Aug. 4, 2011
By Jon Cooper
There’s no substitute for experience.
Richard Werenski plans on using his experience to his advantage when he takes the course in Ellington, Conn., on Monday morning at the U.S. Amateur Qualifier. He is scheduled to tee off at 9:20 a.m.
Werenski hopes to join the field at the U.S. Amateur Championship to be held Aug. 22-28 at Erin Hills Golf Club in Erin Wis. That tournament already has a distinct Georgia Tech flavor to it, as junior James White, sophomore Seth Reeves and freshman Anders Albertson, who earned his spot earlier this week, have already qualified. Michael Barbosa, a 2005 Tech grad, also is in the field because he qualified to play in the U.S. Open.
Monday’s qualifier will be a long day, as entrants play 36 holes. But having gone through the process each of the last two years should make things a little easier.
“It obviously helps because I know what it takes to qualify. I’ve done it before,” said Werenski, who qualified in 2009. “You just can’t get flustered. It’s 36 holes. You have to just keep grinding out there.
“Anything can happen,” he added. “I think some people might make a double-bogey or something and get a little flustered and they’ll start firing at pins and trying to make birdies and just make some more bogeys. You’ve got to realize that it’s 36 holes and in 36 holes you’re going to make a lot of birdies.”
The 19-year-old from South Hadley, Mass., made plenty of birdies during his freshman season, when he earned a spot on Georgia Tech’s five-man traveling squad, averaging 74.1 strokes per round (including a low round of 67 at the U.S. Collegiate Championships), while earning a pair of top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes and three top-20 finishes. He carried his success over into the summer, as he’s chalked up second-place finishes in the New England Am, the Southern Am and the Northern Am.
Werenski believes the winning environment at Tech and the opportunity to play on the Yellow Jackets, who racked up their third straight ACC title, has contributed to his success.
“I think a big thing that helped me was last year at school being able to play with the team and the three seniors (John-Tyler Griffin, Paul Haley and Kyle Scott),” he said. “I wasn’t the best guy on the team by far and it’s always good to play with really good players, so I think that helped me out a lot, taught me a lot of things, attitude-wise and course-management-wise.
“My swing has gotten a little bit better, and I’m making a few more putts, so my finishes are starting to get a little bit higher,” he added. “It was definitely nice to play every tournament,” he said. “That was big for me, it helped my confidence a bit.”
He also credited Tech head golf coach Bruce Heppler for improvement in his mental approach.
“This whole year Coach [Heppler] has been working with me on what to do,” he said. “Things like, between shots don’t think about golf. Think about something else, talk about something else. Then, when you come up to the ball you do your stuff, focus hard and then let it go. The big thing for me is I prepare the night before, when I’m laying in bed just kind of telling myself what I’m going do and trying get ready for the next day.”
While he’s never played the course before, Werenski plans to get a couple of rounds in over the weekend, which should adequately prepare him.
“Two rounds is plenty for me,” he said. “You can get a lot done in one round. So if I can only play one round that’s not a big deal. But two rounds for a course I’ve never seen is pretty good for me.”
That ability to quickly learn course tendencies, his experience in qualifiers in past years and his stellar play in recent weeks should be a formula for success.
“I’ve been playing well, but these qualifiers are tough,” he said. “It’s just one day, 36 holes. If you’re not in the top two or three then you’re not going to make it. I’ve made it the past two years and I’m going to go out and try to play and not think about what I’ve done in the past or what it’s going to take to win and see what happens.”