When Peter Kratsios, a golf enthusiast from Manhasset, was approached by a couple of buddies about taking up the game, he told them just what to do. They had to go to the course, pay their money and get teamed up with two total strangers to compose a foursome that courses usually require.
“They thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever,” he said. Not long after that, he thought of an idea that would change his life, and possibly alter golf’s landscape.
A recent college graduate who worked in digital advertising for 24/7 Real Media, Kratsios designed an app he called GolfMatch, which puts people together with golfers they might like to play with. Beginners can play with beginners, seniors can play with seniors, women can play with women if they prefer.
It is definitely not a golf dating site, but it uses basically the same format. Or it did, at first. It has blossomed into a national online community with 30,000 members who share their experiences and form their own groups and tournaments. “What we have found out is that golfers are the most social beings in the world,” said the 27-year-old who still lives in Manhasset, plays at Plandome Country Club and holds a solid handicap index of 0.4.
His business began two years ago, when he was on the verge of a promotion in his first job out of Gettysburg College (where he played on the golf team). “I had to make a decision to turn down the promotion, quit my job and focus on GolfMatch full time,” he said, “much to my parents’ chagrin.”
The venture had a bumpy start until he met a couple of potential big investors at the Masters: Gary Hendrickson, the CEO of Valspar, and Bob McCarthy, former chief operating officer of Marriott International. Kratsios’ former boss at the job he quit also got behind the project.
Members pay no fee. The company gets a share from each digital tee time that is booked. Plus, the more members it attracts, the better GolfMatch’s chances of gaining backing from the sport’s major brands.
Along with his entrepreneurial spirit and gift for explanation — he received thumbs-ups from the panel on Fox Business Network’s “Elevator Pitch” — Kratsios is driven by his love for golf. A neighbor invited him to play when he was 12 and he hit his first tee shot, on the Harbor Links Executive Course, on the green. “I five-putted, but I was like, ‘This is the greatest game in the world,’ ” he said.
He picked it up quickly. By the time he was a sophomore at Manhasset, he qualified for the state high school championship tournament for the first of three consecutive years. Kratsios was Nassau’s top finisher at the 2006 and 2007 state event.
“When he was a sophomore, we were playing the county championship on Bethpage Red. It was pouring and we didn’t have a rain date,” Manhasset coach Chuck Collyer said, adding that they decided to keep playing through the deluge. “He shot 75, which propelled him to the states.
“He was a very, very good high school golfer. When he was out on the course his love of the game really came through,” Collyer said.
Now Kratsios rejects the common explanations for golf’s stagnation, that it is too costly and time consuming. “Those sound like excuses,” he said. “People want great experiences with people they want to be around.”
His job is to enhance golfers’ experiences. Yes, his parents are very proud of him.
And the two buddies who had rejected the game and gave him the impetus? They are GolfMatch members, Kratsios said, “They are two of the most avid golfers I know.”
The 42nd Annual Bill Zeller-Tony Gamboli Golf Outing, for the Sayville-based “Athletes Helping Others” charity, will be July 7 at Timber Point Golf Course, Great River. Visit zellergamboligolf.com . . . The Syosset-Woodbury Rotary Outing will be July 12 at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. Email FredMB123@aol.com . . . The Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame’s 17th Annual Golf Invitational, with a Nine and Dine format, will be July 14 at Rock Hill. Call 631-758-7463.
Brian Banks, Colonial Springs Valley Course, eighth hole, 128 yards, 8-iron
Jay Tarantino, Huntington Crescent Club, 17th hole, 207 yards, 4-hybrid
Erik Zetterstrom, Huntington Crescent, sixth hole, 160 yards, 5-iron
Stan Weissberg, Huntington Crescent, 17th hole, 188 yards, 6-iron
Al Jaffe (of Freeport), Parkridge GC, Lantana, Fla., 16th hole, 90 yards, 7-iron
Jason Grubard, Middle Bay, third hole, 172 yards, 3-hybrid
Steve Diamond, The Hamlet, 17th hole, 160 yards, 6-iron
Andy Aaron (of Port Washington), Longboat Key (Fla.) GC, eighth hole, 143 yards, 5-iron
Sunil Rihal, Old Westbury G & CC Overlook, fifth hole, 178 yards, 3-wood
Ed Boos, West Sayville GC, second hole, 123 yards, 7-iron
David Thuma, E. Donald Conroy GC, sixth hole, 130 yards, 9-iron
Richard Gagliano, Cold Spring CC, 11th hole, 126 yards, 8-iron