30 years later, Paul Goydos reflects on his life-changing Long Beach Open win
Looking back, it’s impossible to know whether his victory 30 years ago at the 1990 Long Beach Open was the springboard that led to a successful career on the PGA Tour for Paul Goydos.
But it sure didn’t hurt.
The Long Beach native who attended Long Beach State University was 26 years old at the time and in the middle of his second year as a professional golfer. As he tells it now, the win would ultimately change the course of his career.
“Winning the tournament was a vault in finances, but also a tremendous vault in confidence,” Goydos said of the Long Beach Open, which had been scheduled for the week of August 6-9 but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Had I not won the tournament and missed the cut or finished 50th, there could have been a pretty hard discussion about what the future was going to hold.”
We recently caught up with the two-time PGA Tour winner (1996 Bay Hill Invitational and the 2007 Sony Open) and five-time PGA Tour Champions winner to look back on a career that got its jump-start three decades ago in his hometown.
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What is your fondest memory from winning the Long Beach Open in 1990? My wife, Wendy, was eight months pregnant at the time and she actually caddied for me the first three days of the tournament driving the cart. The Sunday of the event was the same day as her baby shower, which she postponed to come out and watch the last few holes. To win with her there in that situation is what I remember most. At that time as we were starting our family we didn’t have any money and we were like, “This will sure help.”
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What was it like winning in your hometown? The Long Beach Open is one of the more prestigious events for mini-tour players. To be able to win in my hometown was a big deal. I had a lot of friends out there and that made it extra special.
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Was the win your biggest victory to date? By a long shot. I hadn’t really been that competitive up to that point. I had played the Long Beach Open the year before, and I think I missed the cut. It was the first big step that I took in my professional career and gave me no financial concerns about going to Q-School. And I ended up making it to the finals after having missed in 1989, which gave me status on the Hogan Tour in 1991 and 1992. If I would have had a bad week or even a marginal week and we had continued to struggle financially, I think we would have had that discussion about my career.
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What's the best advice you've ever received as it relates to your professional career? It was my rookie year. I lost my card in 1993, and at the last event of the season in Las Vegas that year I remember sitting in the locker room talking to Hal Sutton. He already had a major and was a very respected player. Hal Sutton is a very smart guy and a guy you listen to. He gave me some great advice about self-evaluation. Each day you evaluate. Each tournament you evaluate. Each month you evaluate. You need to continue to self-evaluate and the most important thing you need to do is to be honest with yourself.
One of the things golf does to you is that it beats you up a little bit. I’ve played somewhere around 700 tournaments in my professional career and I’ve won 10. An important part of self-evaluation isn’t necessarily beating yourself up saying I need to get better. Some part of that is saying that you are doing the right things and keep going in that direction. The best piece of advice I ever got was to do honest self-evaluation, not just self-evaluation. Sometimes you need to pat yourself on the back and say good job.
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You played a lot of golf at Rec Park in Long Beach growing up and still get out there from time to time. What do you remember most from those days? When I was a kid they had a locker room where you could rent a locker for a couple bucks a month. I used to keep my clubs in a locker up at the golf course so I didn’t have to worry about getting a ride. I could ride my bike there or take the bus. It was only about a 20-minute walk to the course for me. When I was a kid I would hang out at that golf course five or six days a week. I have a group of guys that I still play with out there sometimes, probably five or six times a year.
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What would you consider your greatest achievement? Obviously, being a parent is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Watching my kids grow up and seeing their success is the best thing that’s ever happened in my life. There's no real comparison.
In golf, each win is big. I had a win at the Long Beach Open. You look back and say it was just a mini-tour win. But at the time it was a massively big deal both financially and from a confidence standpoint. I had a win on the Hogan Tour when I didn’t have any status. I was in a similarly difficult spot asking myself what I’m going to do and I won the first tournament of the season, which gave me status on the Hogan Tour for the rest of the year.
Winning Arnold Palmer’s event back in 1996 was a big deal. That was when that event was one of the five or six best events in the world. And then to win 2007 at Sony. I barely held onto my card and then to go out and win the first tournament of the year started me on pretty good run. And then to have some success on the Champions Tour and win some tournaments out here. I look back at all my wins and they are all massively important.
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What’s one thing that someone would be surprised to know about you? I think I’m a lot more positive than people think. I have a nickname of Sunshine and there’s kind of a negative connotation to that. And I would argue that it’s a false narrative. I would argue that I am a pretty positive person. I think that’s an undeserved nickname.
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What is your motto on the golf course? Know thyself. You need to play your game. Knowing who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are is more important than anything else.
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One word if you had to describe yourself? Fortunate. I’ve been very lucky and blessed with two wonderful children, a wonderful grandson, and got a chance to play golf my whole life for a living. I would say that is a pretty fortunate life.
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