BuffaloGolfer is going to provide a captivating interview with an important golfing figure each month of 2015. Since we’re starting on March 1st, we’ve got a bit of catching up to do. If you have a favorite Buffalo-Niagara golfer/golf industry member that you feel should be featured, let us know with a comment below. We begin the series with David Patronik, former high school golfer at Orchard Park h.s. and current lead golf instructor for Gary Occhino Golf.
1. Catch us up a bit on what you’ve done since you graduated from Orchard Park high school.
After high school in 2002 I attended Gannon University in Erie, PA where I majored in Business Management and played division II golf. I was fortunate to be successful in school and on the team, so upon graduation in 2006 I decided to turn professional. I spent the next several years living in Erie with my wife Susan, working at several area golf courses and facilities. I spent time at Harbor Ridge Golf Course in Harborcreek, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Millcreek Golf and Learning Center in Erie, and Lake View CC in North East. I was an apprentice in the WNYPGA and played with some success in local open and pro-am events. In 2009 I turned my focus to competition on a national level and became a member of the eGolf Tour in the Carolinas. I missed several cuts and over the summer went through a difficult period of time with both of my grandfathers passing away. At that point I reevaluated things and accepted the coaching position for the men’s team at Gannon. I enjoyed the season I spent with the team in 2009-2010, but I stepped down when I found out that my wife and I were expecting our first child. We had a miscarriage, but several months later discovered we were going to have a healthy baby boy, Joshua, in June of 2011. At this point I became a stay-at-home parent and worked on my game when possible, playing in Western PA Opens and PA Opens, each on three occasions. After much thought and discussion we relocated to Charlotte, NC in January of 2013, for another attempt at playing professionally. After only a few months in North Carolina, we became pregnant with our second child, our little girl Anna. Anna was born in January of 2014 and at this point Susan and I decided it would be best to be closer to family for help with our children. We arrived back in Buffalo in August of last year, and are now currently living in West Seneca.
2. You are working with Gary Occhino these days. What exactly does that mean?
During college I worked two summers at OPCC, so I have known Gary since then. I called Gary this fall and asked if he was looking for any help in the off season giving lessons. He told me that he was looking to expand his teaching business, and I was happy to accept the job as his Lead Instructor. In November I came on board and started assisting with the local juniors in the USA Junior National Golf Team program. It was a great fit from the start, given my passion for working with junior and collegiate level players. I will continue to work with Gary this summer at Harvest Hill, as well as at Holland Hills, the course where I developed my game as a junior golfer. This winter I am also giving lessons at the Village Greens indoor simulators in Orchard Park, and with TrackMan at Woods to Wedges inside Golf Headquarters in the Wehrle Golf Dome.
3. Without giving away your secrets, give us one mental-gam tip, one fitness tip and one equipment tip that will really help a golfer who doesn’t know that he/she needs help.
Mental Game: Always commit yourself fully to each decision you face over the course of the round. You can then make aggressive swings to conservative spots instead of timid swings in risky situations.
Fitness Tip: Stay hydrated and nourished on the golf course! Especially for junior and collegiate players who walk the courses. Not doing so can result in poor decision making and poor swings, both of which lead to higher scores.
Equipment Tip: Take care of your clubs by cleaning/changing grips and cleaning grooves of your clubs. The grips are the only point of contact we have while swinging so worn our grips can cause poor shots. Clean grooves are crucial, especially with short irons and wedges, in controlling our spin and overall distance.
4. You’ve played a fair amount of competitive golf. What golf course in western New York is the most challenging for a highly-skilled golfer and why? Pick one private and one public.
Private course: Crag Burn is without a doubt the most challenging course for the low handicap player. It combines length with a demand for intelligent course management decisions given the heather and many hazards around the property. It is the type of course that can leave you both physically and mentally fatigued after a round, especially if you enjoy walking while playing.
Public course: I haven’t played Diamond Hawk but I have heard stories about how challenging it can be. Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor comes to mind as a challenging, yet fair layout. Like Crag Burn it combines length and many hazards that must be negotiated throughout the round. With a 74.5 rating and 140 slope from the tips it is a test for both the par and bogey golfer alike.
5. Since not every course is meant for every player, which golf courses (public and private) are the most enjoyable for the average golfer?
Private course: I always have enjoyed the classic, park land courses by the old masters. Park, Transit Valley, and Brookfield are all old school gems, but CC of Buffalo is my favorite. It is pure golf, from the classic Ross layout to the driving range that feels like hitting balls in Central Park. It is a treat for any level golfer, from the average club golfer to the professional.
Public course: My dad would agree with me that Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua combines both scenic beauty and variety of holes. Elevation changes and great lake views can be found around the property. Two distinct nines that wind through woods and navigate the hillside will challenge your game. It isn’t a long course, but this Robert Trent Jones layout and scenery are well worth a visit.
6. Your younger brother just finished a fine high school career at Orchard Park and is off to college. If you have the opportunity to speak to a 12 or 13-year old golfer who hopes to make her/his high school team, what are the top five points in your message?
1. Work on your short game! Chipping, pitching and putting account for well over half the game. Become proficient around the green and you can save many strokes each round.
2. Play your own game. In other words, be confident in your own abilities and don’t worry what others around you are doing. I was always a shorter hitter, so I learned this eventually over time. When you’re done, they never ask “how” only “how many”.
3. Have a game plan for the round. Play practice rounds ahead of time if possible and write down what clubs you hit, or what you feel you should hit, on each hole. This takes guesswork and indecision out of tournament and qualifying rounds, and will lead to confidence and lower scores.
4. Play with golfers better than you. This is a great way to learn and also experience friendly competition. In high school I was number 2 on the OP team behind NY State Amateur Champion Matt Thomas. It was probably the best thing for the development of my game, and allowed me to have success later in high school and in college.
5. Have fun and enjoy the process. Golf is a difficult, and yet very rewarding game. Enjoy the process of improving and working toward becoming a better player!