Gorman: Goodes living every amateur's dream
Mike Goodes had his first pinch-me moment on the Champions Tour at the 2008 Regions Charity Classic in Birmingham, Ala.
Goodes shot a 65 for the first-round lead, putting him in the leader group the next day. On the third hole, he realized he was keeping the scorecard for Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion.
The next moment came at the 2008 Tradition, when Goodes played in a threesome with PGA Tour icon Tom Watson and Fred Funk, who would beat Goodes by three strokes for his first senior major.
Five years later, Goodes (pronounced GOOD-ees) can't believe he's a professional golfer. And he's still scared to place an inch of skin between his finger and thumb.
“I don't want to pinch myself,” Goodes, 56, said, “because I'm afraid I'll wake up.”
Goodes is living the life most golfers only dream about. After an amateur career that included two North Carolina titles, he turned pro at 50 and took a shot at the senior circuit.
“He's a great story and a great guy,” said Funk, his best friend on the tour. “He's such a genuine guy. That alone makes him so likable. Then the fact with his story, it's really unique. Not many can compete against guys that played PGA Tour golf for their whole career. A lot of guys think they can do it, and they just don't do it.”
Not only is Goodes competing, but he's also in contention after almost two rounds at the Constellation Senior Players Championship.
Goodes was at 6-under-par through 32 holes, tied for fifth place with Funk and Michael Allen, when play was suspended because of rain Friday afternoon at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
That was after making five birdies and despite three-putting for bogey on Nos. 1 and 4.
If Goodes has a gripe with his game, it's that his putter isn't on par with many of the guys who spent their career playing golf.
“That's not surprising,” Funk said. “If he just gets his putter going at all. ... He almost always is a great ball-striker. That's the strength of his game. He just needs to get it in the hole, just putt real solid, and he's going to be there.
“It's tough for him. He's made it, but he's got to do it every year. He's got to prove himself. He doesn't have that exempt status like I do, and other guys do who have the career money that they can just stay out here, so he's got to perform. That puts a lot more heat on him.”
Believe it or not, the difficult part for Goodes was abandoning his amateur status. He didn't golf in college, married young and followed his father into the textile packaging business. He also owns a recycling company, so he was taking a major risk.
“I loved amateur golf,” Goodes said. “It was a tough decision to give up my amateur status to come and play qualifiers. Losing my amateur status was big for me because it was a big part of my social life. I'm still in shock that I'm still playing out here, to be honest.”
Now in his seventh season, Goodes has one victory on the Champions Tour (2009 Allianz) and four top-10 finishes. He has almost $3.5 million in career earnings, an unimaginable amount of money to him.
“And I love it,” Goodes said Friday, while running on a treadmill after his round was stopped by the storm. “It's not work. It's what I did when I got off work. People say, ‘Don't you want to take a day off?' This is what I did when I took a day off.
“The great thing is, you get to travel around the country and the world and play golf — and just write it off! Before, everything was after taxes.”
Seriously, go ahead and name another sport where someone can turn pro at a time when his peers are planning retirement.
“I don't think there's any,” Goodes said. “That's one of the great things about golf.”
It's no wonder Goodes hears from aspiring amateurs, often in their late 40s, asking for advice on how to make the transition to the Champions Tour.
It's not as easy as Goodes makes it look. He had to qualify to qualify, so to speak, and earned $52,684 in his first season.
He found a partner to run his business, then went about working on his weaknesses.
“If I had a one-word statement to say how I did it, I'd write the manual,” Goodes said. “It's been incredible. People say, ‘You're living the dream,' but I never dreamt of this. This is way, way, way greater than anything I've ever dreamt.”