The Low Cost of Loving
When Gus Kozina tried to convince best friend Joe Pavoni to spend more of his retirement working on improving his golf game so that he could play top-echelon senior events, Kozina didn’t talk about chasing trophies.
“Senior golf is just like high school” Kozina told Pavoni. “You’ll make new friends and form lifelong relationships.”
That hadn’t occurred to Pavoni, owner of an environmental civil engineering firm, who spent most of his years up until his early 50s creating a successful business. His handicap was in the mid-single digits and he had won a few club championships, but Pavoni wasn’t among the elite amateurs around Louisville, Ky.
Pavoni sought additional guidance from friends Joel Hirsch and Curtis Wagner. In 2011, roughly 10 years after taking his friends’ advice, Pavoni played in 20 events that awarded Golfweek/Wilson Golf Super Senior Ranking points. He didn’t win, but recorded many top 10 finishes to finish second to Gary Shimmin in the yearlong rankings. The race was decided on the last nine of the last tournament. Pavoni dealt with the satisfaction of playing so well and the disappointment of falling short.
Pavoni traveled approximately 20,000 miles by car and plane, spent more than $30,000 for entry fees, travel, lodging, food and incidentals. If he had won all 20 events, the most he could have earned would have been $15,000 in merchandise credit.
Pavoni considers himself one of the luckiest golfers in the world. He’s also one of the happiest. Pavoni, 67 and retired, plays the game he loves. He spends time with his wife of 43 years, Judy, who travels to two or three events per year. There are two daughters and three young grandchildren to be doted upon. He is healthy, aware that he has been blessed. Good scores are a perk. If Pavoni had to give up one thing in order to keep living this life he’s earned, the low scores would be the first to go.
Nine hours is the most time Pavoni will spend driving to an event; more than that, he flies. Pavoni usually avoids hotels, preferring to rent a condo or home in the area. He limits himself to two away tournaments at a time.
“Being with my friends is just about the best thing about playing these senior events,” Pavoni said. “I have made so many. It’s a wonderful atmosphere for competitive golf. Combined with the great courses and different locales, I’m don’t think I could be happier.”
There is a cost to playing a lot of senior amateur golf. However, Pavoni and others say the return far exceeds the investment.