GAA students challenge Dustin Johnson in chance encounter

May 20, 2011

It was a moment they won't forget. As the foursome played the back nine at the five-star TPC Myrtle Beach golf course, they encountered one of the top professional golfers in the world, PGA TOUR star Dustin Johnson, shooting a television commercial.

The quartet of Golf Academy of America students--Skylar O'Dell, Daniel Bisazza, Eric Dutcher and Alex Matsias--did what came naturally: they challenged the 12th ranked player in the world to a closest-to-the pin contest on the 193-yard, par three 17th hole. While the challenge did not go well for the aspiring golf professionals, it was, undoubtedly, the best professional networking they experienced that day.

A different kind of professional tour for GAA's Gratz

From Prague to Myrtle Beach. Then to California, Puerto Rico and Slovakia. Jonathan Gratz's three-year itinerary returned him to his wife and homeland--ready for a new career in the golf industry.

"It was a risky decision to venture into a new field, leave the comfort of the city I had called home and be apart from my wife, Andrea," said Gratz, a 2010 graduate of Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach. "But for some strange reason it just felt like the right thing to do, and looking back from where I stand today, it was the right decision."

He graduated at the top of his class "with a pretty decent golf game" and was determined to return to Europe for a new career in the golf industry. But he wound up as Assistant Golf Professional at Graeagle Meadows Golf Course in the California Sierras.

The assignment was only temporary, though, since the cruel mountain winters force the course to close in November each year. Then, although it "wasn't quite Europe," Gratz moved to Puerto Rico where he took a position as First Assistant Golf Professional at Dorado del Mar Golf Club.

"There, I was finally in the position to manage a team. It was a great deal of responsibility, but I savored the opportunity to prove myself in a more international resort operation. I started giving lessons on a constant basis, running clinics and camps, creating tournaments and league-play. I truly came into my own as golf professional."

After 10 months, another big opportunity came his way: the Head Golf Professional position in Bratislava, Slovakia (a three-hour drive southeast of his home in Prague) at the Black & White Golf Resort.

"I'm loving the fact that it is mainly a teaching position, and I'm finally reunited with my lovely wife," said Gratz.

What's his lesson to other newly-minted golf professionals? "Every position is a stepping stone to a more fulfilling one, and if you remain confident and patient, you're bound to get good bounces."

The Black & White Golf Resort in Bratislava, Slovakia.