With limited experience playing at Kernwood Country Club in Salem, Athan Goulos took one mindset into yesterday’s Northeastern Conference Open.
”If you can’t figure out how to putt on those greens,” he said, “you’re done.”
Once he calmly hit his first putt of the day, however, the 18-year-old Peabody High senior knew he’d be OK.
Goulos was more than OK. His nine-over par 79 won the NEC Open, one shot ahead of Danvers’ Dan McKenna and two better than Marblehead’s Pitch Riley.
”I felt good coming out of the gates,” said Goulos, a captain for the Tanners. “I made a good percentage of my putts outside of three feet, and the ball was rolling well for me and staying on line.
”Once I hit that first putt, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, it’s going to be a good day.’”
In addition to his putting, Goulos struck the ball cleanly and played his irons very well. “It was a good round, much better than I expected at that course,” he said.
Starting his day on Kernwood’s par-4, 389-yard third hole, Goulos hit a 3-iron into the woods, had to chip out onto the other side of the fairway and settled for bogey. But he rebounded nicely on the par-3 147-yard fourth hole, dropping his tee shot to within 10-15 feet and making the uphill birdie putt.
”That birdie right there gave me the leeway that if I made an error, I wouldn’t put any extra pressure on myself,” said Goulos.
He finished the day with three birdies on the first, fourth and ninth holes.
A 4-handicap who calls Ferncroft Country Club home, Goulos kept an eye on Salem’s Tim Richmond — who had beaten him twice in match play this season — but otherwise didn’t know where he stood on the leaderboard. When all the shots were counted up at the end of the day, he was pleasantly surprised to see his name on top.