Standing on the 17th tee, Eric Polansky knew what he had to do.
It didn’t seem all that tough. Just play one stroke better than his playing partner on the last two holes and win the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XII Division III golf title and snag the lone spot in the national tournament that goes with it.
Of course, his playing partner, Joe Morris, of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, just happened to be the defending regional champ. And Morris’ ball just happened to already be on the green, a mere 10 feet from the flag.
Still, it was all right in front of Polansky, a Lorain County Community College freshman, as he stood over his shot on the 155-yard, par 3 hole at Bent Tree Golf Club near Columbus on May 13.
“I knew I had to give it a pretty good golf shot,” said Polansky, an Amherst graduate. “But I hung a 9-iron off to the right side of the green.”
His ball came to rest some 35 feet from the hole. Advantage Morris, right?
Polansky’s long birdie putt disappeared into the cup and Morris missed his 10-footer.
“It was unreal,” said Polansky, who was now up by a stroke.
When both players parred the 18th, Polansky had a final-round 2-under 70, a one-shot win and a trip to the national tournament set for Tuesday through Friday at Chautauqua Golf Course in Chautauqua, N.Y.
“He just bull-dogged it out there,” LCCC coach Tom Szabo said of Polansky, whom he believes is the first LCCC golfer to make nationals. “He’s a tough kid. He plays hockey, too. … He knew what he had to do. He played real good golf. He wasn’t intimidated by the competition. He went toe-to-toe with the guy.”
Not bad for someone who never made it to state in high school and had, by his own admission, struggled most of the spring season. Not that he struggled much at the regional, shooting rounds of 75, 78 and 70 for a 7-over total of 223. Morris ended up making it to nationals, too, when Cincinnati State won the team title.
“I was a much better player in high school,” Polansky said. “I’ve struggled with consistency and the short game.”
Polansky placed some of his problems on the change in seasons. Golf is a fall sport in high school, meaning he always had all summer to gear up for the season. He could then devote his winters to playing hockey for the Comets.
While he still played pick-up hockey a few times a week last winter, he no longer could neglect his golf game until the warm weather showed up.
Szabo said there were other factors working against the entire Commodore team. For one thing, LCCC’s usual spring trip was canceled, then the harsh winter weather delayed the start of the season.
“We didn’t even get out on our home course (Elyria Country Club) and start practicing until the middle of April,” Szabo said.
Polansky said his game finally started rounding into shape a few weeks before the regional tournament. But since LCCC only had three golfers, not enough to compete for the team title, he knew if he wanted to advance, he would have to do it himself.
“It was me vs. them,” he said.
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.