. So there are downsides as well, but I think I can definitely hit a bit further with the longer levers.