Athan Goulos is chasing a dream; a dream owned as well by thousands of other young men and women golfers with plus handicaps.
His is a dream of playing golf professionally for a living, ideally on the PGA Tour. It is a dream that has been enhanced in recent weeks with unexpected victories on the PGA Tour by unknown Nick Lashey and long-time Tour struggler Chaz Reavie.
“I feel I’m blooming now as a tournament player,” said the lifelong Peabody resident. “I have a long way to go, but I have belief, hope, optimism. You just never know.”
Don’t draw any conclusions from the PGA Tour win last weekend by Matthew Wolff; the Californian just pulled off the rarest of feats by winning the NCAA individual championship and, a few weeks later, turning pro and winning on the ‘Big’ tour on a sponsor’s exemption.
Goulos, 25, is working the summer season on the outside operations staff for Bob Green at Tedesco, the man who gave him his first lesson at the age of 10. That job gives him opportunity to practice and play at a first-rate facility.
He understands, at the same time, that his window of opportunity of attaining that lofty goal and playing golf for a living is narrowing by the day. It remains open enough that Goulos, a former standout player at Peabody High and Endicott College, continues to plow forward.
He works to support himself while living at home during the summer season, then heads to Florida for the fall/winter season and lives extremely frugally while working a similar job at a club in the Sunshine State.
Goulos is playing a limited schedule hereabouts this summer to save money for the upcoming winter campaign. But he was most encouraged a few weeks ago when he played the Massachusetts Open at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough. He easily qualified for the event after scoring a two-over 74 at his hometown Salem Country Club, then proceeded to open the 54-hole main event with a nifty two-under 70 at Vesper.
Goulos was only three shots off the lead at that point, and shot a 71 the second day to remain among the leaders. He slipped a tad on Day 3, shooting 76 for a 217 total and a T-35 final placement.
“That first round 70 was a big boost to me,” Goulos admitted, “and the 71 the next day felt good, too. Maybe I didn’t shoot in the 60s but I was in the mix. I reminded myself I have some game. How much game has yet to be determined, but I’m looking forward, believe me.”
And well he should. Observers have noted that Goulos has the distance game off the tee – long and accurate. After that the jury is still out, but positive.
He was disappointed that he failed to qualify for next week’s Massachusetts Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, site of the 2022 U.S. Open. It would have been his fifth appearance in the championship. But he’s more concerned with his game in stroke play anyway.
“I know I need to play a lot more consistently in competition,” Goulos conceded. “I need to raise my game to a level where I’m shooting in the low 70s and high 60s on a regular basis. We’ll see if I can get there the next couple years.”
Goulos just shot a two-over 72 at Larry Gannon in Lynn to easily qualify for the Massachusetts Public Links coming up August 6-7 at Bayberry Hills in West Yarmouth.
But a freak home accident earlier this week may ruin his season from this point going forward. He fell in his garage and suffered a tier 3 right ankle sprain that will keep him out of competition for 3-4 weeks.
“I know I need to keep showing myself progress,” says Goulos. “More than I’ve shown so far in 2019.”
He realizes he is a longshot to succeed as a playing professional, but other longshots have succeeded. Why not him?
Goulos, who played out of Ferncroft for eight years until moving over to The Meadow at Peabody this year, is impressive in more than his golf game. His physical stature, at 6-foot-1 and 275 pounds, is as well. It is an eye-opener to first time acquaintances, but just a natural look to him.
“I’ve always been a big kid and I’ve always liked to eat, like most of us,” he noted. “I was probably 5-9, 190 pounds when I was nine and finished 12th in my age group at the ReMax National Long Drive championship. I hit it 280 then. Two years later I placed second in my age group in Fort Worth hitting it 294. Today I hit it 300, like a lot of the amateurs and pros.
“I’ve grown up and grown my golf game being large. I’m not changing now.”
He’d like to be the next John Daly. He feels the strongest part of his game after the tee ball is his short game inside 100 yards.
“I’ve never been bothered by my size,” he added. “I have no problem carrying my own bag 54 holes like I did at the Mass Open. I do fine on hilly courses and when it’s hot. I have no health issues. And I can bring my swing back to parallel, so I’m OK.”
He points out he has had a lot of help along the way to where he sports a +1.8 GHIN currently. He names among them Peabody High’s Peter Cronin, head pro at The Meadow in Peabody; Endicott’s Tom Smith, PGA; Tedesco’s Green; Ferncroft’s Phil Leiss, PGA; the Ferncroft membership; current coach Nick Arthur of the Ritz Carlton golf complex in Sarasota; and his parents, John and Valerie.
Nicknamed “Big Feta” by his buddies, Goulos has a mighty challenge facing him. Let’s hope he can reach that dream.
Kernwood’s Frank Dully was the best local scorer (an even 71) at the NEPGA Stroke Play Series event No. 3 at Manchester CC. Salem’s Kirk Hanefeld posted 72, while Gloucester native Dan Gillis of Nabnasset Lake was 74 with Ipswich’s Aaron Harper and Portland’s Dan Venezio, the former Myopia assistant. Vesper’s Rich Berberian was medalist with 67. ..Get well, sports radio marketer extraordinaire Paul Kelly Jr. ... Happy 60th wedding anniversary to long time former Salem CC club secretary Tom Standring and his wife Sheila ... We mourn the passing of Florence “Flo” Hannaway.
Tee times are out for next week’s two rounds of on-site qualifying kicking off the 111th Massachusetts Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline. The North Shore’s representatives are Ipswich’s Kyle Vincze, Salem’s Jim Staffieri, Steven Dilisio and Michael McLaughlin, Far Corner’s Nick McLaughlin (a former champion and not related to Michael), Joe Cunningham of Essex, Bass Rocks’s Mark Turner, Amesbury’s Chris Francoeur, Ferncroft’s Frank Vana, Jr., Kernwood’s Christian Emmerich and Beverly’s Ryan Anderson.. It’s the strongest local contingent in years.
Belated congrats to legendary Peabody High basketball and golf immortal Jennifer Webster O’Connor on her placement on the cover of the Spring 2019 issue of MassGolfer magazine with hubby Joe, a fellow PGA member. The cover story focused on ‘Living the Dream,’ of owning their own golf course — in this case, Holly Ridge in Sandwich.
Reading the Greens is a weekly column on North Shore golf by Gary Larrabee, a former Salem News sports reporter from 1971-95. He has covered golf locally and beyond for the last 50 years.