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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Eastern’s Gromko ends college golf career with memorable trip to NCAA Div. III Championship

    Andrew Gromko missed his Eastern Connecticut State University graduation last month.

    He had a good reason.

    In May, Gromko was in Kentucky with his Eastern golf team competing in the NCAA Division III Championship, qualifying in just the program’s third intercollegiate season.

    “It was totally worth it,” said Gromko, who played golf at Norwich Free Academy. “I told my parents that I would miss graduation for nationals a million times.”

    On his graduation day, Gromko played his best and last round of his collegiate career, shooting 1-over par at the Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville.

    The day after a marathon first round that lasted 12 hours due to weather delays, Gromko improved his score by 10 strokes.

    “The day of graduation, going out and shooting my best round of the year, it felt great,” he said. “I was happy with how I played.”

    Unfortunately for Gromko, he didn’t make the cut and neither did Eastern, which placed 32nd out of 43 teams but had junior Ashton Lewis qualify for the final two rounds.

    Gromko will remember the experience of competing in the NCAA tournament for the first time way longer than his score.

    The national championship atmosphere alone impressed Gromko.

    “It was something else,” Gromko said. “Everywhere you looked it had NCAA D-III with a poster and the logo. The course was jammed packed with everything. It was unreal. It was the experience of my lifetime. .. It was just unbelievable, seeing the whole field of teams and seeing how many people there were.

    “It was a legit four-day tournament, just like a PGA event.”

    Eastern qualified for the nationals by winning the Little East Conference tournament championship in October at Ellington Ridge Country Club. Matthew Orefice, a sophomore from East Lyme, also was on the team.

    Gromko never intended to play golf on the collegiate level.

    During COVID, he played a ton of golf with friends. And when Eastern brought back the golf program, he decided to join the team.

    “When I got more into it, I wanted to compete again like I did in high school but take it more seriously,” he said. “Then sophomore year came around and it only made sense to join the team. The last three years have been unbelievable, winning conference every year and going to nationals my senior year.

    “I wasn’t expecting to play golf, but I’m glad I did.”

    Gromko is planning for the next phase of his life. This summer, he’s working in The Windham Club pro shop.

    He’ll attend graduate school at Northeastern in the fall, studying sports business management and sports leadership.

    One day, he hopes to work in the front office for a professional team in Boston.

    “Getting a job with the Celtics or the Red Sox, or something like that, it would be like a dream come true and would be pretty sweet to do,” Gromko said. “So, we’ll see.”

    And to satisfy his need to play competitive golf, he’ll enter some Connecticut State Golf Association events this summer and also participate in the Norwich Invitational in July.

    “It’s something that I look forward to doing just so I can keep that competitive nature,” he said.

    Short putts

    • The Connecticut State Golf Association’s 17th Senior Match Play Championship is being held this week at Black Hall Club in Old Lyme. Defending champion Dave Jones of Mohegan Sun Golf Club shot a 2-over par 73 in stroke play Monday and qualified for match play that started on Tuesday.

    Tom Cutone (Fox Hopyard), David Marshall (Quinnatisset), Matt Vukicevich (Great Neck), Tim Murray (Quinnatisset), Rob Tedoldi Jr. (Connecticut National), James Lawler (Mohegan Sun), Bill Hermanson (Black Hall) and Michael Hawley (Stonington) also made the cut.

    Out of that group, only Jones and Murray won two matches Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Semifinals also will take place Wednesday, with the championship match set for Thursday.

    Jones, the No. 9 seed, defeated No. 24 Kelly Keith, 5 and 4, in the round of 32 and then beat 2021 champion Craig Platt, 2 and 1 in the round of 16. He’ll face No. 17 Mark Vassalotti in the quarterfinals.

    Murray, the No. 23 seed, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating No. 10 Todd Schaller, 5 and 4, and No. 7 Dean Godek, 7 and 5. He’ll face No. 2 Rick Malafronte next.

    Playing on his home course, Hermanson, the 2015 champion and No. 29 seed, knocked off No. 4 Rick Catone, 8 and 6, before losing to No. 13 Glen Boggini, 3 and 1.

    Vukicevich, the No. 15 seed, knocked off No. 18 Mark O’Donnell, 2 and 1, before falling to Malafronte, 1 up.

    • Tim Sisk just may be the Hole-in-One King of southeastern Connecticut.

    Earlier this month, Sisk, who belongs to Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton and works in the pro shop, rang up his eighth career ace.

    That’s right, eighth.

    Most golfers go their entire life without even one.

    “A lot of luck involved,” Sisk said. “Yes, you have to hit a good shot, of course. The ball has to bounce just right.”

    Sisk, 74, accomplished the feat on June 12 while playing in the Sunshine Kids fundraiser at Stonington Country Club. He used his trusty seven wood to ace the 185-yard second hole. His wife Dawn, Bill Ernst and Jessica Hewitt witnessed the event.

    “It landed on the green and made a nice little kick to the right toward the pin,” Sisk said. “I thought, that’s going to be close. And then, all of a sudden, it’s rolling and it disappears. … It was amazing.”

    He added: “We didn’t win the tournament.”

    But Sisk won an even better prize. The second hole also happened to be the tournament’s designated hole-in-one spot, so he earned the $10,000 prize.

    So, what’s his secret?

    “What about longevity?” said Sisk with a hearty laugh. “I’ve been playing for over 60 years. … I don’t know how to explain it.”

    Sisk recorded his eight aces at five different golf courses, including three at Elmridge and two at Shennecossett. He had his first at about 27 years old.

    Now retired from his life as a teacher and coach at Wheeler, he has time to keep trying to add to his ace total.

    • Anthony Kargul, who has won his share of Elmridge Golf Course club championships, added another one to his total last weekend. He defeated George Luzzi to win the senior title. The first and second flight championships have yet to be completed.

    • Bob and Sam Pieniadz finished first with a 65 in the gross division of the Norwich Golf Course member-guest tournament on Sunday. Mike Lalima and Rob Roode combined to win the net division with a 61. Jack Sullivan had an Albatross – three under par – on the par 5 fifth hole.

    • Also at Norwich, the foursome of Bill Howard, Bill Seddon, Mike Connell and Frankie Lee won the NFA Wildcat Scramble on Friday, posting a 57.

    Upcoming events

    • Qualifying for the Elmridge men’s club championship will be held on July 8 and July 9.

    • The Connecticut Senior Open returns to Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton, running July 10 and July 11.

    • Registration is open for the 97th Norwich Invitational, which will run July 14-16 at Norwich Golf Course.

    • The Connecticut PGA Junior TOUR will make a few local stops this summer. The Old Lyme Junior Open tees off on July 31. Shennecossett will host the Players TOUR Finale on Aug. 17 and Fox Hopyard in East Haddam will be the spot for the Players TOUR Cup (Invite only) on Aug. 22.


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