DRACUT — In just three years, Anthony Georgopoulos, 17, mastered the game of golf and took over the number-one spot on Dracut High School’s golf team, leading his 22 teammates to the Merrimack Valley Conference and a chance to compete in the MIAA Division 2 North sectional championships this season.
Working as a caddy at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsboro since his freshman year, Georgopoulos learned the fundamentals of golf by watching others play and developed a passionate love for the game.
“He got a late start, but he worked really hard and had a lot of determination to succeed,” said Dracut High School golf coach Ken Hughes.
Hughes spotted Georgopoulos while he was practicing at Vesper during his freshman year, and asked him to join the school team the next season.
“My goal from the start was to play the number-one spot for the team and to be captain by my senior year,” said Georgopoulos. “I did that, and it feels pretty good.”
Although his parents do not share his infatuation for the sport, Georgopoulos credits them for giving him confidence and the ability to succeed, two characteristics that he says are key to success in both life and golf.
“My parents taught me to never give up or get down on myself,” he said. “If I have a bad day, I remind myself of what type of player I am and that helps me.”
Georgopoulos said most of his inspiration comes from his best friend, Eric Karpinski, a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the preceding number-one player for the Dracut High School golf team. Karpinski won the MVC individual championship for Dracut last year and now plays on the UMass golf team.
It wasn’t an easy rise to the top for Georgopoulos, who said he struggled with his swing toward the end of his junior season.
“Up until that point, I was teaching myself and there is only so far you can go before you have to seek out other resources to step yourself up to the next level,” he said.
Over the following winter, he took private lessons with Seth Dichard from World Cup in Hudson, N.H. “Seth is the reason I had such a great year this year,” said Georgopoulos. “We worked on the fundamentals of the golf swing every other week for an hour.”
He began his lessons with Dichard in February and said he will continue to take them indefinitely.
Each day he spends an hour on his own practicing his swing and an hour working on his short game, chipping and putting.
A natural competitor, Georgopoulos said it is difficult at times to rein in his aggression while playing. As part of his winning strategy, he said it is important to know when to play conservatively to make par and when to play in attack mode.
“Coach always says, don’t fear who you play, even if you know they have an advantage over you,” he said.
Some of the competitors Georgopoulos goes head to head with have been playing in the country-club circuit since they were old enough to walk, but that doesn’t matter to Georgopoulos. He earned his spot on the team with determination and says he is not about to be intimidated by someone with more experience on the green.
“Even if I know who they are and how good they are, I think to myself, Yea, I can beat them,” said Georgopoulos.
The seniors on Dracut’s team ended their freshman year with only two wins, but have steadily climbed their way to two state championship competitions during their junior and senior years.
To qualify for the state championship, a team must have more wins then losses. This year Dracut had a record of 9-7-2 ties, and placed ninth out of 19 teams in the MIAA Division 2 North sectional championships that took place on Oct. 23.
“The seniors this year set a good example for the younger players on what it takes to compete in the difficult MVC and state tournaments,” said Hughes. “They are very hard workers and they all have a true love for golf.”
Georgopoulos scored an 85 in the sectionals, ranking in the top 25th percentile of 115 players and earning him the prestigious title of All- Conference Player. He was chosen as one of 12 athletes to receive recognition for overall season performance. His personal record for the year is 8-5-4.
“I couldn’t have done as well as I did this year if it weren’t for my partner John Duarte and the rest of my teammates,” said Georgopoulos.
The only thing running through Georgopoulos’ head when he’s facing acres of green is “what’s the next shot going to be.”
Working now as a caddymaster at Vesper, he plans on heading off to UMass Lowell next year.
“I’ll definitely play golf the rest of my life, whether professionally or just for fun,” he said.
Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at 978-970-4653 or e-mail at email@example.com.