Wheatley’s Dolezal caps amazing prep golf career with dramatic state title win

Wheatley’s Dolezal caps amazing prep golf career with dramatic state title win
The Wheatley School senior Jojo Dolezal won the NYS championship for boys golf on June 3 in Elmira. Photo courtesy of The Wheatley School.

Decades from now, when Jojo Dolezal is as old as the grandfathers who taught him the game were then, he will gather his own grandchildren around the living room and tell them about his golf career.

He’ll mention this tournament or that and show them a trophy or two, but eventually, before they get bored and want to play on whatever kids 50 years from now will play on, the dramatic story of the New York State Championships of 2024 will come up.

Of how Grandpa Joe, competing for The Wheatley School, had a fantastic first day at the Mark Twain Golf Course in Elmira, leading the competition by two shots following a sparkling 4-under 68 on the first 18.

In his senior season, a state title was finally in his grasp.

But then, as with all good stories, things took a twist. A kid named Ken Fernandes of Westchester County’s Horace Greeley High School caught fire on day two, channeling his inner Scottie Scheffler and soaring past Dolezal.

With only six holes to go, Dolezal trailed Fernandes by four shots, a pretty huge margin with little time left.

“I knew at 13 that if I didn’t make a move then,” Dolezal said, “I’d be in trouble. I never think I’m out of it, but it was getting close.”

Suddenly, Dolezal recounts, he ramped up the pressure. Birdie after birdie started falling for him, while Fernandes, a freshman, faltered a bit.

Still, on 18, Dolezal trailed by one shot until, on his second attempt, he hit maybe the shot of his life.

Certainly, it was the best shot Wheatley coach Henry Kupstas said he’s ever seen in person. The approach was so perfect that it’s almost impossible to believe unless you see it (which you can, if you click here).

The shot set up a tap-in for par, which tied Dolezal and Fernandes and sent the duo to a playoff to decide a champ.

On the second playoff hole, Dolezal made a par while Fernandes bogeyed, and the title is his.

But when he tells that story to his grandkids… yeah, you have to end with “The Shot.”

“To watch Jojo flip a switch like that those last few holes, that was something to watch,” Kupstas said. “He’s been the best golfer in the state since 7th grade, so to see him finally get the state win, was really special.”

Dolezal’s victory was almost two decades in the making; he’s a golf nut and has been since he was little when both of his grandfathers introduced him to the sport as soon as he could hold a club.

Pressed to say what’s the longest he’s ever gone without playing, Dolezal said “probably a week.”

“On the senior trip to Aruba this year, I don’t think I played the whole time,” he said. “But I was on the beach practicing my swing in the sand. I’m sure people thought that looked a little strange.”

As Dolezal grew up, he had more than just his grandpas to guide him in the sport; his dad, Joseph, is a pro at Plandome Country Club.

“He’s just always had a good swing, and never needed to be pushed to practice or anything,” Joseph Dolezal said. “He was very good at learning from everyone who helped him, taking a little something from that person or that person. He was always trying to learn.”

Dolezal has been on The Wheatley School team since 7th grade and has impressed all in Nassau County with his steady play. He won the county championship both in 11th grade and this year, and last season placed ninth at the states, fueling belief he could do better as a senior.

But after his remarkable comeback on the second day, he was in a little bit of shock that he won.

“It was a little bit of disbelief because as much as I wanted it and as long as I had hoped to win it, I was still kind of surprised it happened,” Dolezal said. “And to come back from four strokes back … I just had a really happy feeling because I really wanted to win this title.”

What set Dolezal apart this year and enabled him to win? Kupstas and Dolezal agree it was belief.

“He would get down on himself when he had a bad hole, and would have trouble forgetting it,” Kupstas said. “Now he’s learned to deal with adversity better and just has a much better mental attitude.”

That attitude will carry Dolezal to St. John’s University in the fall, where he’ll play more golf and study finance.
But first, there are more local tournaments to play, and more people to tell about the state title win he just won.
“It was great to win but I’m never going to be satisfied,” Dolezal said. “I just want to keep pushing forward and keep getting better.”

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