The Long Beach Open is a summer classic in our city. The four-day professional tournament is held at three of our public courses: Recreation 18, El Dorado, and Skylinks. With a current purse at 170,000, it is one of the biggest tournaments in the western United States. Only two Long Beach residents have ever won their hometown tournament. Paul Goydos in 1990 and Peter Tomasulo in 2005. Paul Goydos is a two-time PGA tour champion and 20-year card holder on the PGA tour. The year Goydos won the Long Beach Open was certainly a memorable one, and jumpstarted his professional playing career. 908 Magazine publisher John Grossi interviewed Goydos over the phone this April to talk about the Long Beach Open, growing up in Long Beach, and the incredible journey of his dream-career in golf!
908: Let’s talk about the Long Beach Open the summer you won in 1990. Walk us through the highlights you remember, and what courses were involved.
Paul: I played the first round at Rec Park and shot a 7 under par, which was probably the lowest competitive round I had shot at that point…lower than I had ever planned to. I did ok at El Dorado. I made the playoff along with Mike Miles who also played at Long Beach State, but I was the one who sunk the winning putt.
908: Where did you go after to celebrate?
Paul: My wife was 8 months pregnant at the time. She had her baby shower that Sunday, during the final round. We stayed home and were just deliriously happy.
Winning the Long Beach Open was the first really, really giant step. I didn’t really have any money at the time and it helped pay for tour school and got me moving in the right direction.
At tour school I got to the final and that got me to the Web.com Tour. Soon we were spending a year in the car with our six-month-old, seeing the country.
908: Can you walk us through your two Tour wins and what it felt like to realize your dream?
Paul: In ‘96 my best finish ever was 7th, and then I won Bay Hill, which was Arnold Palmer’s tournament. It was a pretty unbelievable experience. After winning, you get to play in the tournament every year, including having dinner with Arnold Palmer. It was a great experience.
Winning Bay Hill, which was one of the top tournaments at the time, you get the sense that not only should you be out here but you belong out here.
Eleven years later, after injuries and almost losing my PGA card in 2006, I ended up winning the first tournament of the season in 2007, the Sony. It really propelled me to having a very good stretch of golf for a few years.
Before turning 50 I had some surgeries to be ready for the Champions Tour. Since then, I have had some pretty good success out there with 4 wins in 2½ years.
908: When I think of Paul Goydos, after I think of golf I immediately get the image of you at a Long Beach State basketball game, which I’m pretty sure you go to every single one.
Paul: Yeah I grew up right across the street from LB State where my father worked in the late 50s- to mid 80’s. I started going to basketball games in the mid 70’s with my dad; ended up going to Long Beach state. It’s fun to be involved in college athletics. First we attended games at the Long Beach Arena, then in the Goldmine gym. Students would come for free, sit right beneath the basket. I still try to go to as many as I can, I’m not sure if it’s every single one.
908: Another classic image I have is seeing you play locally, at El Dorado Park. I saw you there once when I was playing with my dad. Knowing who you were and the golf courses you could play at I thought it was so awesome to see you at ElDo.
Paul: I have a group of friends, four or five guys who play every Friday. They generally play Rec Park but sometimes at El Dorado. Whenever I can, maybe 6 times a year, I try to join them. My roots are at Recreation Park. 40 years. I remember playing the 9-hole until essentially I graduated to the big course. It’s where golf starts for a lot of kids. And it’s fun to go back there and play.
908: What schools in Long Beach did you attend?
Paul: Bixby Elementary, Stanford Junior High and Wilson High School.
908: What coach or teacher at Wilson particularly shaped your life in a positive way?
Paul: A couple of teachers. Mr. Mertz, who taught biology and marine biology. He was a great teacher, and also the football coach. Mertz wasn’t so much just teaching you biology as how to survive at the next level of classes. Rich DeCoudres taught English and helped you kind of find yourself as a person.
908: What were the highlights of your golf career at Wilson?
Paul: I played well… You don’t really know how good you are until you start competing. I won the Moore League all three years at the individual level. Had a terrific golf coach in high school, Marty Walker. Her husband was the golf coach at LB State. She was coach and she taught the blind kids. The Walkers had a massive influence on me. Del was a golf icon… they both were. It was one of those things wasted on me as a 15-year-old kid… realizing now what I had access to in terms of golf knowledge is spectacular.
908: And golf at Long Beach State?
Paul: I wasn’t a great college player frankly. I maybe won one tournament. I graduated with a degree in Finance. My college years were more about experience and learning.
I had great coaching and mentoring from Del. He taught me to understand what I was capable of doing and what I was not capable of doing. I learned decision-making; how to get lowest score by making the right decisions even if it wouldn’t look pretty. Don’t get caught up in how you look.
908: What was it like trying to go professional right out of college?
Paul: I finished my college eligibility in ’86, but still had some units left to take. I actually didn’t play golf because of an injury for 18 months. After I got my degree in the spring of ’88, I was living at home and didn’t have too many expenses. So I decided, hey, I’ve got this opportunity so why not give it a shot?
908: What’s your favorite course you’ve ever played on?
Paul: Pebble Beach is spectacular and Cypress Point stands out.
908: What’s your favorite Long Beach course?
Paul: I gotta go with Virginia Country Club. But looking back at Recreation Park, I’ve been playing there for 40 years. It’s a very special place.
908: What’s your favorite course in SoCal?
Paul: Golf to me is not about the course you play, it’s who you play with. I’d much rather play the worst course in the world with four guys I like than the best course with 4 guys I don’t.
908: Who’s the coolest person you’ve ever played with?
Paul: Well, I played with Donald Trump back in 1993; he was my pro-am partner. Played once with Glenn Fry of the Eagles. On the tour - Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth. Met Sam Snead, played with Arnold Palmer at Augusta. Fred Couples is among the coolest of cool.
908: Who are your favorite people to play with?
Paul: Great group of people at Rec Park on Wednesdays and Fridays….5-15 guys depending on who shows up.
908: We have to talk about your runner up finish at the Players… I’ve watched the footage and highlights from the entire weekend, and I know there’s a lot of emotion probably for you wrapped up in that tournament. I’ve got to tell you that for me, I will never forget the first time I was watching the Players and they flashbacked to your clip at the 17th hole. All I could think about was how cool it was that you were wearing the LB hat.
I know there is even footage of you making a birdie and the announcer says “And a birdie for the Dirtbag.”
Paul: Yeah it’s funny, I didn’t have a hat sponsor at the time and I just saw that hat in the airport on the way to the tournament and decided to wear it. I had no idea it would become such a theme for the announcers that weekend.
908: It meant a lot to Long Beach fans...
Paul: Long Beach is a pretty cool town. It’s like a small town, everybody kind of sticks together, we know each other. Even though it’s 500,000 people, it’s like a small town inside of a giant metropolitan area. It’s a great city to be from. I always look at myself as a Long Beach guy.
908: What is your favorite bar/restaurant in Long Beach?
Paul: As a kid, it was going to Joe Josts once you turned 21, to drink a schooner and eat a special. I like Super Mex, and still go to the one on 2nd St. And Pancho’s on PCH.
908: What’s one piece of advice you would give to Long Beach high schoolers interested in golf?
Paul: Evaluate yourself. Be open and honest about who you are and what you are capable of doing. That’s how you learn and that’s how you get better.
908: Thanks Paul!