Parajeckas, Woburn Golf & Ski will be going their seperate ways

WOBURN - After more than 20 years, the Woburn Golf & Ski Authority and its Director of Golf Operations/Head Professional Paul Parajeckas will be going their separate ways.

"They are going on a new journey and I am going on a new journey," Parajeckas said recently on the news of split, which according to both Parajeckas and WGSA Chair John O'Reilly is an amicable one.

Parajeckas' new journey will offer him a full-fledged shot at the Senior PGA Tour, something he couldn't fully commit to over the past two seasons while holding down the job at Woburn Country Club.

The Woburn Golf & Ski Authority's journey will put it back in charge of the pro shop and concessions at Woburn Country Club, while beginning a search for a new head professional.

With Parajeckas' contract up at the end of this year, the decision was made by the Woburn Golf & Ski Authority (WGSA) to restructure the contract and take the pro shop back under its control.

Said O'Reilly, "We decided to separate the contracts," making the director of golf operations and running the concession/pro shop two distinct titles.

"Although we made that decision, we had no problems with Paul," O'Reilly said, crediting Parajeckas with improving the condition of the course over his tenure.

"He did just a great job and I don't think there is anybody that would say anything different," O'Reilly said.

Parajeckas departs with the longest tenure (having started in 1979) of any of the golf professionals overseeing Woburn Country County, a list which includes such names as Phil Friel, Ernie Doherty, and John McLaughlin.

Parajeckas credits many individuals with helping when things got a little difficult, especially during the lean, earlier years, naming such people as Bob Connolly, who helped with many different projects including the installation of the irrigation system a decade ago.

Of his accomplishments, Parajeckas said he was proud of the fact that "over the past 20 years, every year the golf course got better and better."

"The thing I get a kick out of is when people say what a nice golf course and those are the things that make you work a little harder ... although I have always worked hard," he said.

Parajeckas recalled the early days, noting shortly after arriving as the Director of Golf Operations, the superintendent left and he ended up assuming both positions, having had some previous experience in the area of golf course maintenance at courses in the Worcester area.

In the early days, when the course didn't have a lot of funds, there was much reliance on people like Connolly, local landscapers and sometimes the city's DPW for specialized equipment, to meet the day-to-day challenges of the job, he said.

For the first 10 years there was no automatic watering system, meaning someone, and most often it was him, had to get up early to water the course before golfers took to the fairways and someone had to water it again after dark, something which took about four hours each day, especially the greens and tees.

"We couldn't pay anybody, so I took responsibility," he says. "I took care of the golf course as if it was my own. This is the way I would have done it if it were my own."

Over the course of the years, as the conditions improved and golf in general became more popular, the number of rounds grew steadily at Woburn Country Club, but those numbers have leveled off in the past few years and have actually declined a bit with the slowing economy.

As more golfers took to the fairways, Parajeckas said he tried to continually improve the course and its general appearance through adding trees, decorative flowers and general landscaping with beautification the key.

Parajeckas is quick to point out that the job is not nearly as glamorous as many would think, especially when wearing two hats as the head groundskeeper and the director of the pro shop.

Many days is it is sun up to sun down, Parajeckas said, seven days a week from the early spring into late fall, with only one summer vacation of note during that 20-year period.

The hard part, he said, is constantly worrying about the golf course and the many things which can go wrong and literally ruin it in a day. "Over the last 20 years, I have found out about every one."

"There are so many memories I will have at this place especially with the people that have helped me rebuild this golf course over the years," he said. Parajeckas, with wife Lorrie sitting at this side in his office inside the Pro Shop, talking of names like Frank Olivadotie of Winchester and Bob LaClaire, with helping around the grounds.

Family and giving back

Parajeckas said he has tried to stress two particular areas over the past 20 years, that being a sense of family among the staff and teaching a commitment to community to those youngsters growing up at the course.

With the current staff both inside the pro shop and in the maintenance crew, Parajeckas said he has had more time to spend out on the golf course, doing what he really loves, digging trenches, planting trees, and mowing the lawn. Parajeckas said he is known on the local New England PGA Pro-Am circuit as the guy always running up to the first tee, having worked most of the morning at the county club.

Parajeckas referred to Paul Barkhouse, a member of the New England PGA Golf Hall of Fame and now back as a member of the staff at Woburn Country Club, as a true influence.

"Paul is one of my best friends. When I was getting into the business he was my idol," said Parajeckas. "He was the Arnold Palmer of New England golf. He played hard and he was very successful at it."

He also gives extensive credit to Nancy Barkhouse for helping run the pro shop.

Lorrie Parajeckas said she is continually amazed at her husband's ability to do several tasks at the same time and do them well. He is a high-energy, determined person who gives everything 100 percent, she said.

"To do what I have done as Superintendent and Golf Professional is beyond what people think," he says. "You could lose (the course) in one day. I am very proud of what I have accomplished ... I wish the best to the Woburn Golf & Ski Authority."

Some of the others he named as good friends he has made over the years include assistant Peter Polli, staff member Mike Gaffney, Woburn High School Golf Coach Bob Doran, Recreation Director Thomas Jones, and many more.

As to giving back to the community, Parajeckas said he is proud of his accomplishments in giving back to the junior golf program at Woburn Country Club as well as helping out other local groups like the Woburn D.A.R.E. program.

An estimated $5,000 a year has been donated to charities like the Junior Golf Program, Parajeckas said, which totals about $100,000 over the 20 years. He said he has also sponsored the Woburn Recreation tournaments many of the years as well as the Special Olympics. This money came from areas like business donations for advertising on the carts, the soda machines outside the pro shop to a portion of his winnings on the New England PGA tour. If the fund came up short, he said the rest came out of his own pocket. "I didn't want to see it go backwards," he said.

He also takes pride in the two-time defending state champion Woburn High golf team and the many young players who have grown up at the course and how many of the players have gone on to very successful careers, working off virtues learned at the country club, like the lesson of giving back.

"Those are the things that really have touched my heart," he said. "I have always looked up to these kids because someday down the road I say boy I can't wait to see what they will accomplish and who they will be."

He also tells the story of catching youngsters sneaking on the course because they didn't have money to play and giving them a chance to work around the shop to earn credit to play a legitimate round and even in a few cases putting together an old set of clubs so they could play with decent equipment. In those cases, the youngsters often gave back the clubs when they could afford their own so they could be passed on to some other needy youngsters.

"I could go on and on but there are so many memories," he says. "You never forget the people who supported you and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank these people."

Lorrie Parajeckas called this a new beginning or a type of passage from one aspect of his career to another.

"We have a lot of warm memories of people and members who have become wonderful friends over the years," Lorrie said. "And we look forward to the future. We are excited and have a lot expectations ... Paul and I have always looked at the glass as half-filled."

Eyeing the senior tour

As to his "new journey," Parajeckas said he is now going to give the Senior PGA Tour "110 percent" starting with a qualifier for the Senior PGA "Q School" later this month.

"The hardest thing is to get out there," he said, admitting its a long shot when literally hundreds of players are going for eight fully-exempt spots.

Parajeckas has been taking shots at the Senior PGA Tour off-and-on since turning 50 in April of 2000, getting into nine tournaments to date out of 13 tries, often through the Monday qualifier route, where, for example, if the tournament is in Kansas City, anyone not invited to the tournament can battle it out on Monday for whatever few spots are left.

Parajeckas has had some success in those Monday qualifiers and feels he can do better if following the circuit full-time. Over the past two seasons, Parajeckas said this has always been difficult as his main concern was always with his day-job at Woburn Country Club.

With more frequent appearances, Parajeckas would hope to move up on the money list and perhaps earn more spots without having to qualify on Monday. "I am a fighter," he says.

"I don't feel 51, I feel very fit and have been working out for five years," he says. "What I need to do is give it 110 percent as I did here. It could lead to something I always wanted ... to play on a regular tour."

And at least, Parajeckas says, he can break out his father's old fishing rod and do something he hasn't done in about 20 years, go back to another love, fishing.

"Thanks for all the memories. The memories will never leave my heart. Always remember if you can give something back," Parajeckas.

Parajeckas also spoke warmly of his father, who helped start him in the business; his brother, Al, who owns several car dealerships in California but finds time to talk daily with Paul as his "coach."

Parajeckas also said he has no plans to pick and move to a more weather-friendly environment for golf, as Woburn is now home for him and his family including Lorri and his son, Jason, who is now in high school and is also very interested in golf.

A brief profile

Even before giving the senior tour a try, Parajeckas compiled a player profile, rivaling any other professionals in the area.

Some of the accomplishments include:

- 2000 New England PGA Professional of the Year;

- 2000 New England Senior Player of the Year;

- 2000 New England Senior Open Champion;

- 1999, 1997, 1996, 1994 NEPGA Leading Money Winner;

- 1997, 1989 NEPGA Wogan Player of the Year;

- He has competed in 14 PGA National Club Pro Championships.

- From 1986 to 1991, he was an executive member of the NEPGA Executive Committee.

© 2000 Woburn Daily Times Inc.