Freshman golfer Zac Ciesla said the most challenging aspect in his first season at Webster University was adjusting to life away from home.
Ciesla said his teammates and head coach Andrew Belsky have been key to his success this season.
“A lot of it has been due to the support of my friends and family, but mainly it’s been the help of my coach Andrew Belsky,” Ciesla said. “He has really made the adjustment to college life easier and less stressful.”
Ciesla capped off his first season by winning St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Newcomer of the Year. He was also named first team All-Conference after Webster won the SLIAC tournament at the Aberdeen Golf Classic.
Belsky first saw Ciesla play during an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event in Las Vegas in December 2015. Belsky said he sent him a recruitment letter after the event.
Belsky said Ciesla already knows how to play and has been mainly working with him on the mental part of the game.
“We continue to work on staying in the moment, and learning to shrug off the bad shots and keep grinding,” Belsky said.
Senior golfer Jon Hughes said he has given Ciesla some mental and strategy suggestions, but he has mainly given him advice on how to manage his emotions if he runs into bad luck.
“I tell him to trust his game and commit to every shot,” Hughes said. “Control what you can control and don’t worry about the rest.”
Ciesla said he considers his strengths to be his short game and course management.
“I really like how a lot of the game isn’t based on how strong or fast you are,” Ciesla said. “It’s more of a mental game as well as it’s an individual sport more than a team sport, so how you play is all on you.”
During the SLIAC tournament, Ciesla finished fifth out of 45 golfers. The win in the SLIAC tournament advanced Webster to the NCAA Championships.
Ciesla said he was struggling the whole spring season prior to the SLIAC tournament.
“The week before [the tournament], I ended up going back home to Louisiana for two days just to get back to my roots and practice with my swing coach down there,” Ciesla said. “Then, I spent the rest of the week fine tuning my game just to fix the small things that were giving me trouble.”
Hughes said Ciesla played well in the SLIAC tournament and said his honors were very impressive for a freshman. Hughes also said Ciesla performed even better in the opening fall event.
“I think his win in the first event of the fall at Edgewood’s tournament was really impressive,” Hughes said. “To come out and post and under par round to start his college career and follow it up with another good score was awesome to watch.”
Belsky said he is looking forward to seeing Ciesla develop as a player and person in the future.
“Zac had by far the best season in school or conference history for a freshman,” Belsky said. “The recognition at the end of the year is well deserved and I think there will be many more awards as the years move on.”