Summer for collegiate club golfers is usually spent bouncing around local tracks and honing the golf game for the upcoming fall season.
But for the University of New Hampshire’s C.J. Konkowski, a golden opportunity was presented right at his doorstep.
Konkowski, a senior business major at UNH, couldn’t pass up a chance to try and qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links at his home course, Bretwood Golf Club, in southern New Hampshire.
GRINDING IT OUT
A 36-hole event at Bretwood stood in the path of Konkowski, who said competing in a field of accomplished golfers was nothing new after playing one year of varsity golf at Divison II Franklin Pierce University and two years as a member of the UNH club team.
The field at the Bretwood qualifer included 30 golfers from the surrounding area all competing for the two spots that would punch their tickets for the U.S. Amateur Public Links, held a month after the sectional qualifying tournaments at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kansas.
The New Hampshire qualifying field included one already accomplished amateur golfer in 19-year old Chelso Barrett, who three years prior finished as the runner-up in the Amateur Public Links behind budding PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth.
“He [Barrett] is one of my best friends, we play together all the time,” Konkowski said. “I think one qualifying spot was pretty secure with him so I knew I would have to play well to beat out the rest of the field for that last spot.”
Konkowski followed by saying that his game was rounding into form heading into the tournament.
A first-round score of 73 (+1) put Konkowski behind the eight-ball headed into the final round – he needed to make up four strokes to catch the leaders.
“I knew how well everybody had done in the first round,” Konkowski said. “Usually in these junior events in New England, if you are under-par you have a shot. I just wanted to give myself a chance to qualify.”
Konkowski said the event didn’t feature live scoring, so playing those final 18 holes with patience, something he said he had learned during NCCGA events, was crucial.
“The whole day was a grind,” Konkowski said. “I didn’t hit the ball that well, I was grinding pretty hard. To be able to avoid any bogeys in the second round was solid. I hit a lot of six-footers for par and made up a lot of ground with my short game.”
The bogey-free round of 69 pushed Konkowski into the second spot overall – two strokes behind his good friend Barrett. For Konkowski, it meant one important thing – he was headed to America’s Heartland.
Qualifying for the prestigious USGA event held a little more weight for Konkowski – this would be the final U.S. Amateur Public Links played after an illustrious 89-year run.
He said the whole experience was a lifelong dream come true.
“It wasn’t so much at the event [the Amateur Public Links] that I stepped back and thought about it, but more so at the qualifying when I made it through,” Konkowski said. “It was all the hard work paying off. It was one of my goals over the last four years to qualify for a USGA event and it was a great feeling, a great opportunity for me.”
Konkowski went on to shoot scores of 72 and 78 at Sand Creek Station, missing the cut by three strokes that would have pushed him into the match play portion of the event.
Despite not performing how he would have hoped, he said the experience was unlike any other he has been a part of.
“It was pretty incredible,” Konkowski said. “It was great getting out there and the course was just fantastic. It was really put into perspective when I got to the driving range and there were brand new Pro V1’s as the range balls. Just a great event and one I was happy to participate in.”
Konkowski said after his final season at UNH he plans to continue competing, but before he does that, he still has one more goal to check off his list.
“Ever since I joined it has been one of my goals to win a national championship, either as a team or as an individual,” he said. “I know there are a lot of great teams and players out there so I can’t expect it, but that is definitely one of my goals this year.”
***Dave Uhrmacher (@DaveUhrm) is the NCCGA Director of Communications.