Szandrocha ready to tee off at the next level

SP golf - Andrew Szandrocha vs Hall #5 052016By BRIAN JENNINGS

SHS grad Andrew Szandrocha might be done swinging clubs for the Blue Knights, but he has chosen to continue his athletic career at the collegiate level, accepting an NCAA Division I golf scholarship from Central Connecticut State University.

It came down to a decision between CCSU and Assumption College (D-II) in Worcester, Mass.

“I figured that CCSU is a little bit bigger of a school, and I wanted to go somewhere a little bit bigger,” said Szandrocha. “I wanted to go to a school where I could travel more.”

The Devils are coming off of a sixth-place finish at the Northeast Conference Championships, which were held at the LPGA International Jones Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. Szandrocha will play under new head men’s golf coach Kyle Gallo. Gallo was named the head coach of the men’s golf team in August of last year and is a former CCSU standout golfer.

Gallo played more than 15 years as a professional and spent time on the Nationwide (now the Tour in 2005 and 2006. Szandrocha will be part of his first recruiting class.

“He’s excited about having his own guys in there,” said the former Knight. “Four freshmen are coming in and I see them all at tournaments. I kind of know them. I think the team is going to be good.”

Szandrocha said that he is interested in traveling around the country to play different course, which was one of the major topics of discussion when he sat down with Gallo.

“He told me that if I play my way into the lineup, I could really go anywhere,” said Szandrocha. “There’s a lot of traveling to Florida and South Carolina.”

Szandrocha plans to study hospitality and tourism.

This past spring, Szandrocha bounced back and forth between the No. 1 and No. 2 golfer for the Knights and helped the team achieve a divisional conference title with a 14-1-1 record (11-1-1 in CCC).

Andrew Szandrocha

Andrew Szandrocha

During the regular season, Szandrocha reached an all-time, personal low going 3-under (32) at Hawks Landing Country Club. Szandrocha teamed up with teammate Ryan Burrill to lead Southington with a ninth-place finish in the Chappa Invitational at Longshore Golf Club in Westport, shooting an even-par 69.

In the postseason, he led the Knights at the Conference Championship, tying for third with an even-par 71 at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain. At the Division I Championship, Szandrocha carded an 80 (8-over-par) at Tallwood Country Club in Hebron to help the team tie for 12th.

“Our team was full of good friends, and they were always supportive,” said Szandrocha. “We never got down on one another. Everyone was just looking forward to playing well, and we built off of that.”

Szandrocha said that having such a successful senior season made him realize that he wanted to continue playing more competitively. And playing in the most competitive division in the state helped prepare him for the collegiate level.

“It was really exciting to see other good golfers like that,” said Szandrocha. “Being in that really high division and competitive atmosphere got me thinking that I wanted to go into this more.”

Szandrocha said that having a head coach like Jim DiNello also helped prepare him for Division I collegiate golf as well.

“If you ever doubted yourself at all, he would instill confidence in yourself,” said Szandrocha. “He’s a confident guy, and it kind of just shed off on everyone. He made you think that you could do anything. He never said anything bad or too cocky about the team. He always believed in us.”

DiNello coached Szandrocha for all four years of high school and said that he thought Szandrocha made a great decision to play for the Devils.

“He’ll be close to home,” said his former coach. “Andrew has always been very dedicated to family and family has always been important to him. His family will be able to see what he does, and that golf program is certainly moving in the right direction. He’ll be a great fit there and a tremendous benefit to their program.”

DiNello said that Szandrocha has the ability to succeed at CCSU because of the fact that he had played in a highly competitive scenario throughout his high school career.

“The high school programs that we’ve played against for the last four years are schools that have Division I talent,” the coach said. “I don’t know if the type of golfers that Andrew is going to play with or against is going to be all that much of a surprise. Andrew has also been playing in qualifiers and doing various things on the junior tours forever, so he understands how to compete.”

Szandrocha said that he plans on playing in a lot of tournaments over the summer to help prepare for the fall. One such tournament that Szandrocha will be playing in is the New England Amateur Championship in July at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford. Szandrocha qualified for the championship by shooting an even-par 72 at Timberlin Golf Club in Berlin, finishing second out of about 107 golfers.

“That’s not even junior division,” said Szandrocha. “That will be a nice one for me to play in because that will have some really good competition with all ages.”

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