Olivet Nazarene golfer keeps powering up
Matt Winkelmann's fascination with golf began not on a green but a screen.
Swing Away Golf, a game for PlayStation 2, was Winkelmann's first video game. He got it when he was 5 and enjoyed it so much that he asked his dad to take him to the driving range to do what the players in the game were doing.
“Ever since then, I've just stuck with it,” Winkelmann told the Kankakee Times.
These days, Winkelmann puts up video-game-like numbers on the region's courses as part of the Olivet Nazarene University men's golf team. For his stellar 2017 season, Winkelmann was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men's Golfer of the Year recently.
Winkelmann said he was honored and thanked his coaches and teammates, as well as his family for coming out to cheer him on.
“It's always important to have that support system there as well,” he said.
According to ONU's athletic website, the sophomore from Wheaton had eight top-five finishes out of 12 meets, a run that included four medalist honors. He also had eight rounds of par or better in his 22 rounds en route to a 74.2-stroke average.
Winklemann got third in the CCAC Championships after finishing fourth last year. He said he improved over his excellent freshman season by understanding the work needed to succeed in the sport, like choosing to hit the course instead of relaxing on the couch.
“I think I've just learned as a person that it's something that takes a big portion of your life, but it's an enjoyable commitment for me to let golf kind of just consume my entire day,” he said.
With that focus, Winkelmann said he plans to work on getting the ball closer to the hole when using his wedges, something he has struggled with.
Competition and the entertainment factor are a big part of the enjoyment for Winkelmann.
“You want people to remember something that you did that day,” he said.
Winkelmann also credited the team's access to the Kankakee Elks Golf Course as a big key to their winning ways.
“They're a big reason why our team has seen success: it's because they allow us to use their facilities whenever we need,” he said.
This summer, Winkelmann plans to try his game at some U.S. Open and Web.com qualifiers, as well as amateur qualifiers. He also plans to play with his teammates.
“It's about playing my own schedule of qualifiers, but even more fun than that when you get to hang out with teammates in the summer because they live close enough and you can go play tournaments with them,” he said.
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