For the love of the links

Former Warren native David Kondzich has found a place he can happily call home.

An avid amateur golfer, Kondzich moved to Goodyear, Ariz., from Warren in 2010 for two reasons – weather and golf. Golf has been Kondzich’s passion over the last 30 years, and at 62 years old, Kondzich still loves to play one of the most maddening sports in the world.

“It’s a terrible game, but I can’t get enough of it,” Kondzich said.

The thought of golfing year-round appealed to Kondzich, so he and his wife, Nancy, packed their clubs and headed west. In spite of Arizona’s scorching heat and Kondzich’s age, his passion continually drives him to play.

“It’s been 110 (degrees) every day for the past three weeks, but I still play,” Kondzich said. “The game is an affection, you hit a good shot, you can’t wait to hit another one. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but that’s the beauty of golf – it doesn’t matter.”

Kondzich took his first swing of a club 50 years ago when he started tagging along with his father, Paul, and younger brother, John, at Punderson State Park Golf Course in Newbury. From there the two brothers picked up the game at Old Avalon Golf Course in Warren.

Kondzich has given his life to golf, and last year, he decided to give his time and talent to the sport in a way he had never done before. Now he not only plays the game, but he teaches it. He now shares his love of golf with high schoolers.

In 2013, Estrella Foothills High School selected Kondzich to be the new boys golf coach. The school never had a returning coach in nine years, so when Kondzich got the call, he saw it as a chance to help the school’s golf program grow.

“I got a gift knowing the golf game, the love of the golf game, and I wanted to share that with kids,” Kondzich said. “I thought it would be neat to pass on the golf heritage from the Warren-Youngtsown area.”

The boys team reached new heights in Kondzich’s first season. Under his tutelage, the team went to the Arizona state golf tournament and finished third in 2013 and the 2014 season showed even more promise as the team finished the season 55-3. The boys placed second at state and earned the school’s first golf banner and trophy in the program’s 10-year existence.

In light of the boys’ successful tourney runs, Kondzich was asked to coach the girls. Kondzich accepted the offer under the condition that Nancy could act as his assistant coach.

“She’s able to share in all of this with me, and it’s great,” Kondzich said.

With the Kondzichs at the helm, the girls achieved as much success as the boys. Considering some of the girls had never played before, Kondzich was forced to start from scratch. He eased them into the process, and before he knew it, the girls went undefeated with a perfect 27-0 record in 2014.

“We beat everybody we played,” Kondzich said. “Kids who had never played golf before couldn’t wait for the summer to come so we could start practicing early and can keep this going.”

Kondzich said he receives a few thousand dollars to coach Estrella Foothills’ golf teams, but he and Nancy used a good portion of his paychecks to take the teams out to eat and buy them new uniforms.

“It’s like being a grandparent because you spoil the children, and you don’t have to pay for their college,” Kondzich said.

Kondzich possesses a picture of the boys and their runner-up trophy, along with newspaper clippings about both teams in his office at home. He looks at these pleasant momentos and all he can do is smile and take pride in his kids – his students of the game.

“My wife and I never had children – now I have 20 of them, and they’re like our kids” Kondzich said.

Kondzich said his only regret about moving away was that he never coached while living in Warren.

“I wish I would have thought of this when I was in Warren,” Kondzich said. “I guess when you come out here for a fresh start, it’s better late than never.”