By Jean DePlacido
The Salem News, Sat Aug 06, 2011
Since he turned pro, golfer George Zolotas of Peabody had been looking for his first "big" win.
Now he's got two of them.
The 25-year-old Zolotas is on a roll with a pair of major victories in the past two weeks. It began when he won the New Hampshire Open Championship at Atkinson Resort & Country Club by a single stroke, finishing with a three-day score of 209.
The former St. John's Prep and St. John's (N.Y.) University star didn't have much time to celebrate that victory before entering the Manchester (Conn.) Open earlier this week and pulling out another thrilling win.
"New Hampshire was my first pro win — and also the first time I had won a tournament in a few years," said Zolotas, who now makes his home near Tampa, Fla., but has been spending a lot of time with his family in Middleton and playing at Ferncroft Country Club, where he is a member.
The New Hampshire Open, open to both pro golfers and amateurs, is a two-day tournament with 18 holes played on the first day and a grueling 36 on Day 2. Zolotas shot 66 and was leading by two strokes after the opening day, but his 77 on the first 18 of the second day put him two shots off the pace.
But Zolotas roared back with another strong 66 in the afternoon, giving him the crown thanks to his one-shot advantage over Nick MacDonald's 210.
"I had been seeing slow results here and there, playing well the last 2-3 months, but had not been able to put together consistent rounds," said Zolotas, who grew up in Peabody and had a fine showing in the Massachusetts Open in June.
"I've been seeing a sports psychologist that one of my buddies I travel with recommended, and that's helped me to focus more on each shot and not be thinking so much about the results. I'm better executing now and not being so impatient. I think it has definitely helped my game."
Zolotas wasn't planning on playing in Connecticut this past week, but wound up on the tournament's waiting list and was entered as the last player in the field. He found out late last Sunday he'd be teeing off in Manchester, Conn., the following day on a course he had never seen.
After a 2 1/2 hour rain delay, Zolotas finally teed off at 7 p.m. He shot three under on the back nine and five under overall. The Manchester Open is a one-day, 18-hole event that attracts a lot of top notch golfers every year.
Zolotas actually won it in a playoff early the following morning.
"We had two playoff holes in the dark and went until after 8:30 that night," he said. "It was so dark after that second one you couldn't see the flag on the green, so they finally halted play and pushed it to one hole the next morning."
Play resumed at 7:30 a.m. the next day, and Kyle Bilodeau's par putt hit the edge of the cup and spun away. The 2007 champion, Bilodeau had led most of the way, but was bested by Zolotas after the latter made his putt for par and collected the $4,000 first prize check.
"After finally winning one in New Hampshire, I was more relaxed," said Zolotas, who is playing in the Rhode Island Open next week. "I figure I'm on a good run now, and it helps that I'm not pushing so much. The money helps pay for other tournaments, and my goal is to do the NGA Hooters Tour tournaments at the end of October. That's a good test because there is a very strong field of guys.
"To get onto the national scene there are three stages: the first is in October and the next in November. I figure I have a couple more years to try it; I've done the mini-tours a few years. Now I'm ready to make a decent run at it."