May 31, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Richard Werenski finished his career as a college golfer less than a week ago, yet the former Georgia Tech standout is gathering no moss. He’s rolling right into the professional ranks, and won’t piddle around before his June 11 pro debut.
Soon after the Yellow Jackets were eliminated 4-0-1 by Oklahoma State in national quarterfinal match play Tuesday at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., Werenski returned to Atlanta and began moving back to Hilton Head, S.C.
After multiple trips to the local Target and other stores to get squared away in his new abode, there will be a return trip to Atlanta where the native of South Hadley, Mass., will work at Tech’s golf camp from Monday-Thursday, and then he will participate next Saturday in the Atlanta wedding of a former Tech teammate.
From there, a drive to Snow Hill, N.C. for an National Golf Association (NGA) Carolina Summer Series event at the Cutter Creek Golf Club from June 11-13.
Busy, busy, busy.
The NGA, which until a few years ago was known as the Hooter Tour, ranks behind only the Web.com Tour in golf’s minor leagues in the U.S. Werenski plans to play in about seven of its tournaments through September.
So, there hasn’t been and won’t be much time for the recent business management graduate to sulk over Kansas.
Werenski admitted, however, that sadness prevailed for a while in the Heartlands before he began to move so quickly away from team golf, and on with his life.
“I didn’t think it was going to be hard for me, but after I lost my match and . . . I was watching all the guys coming down the stretch, pulling so hard for them, and when we realized it was all over, it was like, `Dang!’ ” he recalled.
“We just looked at each other and it was a sad moment, like, `Wow; my whole college career is over.’ This is going to be different . . . I just like playing for myself. It’s hard playing for a team; you don’t want to let those guys or your coaches down.”
Werenski turned in a solid final season for the Jackets.
He was a regular in Tech’s lineup as a freshman and a sophomore after enrolling early in the spring of 2010. His junior year was a bit erratic, and then in ’13-’14 he posted top-five finishes in the Carpet Capital Classic and the Tar Heel Intercollegiate in the fall.
His 62 in the Puerto Rico Classic last winter tied the Tech record for second-lowest round in program history, and it added up to Werenski joining all four of his Tech teammates on the GCAA South All-Region team.
He’s on his own from here on out, not counting a few coaches.
“This is definitely going to be a change. I’m playing for money so this I my job,” Werenski said. “I don’t know how much more or less stress there will be, but it’s going to be good.”
Most of the NGA events in which Werenski plan to play will be in the Carolinas. He also wants to play in a few tournaments near his parents, Susan and Michael, who each played collegiate golf.
“I’d like to play in a few state opens, like the Vermont Open, the Maine Open, the Rhode Island Open,” he said. “And I might do some one-day qualifiers [for Web.com events].”
For the foreseeable future, home will be in Hilton Head, where Werenski first moved several years ago to finish high school with the dual purpose of advancing his golf game.
His two roommates are also pro golfing greenhorns, although former Duke golfer Brinson Paolini and former Wake Forest golfer Evan Beck graduated a year earlier and have a jump on the game.
“I’ve met them over the years. I knew Evan from junior golf, and he’s a good buddies with Brinson,” Werenski said. “Some of our parents are good friends.”
Richy said he will play out of Berkeley Hall, a 36-hole facility in Bluffton, S.C., just a few miles west of Hilton Head. Occasionally, he’ll drive down the coast, to Sea Island, Ga., for specialized coaching with Gale Peterson.
“She specializes in wedges, the short game,” Werenski said. “I went to her a couple times in high school. I kind of like the way she took my swing. I’ve known her for five years.”
If he squeezes out time for college memories, they will be warm.
The Jackets won two tournaments in the fall, and finished second in their other two. In the spring, they won four more – consecutively – including the ACC championship and their NCAA regional.
Tech also won a four-team match play event in that span, smoking Georgia 5-1 in the finale at the Capital City Club Crabapple course.
It was not like the Jackets played poorly against Oklahoma State on Tuesday, either. The Cowboys played light out that day, later eliminating No. 1 Stanford before falling to defending national champion Alabama Wednesday.
“All of us played pretty well . . . they just beat us that day. They made a ton of putts on us, and I think our putters went a little cold,” Werenski said. “You can’t judge a year on one tournament, especially the national championship. We won six or seven tournaments.
“Coach [Bruce Heppler] said, `I really appreciate everything you have done.’ He knows we work really hard. It was hard on him. Obviously, we had a really good chance of doing it this year. It was tough. Everybody was pretty emotional after the round, but he was really positive and encouraging.”
Werenski does not seem one to dwell.
For a second time, he’s moving away from family-style structure and he needs help setting new bearings not so much on golf course, but around “home.”
“I moved in with a couple buddies who are doing the same thing so I’m lucky enough to live with them. I kind of pick up stuff from them,” Werenski said. “And my girlfriend just got back from Europe, and she’s come over to help me out a little bit. I have no idea what I’m doing with this stuff.”
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