The towns sound really familiar to anyone who follows hockey: Victoria, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Ottawa and Peterborough. Greg Etimos of East Islip has learned that there still is plenty of life there even after the ice melts. Those places are all stops on golf's Canadian Tour, of which he is a member, ready to make his debut Thursday.
"We travel east through Canada, all the way to September, when it ends in Nova Scotia," the 2007 East Islip High School graduate said on the phone from Vancouver, where he will compete in the season opener, the PC Financial Open.
Regardless of the golf term that says "go low," a reference to the best scores, Etimos has chosen to go north. He has earned his card for the circuit that is formally known as PGA Tour Canada. He hopes it ultimately leads to the PGA Tour, period, where the prizes are much larger than the $2,600 check he won for finishing 11th in a U.S. minitour event last month.
Etimos earned academic honors at Monmouth, where he was a star on the golf team, so he could have started a business career by now. But he wanted to give golf a full shot, so he turned pro in 2012 and has played here and there.
"My whole life I've just dreamed of being a professional athlete. I have a drive," he said, recalling having played all kinds of sports as a kid on Long Island. "I didn't grow into a 6-5, 250-pound monster, so . . . "
So here he is, a professional golfer. Really, it was not just by default. He has had a love for the game since he was 3 and his dad, Steve, began taking him to chip, putt and hit balls at Timber Point in Great River. "My father needed a way to keep me out of my mom's hair," he said, recalling that the family later played a lot at Bellport Country Club and then joined Island Hills in Sayville.
All the while, Greg was improving. "It was a bit of a learning curve when I turned pro. You get beat over the head with a shovel a little bit, until you start figuring out what works and what doesn't work," he said, adding that his greatest strides came once he started working last year with swing coach Mike Malizia in Palm City, Florida. Just as important, the golfer did a lot of reading on how to develop a strong mental game. That helped him get through the nerve- wracking Q School in Courtenay, British Columbia, earlier this month -- his first time out of the U.S.
Etimos finished tied for 24th, which gave him conditional PGA Canada status. "I should be good to go for the first six tournaments, then they reshuffle," he said. "If you play well, everything handles itself."
His dad is with him for the start of his pro career, just as he had been there to see his first swings as a child. The elder Etimos likely will be there as well when his son takes a break from his new tour to play in the Long Island Open at The Creek in Locust Valley the week after next.
And someday . . . who knows? "Unfortunately, it has become very difficult to make the PGA Tour. The only way to do it is to start with this," he said. He knows it involves big travels and small paychecks.
"If you don't love what you're doing, this is too tough an endeavor," he said. "You've got to be able to say, at the end of the day, 'I had a bad day, but I still want to go out and play tomorrow.' "
Good strategy, eh.
Swing for Kids XXIV, benefiting arts education at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, will be June 8 at The Creek Club, Locust Valley. Call 516-299-3825 . . . Friends of Long Island Wrestling will hold its 12th Annual Golf Outing June 29 at CedarBrook Golf Club, Old Brookville. Proceeds support amateur wrestling. Call 516-804-8676.