Originally on a collegiate baseball track, SUNY Old Westbury’s Andrew Pohalski derailed from the plan. But the sophomore didn’t crash, instead becoming a golfer and earning the program’s first Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year honor.
The Syosset native was unable to continue baseball after a bevy of injuries. During his freshman year of college, Pohalski broke his collarbone in a car accident. That spring season, he tore his bicep before then tearing his labrum the following fall at Catawba Valley Community College.
It was time to switch sports, and Pohalski’s father—a golf pro—embraced his decision to learn the ins and outs of the sport he teaches. So did second-year Old Westbury coach Craig Maerki who was in need of a recruit with notable potential.
“I was looking at Farmingdale and Old Westbury,” said the Chaminade graduate. “The program here was kind of an upstart and I wanted to go somewhere and kind of be the guy to get a program going.”
Pohalski did just that, not only garnering Rookie of the Year status, but also becoming a second-team all-conference selection, another first for the program. The sport’s newcomer represented Old Westbury at the Skyline Conference Championships Oct. 18-19 at Brynwood Golf & Country Club in Armonk, NY. He followed his first-day 87 with a final round 78 on the par-70 course, setting a program record to help him finish tied for ninth in the 26-player field.
“Both rounds I felt like my game was pretty tight and I was hitting it well,” said Old Westbury’s new record-holder. “The first day, it was just kind of a little off, I was just missing the greens by a little bit. Second day I kind of put it all together and caught some breaks.”
But shifting from baseball to golf was not easy, as Pohalski’s power got away from him at times. His self-described high-energy, emotional play on the course stemmed from baseball and coach Maerki did what he could to harness the rookie’s ability.
“Just being with him on the golf course, trying to help him manage his game is really all you can do,” Maerki said. “When you’re playing competitive golf, it’s really all about managing your game and then executing some golf shots, which he is quite capable of doing.”
His many firsts for an Old Westbury golfer have put the school on the map, already fulfilling the original reason Pohalski became a Panther.
“It is certainly a positive step for the program itself,” said Maerki. “When you start seeing individual scores come down and team scores come down, you’re going to get interest in the program from up-and-coming players, which maybe in the past they really haven’t looked at Old Westbury as a golf program. He’s kind of the start of it.”
In a household of 12 children, Pohalski’s family was always pushing each other growing up to be the best they could be. Andrew’s sister, Hannah, is a junior golfer at Long Island University and his siblings play many different sports, providing the family with an ingrained source of competitive nature.
Thus, new aspirations have surfaced for the conference’s best rookie, as Pohalski’s junior year will bring another chance to achieve his ultimate goal—winning the conference tournament.
“It was my first time ever playing tournament golf so there was a learning curve there,” Pohalski said. “Overall it was a good season but it’s not really where I want to be personally and it’s not where I would like the team to be. There’s definitely room for improvement and hopefully we can get there next year.”