By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
It didn’t take long for Brad Grajzar to adjust to Division I college golf.
While the home comforts didn’t bring grand results in the Phoenix Invitational, it added to the Western Alamance graduate’s early collection of collegiate golf experiences. He plays for Queens University, a Charlotte school that’s new to Division I.
“I wasn’t expecting to be playing in four out of the first five tournaments,” Grajzar said of the launch of his college career. “I see how good they play here. I definitely fit in and everything.”
Back in familiar territory to play on his home course at Alamance Country Club in Burlington, Grajzar shot rounds of 74 and 72 on Monday and followed that with a 1-under 70 on Tuesday. He tied for 41st place at 216.
Elon, the host school, was the winner in the 16-team field, with Garrett Risner capturing medalist honors. Elon held a five-stroke edge on runner-up Stetson
It wasn’t so great for North Carolina State’s Nick Mathews, an Eastern Alamance alum. He was last in the 100-golfer field with 243 (83-79-81).
Grajzar, 18, is fresh out of high school, making adjustments while playing alongside some more established golfers.
“You just have to stay focused on your own game and just play the course and not worry about what they’re shooting,” Grajzar said.
A week earlier in Greenville at the Ironwood Collegiate Classic (with East Carolina as host), Grajzar notched his first collegiate top-10 finish. He was 10th in the 12-team, 81-golfer field, and the lone freshman entered from his team.
“I really found a groove and stuck with it,” he said.
Grajzar posted even-par 216 for three rounds at Ironwood Country Club.
[Story continues below interview with Brad Grajzar.]
Mathews seeks bounce back
Mathews was one of three N.C. State entrants this week. The Wolfpack didn’t enter as a team.
“I’d love to come out here and compete and contend,” Mathews said. “It’s part of the process. You have to be resilient.”
Mathews, who’s in his third year at N.C. State, took a redshirt year in 2021-22. He appeared in four tournaments for the Wolfpack in the 2020-21 school year.
Mathews holds impressive amateur credentials, winning the 2020 North Carolina Amateur Match Play and the 2021 North Carolina Amateur.
So as a redshirt sophomore, he said he’d like to get back in a groove. He had already dismissed some of what happened at Alamance Country Club, where in Tuesday’s final round he had just two birdies.
“This week didn’t go how I wanted,” he said. “It’s going to turn around eventually, I’m too good of a player not to.”
Elon claims title
Elon repeated as tournament champion, leading after each round.
“Winning is tough,” Elon coach Don Hill said. “We’ve been trending in a good direction. … There are certainly advantages of playing at home. On the flip side, there are expectations.”
The Stetson team had arrived early in the area because its operations had been disrupted by Hurricane Ian.
Risner posted 14-under 199 (67-63-69) and runner-up Bronson Myers was at 13-under 200 (66-69-65), marking the two best scores for Elon golfers in the tournament’s seven-year history. Hill credited Myers with carrying the team with a 31 on the backside Tuesday, boosted by an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.
Risner, a redshirt sophomore, is still making a comeback from dealing with a herniated disc during the summer. This was his first collegiate individual title.
Unlike a year ago, the Phoenix Invitational was void of the buzz that came with former NBA champion J.R. Smith’s first collegiate golf outing for North Carolina A&T. He remains on the Aggies team but he didn’t land a spot on N.C. A&T’s tournament squad for this week.