John Konsek

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Amateur Golfer

The game of life often presents its participants weighty choices. The most gifted athletes must sometimes confront reality, and pursue different paths in life. A young John Konsek, perhaps the best amateur golfer ever produced in the Buffalo area, faced the dilemma during his college years. His golfing skill promised a comfortable living on the professional tour, but his true passion — the practice of medicine — lay elsewhere. Konsek chose medicine, and while the golfing public was left to ponder what might have been, Konsek, like Moonlight Graham in “Field of Dreams,” never looked back.

John’s affection for golf took hold at an early age, when he and his brother became regulars at the Grover Cleveland course. His father opened a driving range that provided John a regular practice routine. John showed such promise that his father enlisted the Park Club resident professional, Jack Pritchard, to help his son fulfill that promise.

Konsek warmed up with Buffalo District, New York State, and East Aurora Junior Masters titles in the late 1950’s. He won the New York State Amateur an unprecedented three straight times, as well as two Porter Cup titles (1959 and 1961) and the Buffalo District Golf Association Championship (1960). The qualifying round for the latter tournament featured eagles on the first two holes en route to a 61.

Konsek was a terror in college. His Purdue Boilermakers won the Big 10 Title from 1958 to 1960; John was the individual tournament winner, and an All-American each of those years. Konsek’s collegiate career was highlighted by three head-to-head matchups with a young Ohio State Buckeye named Jack Nicklaus. Konsek prevailed in two of the three meetings, including the 1960 Big 10 Tournament, which he won by two strokes in the wind and rain after an astounding 33 on the back nine. The next finisher, behind Nicklaus, was 15 strokes back.

How good was John Konsek with a golf club in his hand? Nicklaus once told a writer for the Milwaukee Sentinel, “Had John turned professional, he definitely would be in the Hall of Fame by now. What I’m saying is that I think John missed the opportunity to be one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game.”

While Konsek made his mark as an amateur on local and national levels, he tested the waters several times with the pro circuit, including two appearances in the U.S. Open (1958 and 1960). He declined an invitation to play the 1961 Masters Tournament because he was attending medical school at the University at Buffalo.

John Konsek enjoyed a satisfying medical career as a highly-respected oncologist. His golf clubs have not gathered dust, though; a lifetime of weekend golf has maintained the skill that makes him a one-handicap even today. Konsek’s continuing fondness for his clubs is fitting, since they long-ago earned him a place in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.