PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -– Like many college golfers playing in the Golfweek Program Challenge, Tomasz Anderson went to work this past summer.
But instead of spending his break at the golf course working on his game, he spent it in Boston working as a sports camp counselor.
“I was supposed to be a golf counselor, but they really didn’t do much golf,” Anderson said. “So, I didn’t get to play a lot.”
The Jacksonville State sophomore’s decision came after a tough freshman year. His father, Cyril, passed away last July, leaving his mother, Elizabeth, to support their two children, including Tomasz, who was about to leave their home in Welwyn Garden City, England, for school. With his mother starting up her own business back home, Anderson struggled financially through two semesters in the states.
After just scraping by, he knew he had no choice but to get a summer job, even if it meant sacrificing his golf game for a few months.
“I made the decision so my mom would have time to recover financially and really get things sorted out,” Anderson said. “For her to not have to give me money for seven months, that’s massive. I’m really happy I did that for her.
“You have to do what you have to do, take one on the chin and move on, and that meant being a team player for my family.”
Anderson also proved to be a team player for the Gamecocks last season. With an impressive knowledge of the game and a willingness to help his teammates, Anderson made quite an early impression on his coaches.
“We’d often find him standing around helping other players, so it was almost like we had an extra coach,” Jacksonville State head coach James Hobbs said. “He’s a very nice young man. He works hard, has lots of talent and is very intelligent. He makes good decisions and you hardly ever see him play a shot that he’s not comfortable with. He’s very within himself. He’s far beyond a sophomore in terms of maturity.”
After his dad’s death, Anderson had about six weeks until he had to leave for Alabama. He knew it would be a difficult season, but with help from his coach, Peter Cherry, Anderson maintained his focus.
“It was a massive emotional pull,” Anderson said. “I came in with no expectations and took it one shot at a time. I know everyone says it’s cliché, but I literally played one shot at a time. I couldn’t have cared less where the ball went. I just played. I did that all the way through the season, and it worked out great.”
He shot a school-record 15-under 201 to win the inaugural Program Challenge – his first collegiate tournament. He then continued that success into the spring, where he helped Jacksonville State capture a second consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title, shooting 5 under in the final round.
“That just completed the year,” said Anderson, who won conference freshman of the year honors after finishing second on the team with a 73.5 stroke average. “After everything that happened, I think to myself what a year I had. I just wish my dad could’ve been there to see it.”
After such an impressive freshman season, it was hard on Anderson when he left for Boston. It was an easy choice given his concern for his mother, but at the same time, it was tough not playing golf.
But just because he couldn’t get out on the course didn’t mean Anderson couldn’t improve his game. He woke up at 5 a.m. every day before work so that he could go to the gym. He became considerably stronger in his core, his shoulders and his back.
Still, it was a surprise for Anderson when he showed up for a practice round at True Blue Plantation on Saturday and his game seemed to have not missed a beat.
“I come back and I’m hitting it better than when I left,” Anderson said.
Anderson made a statement last season in winning his first college event at the Program Challenge. He shot 2-under 70 on Sunday and is currently T-7 after the first round.
He’s picking up where he left off a year ago, only this time, he’s in a better place mentally.
“I’m just going to see what happens, try and hit the shots I want to hit,” Anderson said. “If it doesn’t happen and I don’t win, then it’s not a big deal. There’s always next week, or the next tournament.
“You have to put everything in perspective sometimes and just crack on with it.”