By Maggie Frankie
Senior Drew Engelking is Wheaton’s number one golfer on the men’s team this year. After growing up in Minnesota, Engelking found his way to Wheaton looking for an opportunity to play golf and be a part of a Christian community.
“Only my uncle came to Wheaton,” Engelking said, “but I’ve always known that Wheaton is a great school. I took a visit back in my junior year of high school and got to spend a little time with the golf team, and I immediately fell in love with the place.”
Engelking attended Edina High School in the suburbs of Minneapolis and played varsity golf for the Hornets all four years.
“It was like we were playing at a little bit of a different level in high school,” Engelking said, “so the college transition was much easier. It is definitely a step up playing in college compared to high school, but I was blessed to have to compete with a lot of top players in order to keep my spot on my high school team.”
Engelking and his high school teammates won the Minnesota State Championship during his junior year. He noted that many of them went on to play college golf in Division III, II or I. Coming to Wheaton, Engelking has had more opportunities to consistently play as the No. 1 golfer and has had different social opportunities as well.
“Going to a larger, secular, public high school, it was great change of pace to go to a very academically rigorous school, but at the same time taught from a Christian perspective and having a lot of like-minded kids and having friends that share Christ in common is just really, really cool,” Engelking said.
Golf has always had a special place in Engelking’s heart. “My dad has been really into golf. He picked up the sport when he was like 25. He would take me with him when we were on family vacations, and he got my first set of clubs when I was four.”
Engelking cites Tiger Woods, who changed the world of golf in 1997 by winning the Master’s at 21-years-old, as his golf role-model. Arguably, there was a major transition within the sport after Wood’s victory, and Engelking grew up watching Woods emerge as one of the all-time greats. “He transcended the sport,” Engelking said, “and a lot of the reason why people started getting into golf or watching golf was because of Woods. Obviously, I liked watching the greats before him as well as guys like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. They grew up playing in American Junior Golf Association tournaments, AJGA, and I played in a lot of those same events.”
However, golf was not always Engelking’s only sport. Until eighth grade, Engelking played baseball and hockey. “Going to a larger public high school, there’s not a lot of multi-sport athletes,” Engelking said, “and hockey took up a lot of my time when I was a kid.”
Even so, Engelking found his niche with golf. “Golf is more my personality,” he said.“I really enjoyed the individual-focused practice, and it is all on you.”
Engelking loves golf because you get out of the sport what you put into it. He believes that golf is an open opportunity for anyone. “Everyone is at the same golf course that day,” Engelking told the Record. “You could beat the best players in the world one day if you got good enough, opposed to needing to have the resources or pure athletic talent to get there or being on the right team.”
His career, however, has not been without sacrifice. Engelking said that he had to put a lot of time into his play during the off-season to keep up with the “southern kids” because he grew up in Minnesota where winter sometimes lasts through parts of May.
During his sophomore year at Wheaton, Engelking finished fourth overall at the CCIW championships. Engelking was disappointed with his performance during his junior year. He’s made a comeback this year with two individual medalist honors when he won the Egypt Valley Championship in the fall and the first-ever Wheaton Invitational on March 29.
Engelking is graduating this May, but that does not mean that golf will no longer be a big part of his life. “I would love to be the best amateur golfer that I can,” Engelking said. “I don’t envision myself going pro. That would be super fun, but I would love to continue to play amateur golf events.”
|Egpyt Valley Championship||Oct 8-9, 2018||3||75-71-70=216||E||t-1st/86|
|Arizona Christian Spring Tri-Match||Mar 13, 2019||1||76||+4|
|Wheaton Invitational||Mar 29, 2019||2||76-73=149||+5||1st/40|
When were you first introduced to golf?
Well my dad has been really into golf. He picked up the sport when he was like 25, and so he had me at 28. He was really into it. He would take me with him when we were on family vacations, and so he got my first set of clubs when I was four. At that point, I wasn’t really into golf; I competitively got into golf when I was 10/9, just playing little tournaments on par-3 courses.
What did being a young kid and playing golf look like?
When my parents told me that I had to choose what to focus on. Going to a larger public high school, going to Edina, there’s not a lot of multi-sport athletes, and hockey took up a lot of my time when I was a kid. Quitting hockey in middle school and having to choose between golf and baseball… Golf is a sport where, in order to compete with the southern kids, you have to commit a lot of time to it during the off-season. Being from Minnesota, you have to give up a lot of your time because it takes up so much of your time to get good at golf. I gave up most of my other sports by 8th grade and focused on golf.
As far as what it looks like in golf, it’s an individual sport, and so it is on you. I was blessed to have like most of my best friends we kind of bonded through golf. We would go practice together for hours, and that was us hanging out. Playing golf just because it is a social game. That was some of my best times with my friends, going out, practicing, playing around, getting better and then hanging out more afterwards. You can’t really do that in other sports in the same way.
How did you decide to choose golf over other sports?
Part of it was that I wasn’t as good at the other sports. Hockey is really competitive, especially in Minnesota, so I knew that wasn’t going to be the thing. And golf is more my personality. I really enjoyed the individual-focused practice, and it is all on you. So when you… let’s see… You can get as good as you want, and it is all based on the time you put in and doing the right things. You don’t really need to have a team around you; it is more fun to play with someone else, but you can go out by yourself and do it when you want. You have to be disciplined, and you can put as much time or as little time as you want. You get out what you put in.
What was competing like?
I competed for a team in high school, and I was very fortunate to have a very solid team. We were very competitive. We won state my junior year of high school and came in second my senior year. I played number two in high school, which is kind of nice coming here and getting to play the one spot for most of the time. Our number one plays at Oregon. Our number three plays at Loyola-Chicago. Our number four went to Nebraska-Omaha. We were very competitive. It was like we were playing at a little bit of a different level in high school, so the college transition was much easier. It is definitely a step up playing in college compared to high school, but I was blessed to have to compete with a lot of top players in order to keep my spot on my high school team. I had to feel the heat of trying to keep your spot, and coming down the stretch, having to post good rounds to help your team succeed.
What would you say growing up was like as a golfer watching Tiger Woods and how did it shape your perspective of the sport?
Growing up with Tiger Woods attrached me more to the sport because Tiger made it cool. Tiger wasn’t just a golfer; he was kind of a cultural icon in a way. He transcended the sport, and a lot of the reason why people started getting into golf or watching golf was because of Tiger. Obviously I liked watching the greats before him and looking back at those, but I would say that Tiger making the sport cool was one thing, as well as watching guys like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. They grew up playing in American Junior Golf Association tournaments, AJGA, and I played in a lot of those same events. It is kind of like I’ve seen and played against players that you know there is no set progression in golf unlike other sports. You can play your way onto the tour, and so it has been cool to see guys like that who, I am many years younger than them, but I saw their names on leaderboards when I was young. Now they’re some of the best players in the world. It’s cool because you can take it where you want to in golf. It is all about the score. It’s not about where you’re playing or what tournaments you’re at. Everyone is at the same golf course that day. You could bet the best players in the world one day just if you got good enough. As opposed to needing to have the resources or pure athletic talent to get there or being on the right team.
What drew you to come to Wheaton?
My parents and my family… Only my uncle came to Wheaton, but I’ve always known that Wheaton is a great school. I took a visit back in my junior year of high school and got to spend a little time with the golf team, and I immediately fell in love with the place. Going to a larger, secular, public high school it is great change of pace to go to a very academically rigorous school but at the same time be taught from a Christian perspective and having a lot of like-minded kids and having friends that share Christ in common is just really, really cool. Even on the team… I had a lot good friends in high school who were Christians, and I still have a lot of good friends from church back home. But, being in a community of believers is really, really powerful, and it is something that I will always remember and value the relationships coming out of here.
How do you think your spiritual life has been shaped by being so involved with the sport of golf?
I would say that it really puts everything into perspective from an identity standpoint. I know that is kind of cliché, but… Golf is very important to me, but it is not who I am. I have noticed that I haven’t played my best or haven’t been happy when I’ve put it (golf) first in my life. That is something that, especially being at Wheaton, we are constantly putting thing in perspective. Our faith is most important, and golf and school and other things can be an idol. But, being in a place where you’re bombarded with the positive message and a spiritually encouraging environment is really important.
Where do you see golf in the future in your life?
One thing that’s really cool about golf and a lot of these other individual sports is that it’s… it’s… because it’s not as physically intensive or degrading on your body…
It’s hard, but it is not going to break your body down.
There is a lot…
My dad has gotten to be a very good player post-his athletic career persay. I would love to be the best amateur golfer that I can. I don’t envision myself going pro. That would be super fun, but I would love to continue to play amateur golf events. There is a great infrastructure in the game