THE REAL ‘DIMI’

Dim­itrios Pa­padatos knows how to find a good party, as thou­sands of his so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers will note. But we dis­cov­ered there is an­other side to ‘Dimi’, who is hard­work­ing and driven to be counted among the game’s elite.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS JIMMY EMANUEL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY GETTY IM­AGES

Jimmy Emanuel dis­cov­ers there’s two sides to Vic­to­rian Open cham­pion Dimi Pa­padatos, whose friendly ex­te­rior hides a hard­work­ing golfer de­ter­mined to be the best he can be.

Dim­itrios Pa­padatos’ win at the 2017 Oates Vic­to­rian Open in Fe­bru­ary was his sec­ond on the PGA Tour of Aus­trala­sia, adding to his un­ex­pected vic­tory at the 2014 New Zealand Open. The man known sim­ply as Dimi is fast be­com­ing one of Aus­tralian golf’s most ex­cit­ing prospects and big­gest char­ac­ters.

Pa­padatos’ hu­mor­ous, friendly, out­go­ing ex­te­rior hides a driven, hard­work­ing golfer with a deep de­sire to be the best player he can be. As I found out dur­ing two days on the golf course with the 25-year-old, these two very dier­ent sides of Pa­padatos are not the only parts of his life that are in sur­pris­ing con­trast to one an­other. And de­spite his as­sur­ance that “a lot of peo­ple know most things about me,” there is far more than just an im­pres­sive golf game and quick wit to the ris­ing star.

With the name Dim­itrios Pa­padatos, it is un­avoid­able that his Greek her­itage is part of his story. Par­tic­u­larly when the game of golf isn’t one that is typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with Greece. With only seven 18-hole golf cour­ses listed in the coun­try and one player on the world rank­ing – Adam Kri­tikos, whose ca­reer high is No.1536 – the game is still very much in its in­fancy in the an­cient cul­ture.

Pa­padatos is by no means the only suc­cess­ful Aus­tralian golfer of Greek de­scent, with Terry Pilka­daris and James Nit­ties both hav­ing played suc­cess­fully on tours around the world. Pa­padatos though is fast be­com­ing one of the most recog­nis­able due to his two vic­to­ries and dis­tinc­tive name be­ing easily re­mem­bered, al­though of­ten mis­pro­nounced by golf fans.

While his her­itage is of­ten a dis­cus­sion point and some­thing he rev­els in and re­spects, it is hard to imagine Pa­padatos’ child­hood on New South Wales’ Cen­tral Coast, where he still lives, was sim­i­lar in many ways to what his fa­ther would have ex­pe­ri­enced grow­ing up on

the beau­ti­ful Greek is­land of Le ada.

About an hour and a half north of Syd­ney, the Cen­tral Coast is renowned for its beau­ti­ful beaches and laid-back life­style. Like most kids from the area, Pa­padatos tried his hand at many sports as a child and was par­tic­u­larly keen on soc­cer, surf life­sav­ing and body-board­ing. But golf soon took. Af­ter first play­ing a round with his fa­ther, he pro­gres­sively im­proved and be­came ad­dicted to the game.

Originally get­ting his start at Touk­ley Golf Club, Pa­padatos then be­gan play­ing and hav­ing suc­cess in Jack Newton Ju­nior Golf events. Pa­padatos now hones his game at one of the new­est cour­ses in the re­gion, Ma­genta Shores.

Af­ter the suc­cess of win­ning the New Zealand Open so early in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer, and with an en­vi­able com­bi­na­tion of long game power and del­i­cate short game touch, one would have been for­given think­ing world­wide suc­cess and for­tune would come quickly and easily for the then 22-year-old, but that has been far from the case. Af­ter nu­mer­ous quiet years, the New South Welsh­man plied his trade on the Euro­pean Tour and sec­ondary Chal­lenge Tour in 2016 and strug­gled badly with his game. In his worst stretch, Pa­padatos missed six straight cuts in Europe.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the tough year he had in 2016, he said af­ter his re­cent suc­cess in Vic­to­ria: “I learned a lot last year and re­alised I had a lot of work to do.”

While the un­suc­cess­ful Euro­pean sea­son was tough on him men­tally, Pa­padatos has learnt a great deal of lessons from the ex­pe­ri­ence and knows his game is good enough to com­pete with the world’s best play­ers.

“The level of golf is a very high stan­dard in Europe,” Pa­padatos said. “Good over there, is not good enough.”

Pa­padatos’ frank assess­ment and re­al­is­tic opin­ions of his own game last year won him praise from fel­low pro­fes­sion­als and fans alike, with the like­able player fully ac­cept­ing and ac­knowl­edg­ing how tough a time he had in 2016 but stick­ing it out and tak­ing some­thing from it - not sim­ply pack­ing up and head­ing home.

“As hard as it was and how much I hated it over there and had a mis­er­able time, I think its paid o” for me to know what to ex­pect when I go back over there next time,” he said. Dimi has taken a new approach to his game in 2017, which paid o” al­most in­stantly. A switch from long-time coach Gary Barter to 2016 PGA Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional of the Year, Richard Wood­house, has fresh­ened up his game and his out­look.

Wood­house’s di”er­ent approach and sim­pli­fy­ing of his game has given him a new per­spec­tive, with the suc­cess at the Vic Open com­ing shortly af­ter their early ses­sions. A good show­ing also at the New Zealand Open in March fol­lowed fur­ther time spent to­gether at Wood­house’s Gold Coast-based teach­ing fa­cil­ity.

Hav­ing known Pa­padatos for a long time be­fore coach­ing him, Wood­house cred­its the ris­ing star’s work ethic and ded­i­ca­tion as be­ing the driv­ing force be­hind the duo’s in­stant suc­cess as teacher and stu­dent.

“He is one of the hard­est work­ers I know,” Wood­house said. “Any­thing you give him to do he puts the e”ort in ten times over.”

One of the sources of this work ethic can un­doubt­edly be at­trib­uted to the men­tor-pro­tégé re­la­tion­ship Pa­padatos had with PGA Tour win­ner An­dre Stolz as an ama­teur and young pro­fes­sional. Wood­house knew he was tak­ing on some­one he calls “a won­der­ful player” and is pri­mar­ily work­ing to add struc­ture to Pa­padatos’ prac­tice and in­crease his un­der­stand­ing of his golf game – both cru­cial to a player spend­ing so much time away from home as Pa­padatos did in 2016.

Pa­padatos’ ded­i­ca­tion to his craft is no doubt a lead­ing fac­tor in his suc­cess, it is also not what you would nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect when ex­posed to his ev­ery­day per­sona away from the

THE LEVEL OF GOLF IS A VERY HIGH STAN­DARD IN EUROPE ... GOOD OVER THERE, IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

golf course.

He is one of the more pop­u­lar play­ers on the Aus­tralian tour. Al­ways keen for a chat, a joke and an In­sta­gram up­date, the young player’s sense of hu­mour has gone a long way to help­ing him over­come tough stretches on the course.

While en­joy­ing him­self is cru­cial to his make-up and know­ing that “there’s more to life than just golf,” Pa­padatos is very clear where his fo­cus lies.

“You’ve still got to have fun and you know golf’s ob­vi­ously my num­ber one pri­or­ity and it’s what I want to do with my life and be as best as I can,” he said.

This at­ti­tude of sep­a­rat­ing his en­joy­ment of life and his job of play­ing golf has im­proved in re­cent years.

“Some­times I do a lit­tle bit too much (so­cial­is­ing),” Pa­padatos con­fessed with a smile. “But I’ve ti­died that up a lit­tle bit now.”

How­ever, the lar­rikin in Pa­padatos couldn’t re­sist when asked how be­ing young and good look­ing treated him in Europe.

“It didn’t hurt on the week­ends I was miss­ing all those cuts (in Europe) I was sort of mak­ing some new friends,” he said with tongue firmly in-cheek.

The change to his approach in 2017 has him work­ing with a men­tal coach as he looks to min­imise the vari­ance from his best and worst golf. He has set goals for the year, some­thing he hasn’t typ­i­cally done, and chiefly among them was to re­gain full play­ing sta­tus in Aus­tralia. He ticked that oŠ the list by mid- Fe­bru­ary.

Not only was the win at Thir­teenth Beach a re­turn to form for Pa­padatos, the fi­nal round proved a test of his new men­tal approach to the game un­der tour­na­ment pres­sure. Cold top­ping his tee shot oŠ the 1st hole in the fi­nal round, af­ter al­low­ing a drift in con­cen­tra­tion, Pa­padatos shared a laugh with his caddy about the em­bar­rass­ing mo­ment and then re­grouped to shoot a fi­nal round 71 and win the tour­na­ment by two strokes.

With his play­ing fu­ture in Aus­tralia se­cured for an­other three years, Pa­padatos is aim­ing to re­turn to Europe this year and play in as many events he can get starts in across the main tour and sec­ondary Chal­lenge tour.

A mix of pre-qual­i­fy­ing and hope­fully some in­vi­ta­tions means Pa­padatos will be head­ing oŠ with noth­ing guar­an­teed, but wiser than he was for pre­vi­ous ex­cur­sions.

“Ev­ery­thing needs a bit of tidy­ing up,” he said in eval­u­at­ing his own game rel­a­tive to be­ing suc­cess­ful in Europe. “My ball strik­ing is a bit of a weak­ness, so if I can work on that, I think for those tougher cour­ses, it’s go­ing to make a lot of diŠer­ence.”

When talk­ing to Pa­padatos, one gets the feel­ing that Dimi Pa­padatos the tal­ented, hard­work­ing player and Dimi Pa­padatos the per­son­able, jok­ing, young man are two markedly diŠer­ent en­ti­ties and per­haps this sep­a­ra­tion of golf and life is one of the keys to his suc­cess.

Pa­padatos has started 2017 in good form, with his win at the Vic Open and a good start in Perth.

Pa­padatos ad­mits every part of his game needs tidy­ing up.

Great mem­o­ries of the NZ Open where he made hs pro break­through as a 22-year-old.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.