PLAYER PROFILE: Decorated Merkow Eyes ProsBy Liana B. Baker Daily Northwestern
May 9, 2007
Evanston, IL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- David Merkow is set to graduate in a month with a degree in economics but without a firm plan for the future. Northwestern coach Pat Goss has a suggestion for what Merkow could do when his days of donning purple are over.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he should play professional golf," Goss said.
Merkow, who turned 22 on Saturday, said he wants to focus on leading NU to an NCAA championship this season before he can worry about the future.
Over the past four years, Merkow has racked up numerous accolades. Besides his spot on last year's conference championship team, Merkow said his favorite prize was being selected as Big Ten player of the year for 2005-06.
"It was gratifying because it was a year long award," Merkow said. "It was nice getting to be on the board next to (former NU golfers) Luke Donald and Scott Rowe."
Two weeks ago, the Big Ten's head coaches named Merkow a second-team Big Ten selection, based on his performance this season.
Merkow's career stroke average of 74.18 ranks sixth on Northwestern's all-time list, but teammates said it's his long drive that makes his golf game most distinctive.
"It's hard to gauge how long he hits," junior Kyle Moore said. "If he was on the PGA Tour, he'd be one of the longest drivers out there."
Goss said Merkow's ability to hit iron shots in the wind sets him apart from other college players. But the speed he generates also can make his bad shots worse, Goss said.
"He still has to keep improving his fundamentals and add consistency to his game," Goss said.
Moore said Merkow is a fun player to watch because he gets himself into difficult situations but makes brilliant recoveries.
"Dave's game is exciting because you don't know what's going to happen next," Moore said.
But while Merkow's style may appear wild at times, Moore insists he has learned analytical skills from his teammate.
He said Merkow mulls over the details of every shot and knows how to handle the complexities of golf, which gives a high "golf IQ." He always tries to talk about his game with those who know better and who can help him improve.
"If our coach Pat Goss was a woman, he'd probably marry him," Moore said. "He loves getting criticism from Pat."
Merkow's drives may sail well past his peers but his life has stayed firmly grounded in his family. Growing up 30 miles outside of Milwaukee in Hartland, Wis., Merkow learned to play golf from his grandfather.
But otherwise he has strayed quite far from the family course. Both Merkow's parents are doctors, he has uncles on both sides of the family with their M.D.'s and his older brother, Max, is at medical school at Columbia.
Merkow's family finds time away from the hospital to provide him with one of the biggest cheering sections at tournaments. Merkow said his uncle, Jerry Bartos, smokes a cigar every time he makes a birdie, which led him into respiratory trouble when he watched his nephew make eight birdies in the first round of the Puerto Rico Classic.
Merkow joked that he dubbed the first day of the Big Ten Championships his uncle's "health day" since he failed to make a single birdie.
Merkow said he tries to keep his mind off of golf when he has free time. To relax, Merkow used to read The Economist until his subscription "stopped coming." Now he enjoys watching "The Office" whenever he can.
Merkow's friends said he takes his studies seriously but describe him as a "loud, funny guy who tells a lot of jokes." Merkow prides himself on his reputation as an outgoing golfer.
"I'd like to be remembered as a good golfer, but somebody who also had some personality," Merkow said. "I'm not like a mute who played golf."
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