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Focused on fun factor

Back on course: Mazurek finds old groove, qualifies for first Maine Amateur

Former RDHS, Husson athletic standout competes as one of state's best
By Zack Miller | Jul 07, 2020
Courtesy of: Rich Mazurek Rich Mazurek.

Rockland — Swinging a golf club always has come naturally to Rich Mazurek.

The former Rockland District High School and Husson College — now university — athletic standout started swinging the clubs back when he was "seven, eight or nine," and now, decades later at age 48, the former Tiger and Eagle was set to go toe-to-toe with 131 others at the 101st Maine Amateur golf championship tournament Tuesday through Thursday July 7-9 at the Biddeford-Saco Country Club.

"I’m not nervous by any means," said Mazurek, a member at the Samoset Resort. "It’s an honor for me to play and consider myself to be able to play in the top tournament in the state. I’m going go to go down there and have a fun time. I have a simple goal, [which is] I’d like to play in all three days."

When one first saw a Mazurek had qualified for this year's Maine Amateur, it would have been OK if they initially thought it was a typo because Rich's son, Nick, is a former state high school golf champion and has competed in the Maine Am. But, they would be wrong because the "old man" is back in the golf groove — back in the game — and ready to have fun.

Like his son, Nick, Mazurek has a powerful driving game and is solid in other aspects of the sport — including iron play, chipping and putting.

Front nine: Early years

Despite starting golf as a youngster, Mazurek did not play competitively until his senior year in high school at RDHS.

"Rockland had a really good run of state championships and had seven-to-10 real low-handicap players," said Mazurek. "I was a decent golfer, but not at that level. I didn’t play until my senior year when I knew I could play on the varsity team. I made All-State, and we qualified for states as a team and I qualified as an individual."

"[Golf] coincided when I started playing Little League baseball, because in golf I had an interlocking grip, and I had that grip all the way through high school, so I held a baseball bat like I did a golf club," he said.

Mazurek's grip on the baseball and bat was strong as a pitcher and outfielder for three varsity seasons, including his senior year when he was an All-State player, as well as his junior year when he helped the Tigers win a state title in 1989.

Mazurek also shone as a power forward on the basketball court for Rockland, as he scored more than 1,000 points for his career, which included back-to-back regional team championships in 1989 and 1990. Mazurek was named as an All-State player his senior season in 1990.

At Husson, Mazurek continued his basketball success, as he scored more than 1,000 points in his four years as an Eagle power forward, and helped Husson capture a conference title his senior season in 1994.

The now 48-year-old played three years of baseball as well from his freshman to junior years as a left fielder, and helped the Eagles capture a conference championship in 1992.

Despite the rigors of the basketball and baseball seasons, Mazurek's time on the golf course for Husson was "more of an enjoyable release time before the grind of basketball."

"Husson golf was a little more laid back," he said. "The basketball coach coached the golf team, and wasn’t quite at the level their program is now.

"I can’t really remember any achievements at Husson. I can remember having a lot of fun. We had a couple of guys from the basketball team that were on the golf team, but I have more memories of having fun than winning any big tournaments."

Despite not "winning any big tournaments" in golf, Mazurek was elected to the Husson Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, for his contributions to the Eagles' athletic programs, and also was inducted into the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

Back nine: Adult years

After Mazurek's graduation from Husson in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, golf always was on his mind, until a significant problem arose.

"I graduated from college and played golf pretty much non-stop for about a month and ran out of money," he said. "I figured I had to get a job, and one of the guys I played a few rounds with after college was the sales manager at Rockland Ford, and he said if I wanted a job to come over and he would hire me.

"So, I got my start in the car business through golf, and here I am 25 years later still in the car business. When you get into this business the golf kind of waned because [my job is] labor intensive, and you spend a lot of hours at the store. Then you mix in a couple of kids and a wife, and down the road you aren’t playing much."

Mazurek — now the general manager at Fuller Chevrolet GMC in Rockland — had to put competitive play on the back burner, as his son, Nick, picked up clubs and became a state champion-level golfer for Oceanside High School in 2015 and 2016. Nick also qualified for the Maine Amateur in 2018 and 2019.

"Nick and I played a lot of golf together," Rich said. "I viewed that time in my life as not a competitive time. I didn’t want to be competing side-by-side with him. That was his time to participate and play in tournaments and I wasn’t looking for that competition at that point. I would go out and play with him and I did it to help him along the way. I made sure to take the back-burner on that. I wasn’t entering tournaments or [trying to] excel, I wanted to help him and let him do his thing as I raised him. We didn’t need to be competing side-by-side, but we played a lot socially to have fun and teach him."

Nick, ultimately, persuaded his father to get back in to competitive golf in 2018.

"Nick convinced me to try to qualify for the Maine Amateur [in 2018] and wanted both of us to try to make it, but I failed to make [the tournament], but he made it," Rich said. "Last year I didn’t try, but he qualified and played. Again, [Nick] was going into his senior year [at Husson], he had gotten back into golf from baseball, and last year I said I didn’t want to compete. It was his time to compete and I was going to be there to help him and not worry about what I was doing."

The past two years saw Nick, as well as Rich's daughter, Alexis, become "more and more independent" and Rich "started to play [golf] a lot more."

"I found myself enjoying playing more at the Samoset, with the guys and members there," Rich said. "As I started to play more the scores started coming down, and this spring I played some pretty good golf, so I said I’ll take another shot at qualifying."

Mazurek made the shots he needed on June 18 at Bangor Municipal Golf Club, which was one of four qualifiers for the Maine Amateur tournament, as he shot 76 (+5) to finish 10th, and gain one of the final 16 open slots to the tourney.

"I was able to put together a good round," he said. "Golf for me now is so much different than back when I was competing [at a younger age]. I play it and enjoy the game [now]. When I qualified up in Bangor I knew early on I made a couple of mistakes, but I was there to enjoy this, not necessarily agonize over it. I settled down and started playing really well, and was able to put together a decent enough back-nine [holes] to make it in.

"I made a birdie on the last hole, it didn’t get me in, but it certainly helped. I knew walking off the green I was probably going to be making it and then there were a couple of groups behind me, but nobody there really lit it up. It was nice I didn’t have to worry about it and wait two to three hours, but I found out right away.

Despite the pressure golfers may feel to qualify for a prestigious tournament, Mazurek was not a part of that group.

"I was viewing the qualifier as another round of golf. I viewed it as a day out of the office, and if I make it I’ll be honored to play in it, but if I don’t qualify it’s [not a big deal]. Through playing basketball and baseball I’ve played in some big games, so it’s not the end of the world for me. I’m at the point where I really enjoy to play, and I’m starting to play a little better, and it feels a lot better."

Tournament of lifetime

To the best of his recollection, Mazurek believes 2018 and this year are the only times he has attempted to qualify for Maine's most prestigious links tournament, because "it’s in the summer and it was always hard for me to get the time off to do it."

This time around, though, the Rockland native has taken a different approach to how he prepares.

"[Two years ago] I tried to spend some time and prepare and play, but this year with COVID-19 all the ranges and putting greens are closed, so basically I’m just putting the work in in the round of golf, and something has clicked where that’s working for me," he said. "I said to myself I’m going to continue with that philosophy, so I got into my car, I got to Bangor about 15 minutes before I was scheduled to tee off, stretched out like I normally do, took one practice putt, and went to the tee and played. I’m going to do the same thing with the Maine Amateur."

That strategy paid off once, and Mazurek hopes it does again.

"Golf is a game about feel, so if you’re feeling good don’t change what you are doing. I’m going to prepare a little less than most would, but that preparedness is going to be from the neck up, and ready to go mentally. We are going down to the course Friday [July 3] for a practice round. I do, at least, want to know the hazards of the golf course."

One of Mazurek's goals in the tournament is "to beat Cole Anderson [of Camden] — the defending champion — or whoever might be at the top," but also admits to having "realistic expectations."

"I’m not going to shoot 65, and if I do it’s not going to be fun. My goal going into [the tournament] I just want to be able to see Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and if I do that I’ll be really happy. I don’t go into a tournament not to win, but I’m certainly a realist, but [a win] would make for the upset of the century."

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Robert M Rosenberg | Jul 08, 2020 07:20

Not a bad poker player either

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