As the golf season comes to a close, senior captain Matthew Gjonaj has a lot of memories at NYU to look back on. But the time he has spent with his teammates has been the best aspect of his Violet golf career.
“They make every practice enjoyable,” Gjonaj said. “This is the most solid team we have had from 1-9 so the competitive nature really comes out at practice making it even that more enjoyable. They are all great guys, and when I look back it will be the memories I’ve shared with them that I’ll remember, even more so than any individual tournament.”
Gjonaj was born and raised in Lagrangeville, New York, and went to Arlington High School where he juggled golf, school and volunteer work. One of the most satisfying experiences he had before coming to NYU was volunteering. As a member of his school’s Amnesty InternationalClub, he found opportunities to give back through charities like Operation Donation. However, his most rewarding volunteer work, came with the Special Olympics and the GO Project.
“Both were such great experiences,” Gjonaj said. “The feeling you get after is indescribable. There’s really nothing like seeing the happy smiling faces of all those participating.”
During high school, Gjonaj led the golf team to three straight sectional championships, all while maintaining an honor roll GPA. Gjonaj came to NYU to study economics in the College of Arts and Science.
Though he competed in only three events in his first year at NYU, he managed a 27th place finish at the UAA Championship after shooting a 173 and followed up his performance with his then-season low of 171 at the NYU Manhattan Spring Invitational. Unsurprisingly, he was was on the Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Committee Spring Honor Roll.
Gjonaj really began to excel during his sophomore year, competing in seven out of 10 events. He was able to improve his best by almost 20 strokes, completing the Farmingdale State Invitational with an impressive 154 score. Gjonaj’s follow-up junior year was even more impressive, as he scored a career best 150 and 151 while competing in all 10 events.
Golf will always be an interest of Gjonaj’s, but with such a busy future ahead he will have to carve out time for it.
“I’ll be working in a multi-property management company,” Gjonaj said. “I will try to play local club tournaments along with New York State Amateur and try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur if I have time.”
When he puts his clubs down, Gjonaj enjoys playing baseball, soccer and basketball. He also enjoys spending time at the beach — the only place where he likes to be in the sand.
Although his performance this year hasn’t been what he hoped it would be, Gjonaj is still determined to keep improving his game for the foreseeable future.
“I played better last year, but my swing has been improving,” Gjonaj said. “I have still been able to put up some mediocre scores, but golf is a frustrating game. I feel like if I can continue to practice after I graduate, then the best golf is yet to come.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 14 print edition. Email Kyle Luther at [email protected]