SUTTON, Mass – Pleasant Valley Country Club head pro Paul Parajeckas describes himself as a workaholic and that’s no secret to anyone at the club.
“I wish I could clone him,” PV general manager Eileen Aviza said this week. “The work ethic is unbelievable.”
Parajeckas considers no task to be beneath him. He even picks up balls at the range at times.
“The members here have been really supportive,” Parajeckas said. “Some of them at times say, ‘Geez, Paul, why don’t you go home?’ I say, ‘I am home.’”
Parajeckas, 72, has been a golf professional for 50 years, the last 15 of them at Pleasant Valley. The walls in his office above the pro shop are covered with photos, including one of him teeing off in the 2005 Champions Tour event at Nashawtuc CC in Concord with his playing partners, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, in the background. It was Palmer’s final appearance in the event.
Also displayed are two enlarged replicas of checks he won, one of $12,000 for his victory in the 2009 New England PGA Championship and another of $20,000 for his win in the Baseball Hall of Fame Seniors Open in 2000.
Parajeckas won the 2009 New England PGA Championship at Worcester CC, a mile from where he lived and with his family on hand, including his son, Jason, who also became a golf pro and now sells golf clubs. At age 59, Parajeckas became the oldest champion by 16 years.
“That was the highlight of my career,” he said.
A decade later, at age 69 he won his fourth New England PGA Senior Championship at Woodstock CC in Vermont.
“It means never give up,” he said. “I still have that competitiveness in me.”
A sign on his office wall reads: “Winner never quits, quitter never wins.”
Parajeckas doesn’t play as much competitive golf as he once did, but he admits he’d love to win a tournament while he’s in his 70s.
“Doing this for so long and still doing it, I’ve been blessed,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”
His impressive resume also includes winning the NEPGA Pro-Pro Match Play five times and the NEPGA Stroke Play four times. He’s earned the Wogan Player of the Year twice. In 2012, he was inducted into the New England PGA Hall of Fame.
“Paul Parajeckas is a New England golf legend,” said Mike Higgins, NEPGA executive director. “He is a past NEPGA Section Champion, Player of the Year, Golf Professional of the Year, and he has won countless NEPGA events. He has impacted so many lives through the game of golf throughout his amazing career.”
Parajeckas has also played in several PGA National Club Pro Championships, Senior PGA Club Pro Championships, PGA Senior Championships and U.S. Senior Opens.
In Florida last winter, he carded his 24th hole in one.
Parajeckas is the second of six children. His father, Albert, never played golf, but he did work as the superintendent – then known as the greenskeeper – at Green Hill Municipal Golf Course in his hometown of Worcester. He helped his father install cork tees at the course and at age 14 he drove a tractor to mow fairways.
When he caddied weekends at Wachusett CC in West Boylston, he was paid $1.75 for carrying two bags. He also picked the range and hit a small bucket of balls with a 2 iron. That’s how he learned to play.
Parajeckas and Jack Gale, current teaching pro at Cyprian Keyes GC in Boylston, used to putt into empty tuna cans in Gale’s backyard in Worcester and a nearby field.
During his last two years at Burncoat High School, Parajeckas played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball and golf in the spring. He remembers the baseball and golf coaches arguing about which sport he would play so he volunteered to play both.
While he attended Becker Junior College in Worcester on a basketball scholarship, he worked in the summer with Gale at Green Hill for head pro Bruce Dobie.
In 1971, Parajeckas shot a 10-under 62 to set the course record. That record will never be broken because the course has changed. Two new holes opened in 2018 to make room for a driving range.
One winter, Dobie took Parajeckas and Gale to Florida with him and they worked in the bag room and parking cars at West Palm Beach CC. Parajeckas has returned to Florida each winter since.
When he was young, Parajeckas figured he’d become a carpenter because he was good with his hands.
“I was pretty flexible,” he said. “I was pretty active in sports. Hand-eye coordination was probably a big plus. I was very good with my hands, playing basketball, golf, football.”
He lives in the house in which he grew up and he renovated it himself.
Parajeckas taught himself to play golf and he never expected to become a golf pro.
“I was told it was a sissy game by my friends,” he said, “and now they’re always calling me, ‘Can we play Pleasant Valley?’”
At Dobie’s urging, he played on the PGA Tour off and on in 1973 and 1974. Then he served as head pro at Indian Meadows CC in Westborough for a couple of years while his brother, Steve, was the superintendent. After Indian Meadows was sold, he applied for the head pro job at Woburn CC. It didn’t take the club long to offer him the job. As soon as he finished the hour-long drive home to Worcester from his job interview, his mother informed him that someone from Woburn CC had called and wanted Parajeckas to call him back. He was offered $11,000 to serve as head pro in 1975.
“I was thrilled,” he said. “Eleven thousand dollars to me at that time, it was like I just hit the jackpot.”
The following year, he was offered an extra $100 a week to also fill in as superintendent until someone else was hired. He ended up serving as head pro and superintendent for more than 20 years while also playing in NEPGA events.
Parajeckas knew Pleasant Valley well long before he became the head pro. He caddied for Ken Still in the first PGA Tour event at PV, the 1965 Carling World Open. Still made the cut and Parajeckas was paid $70 and a dozen used golf balls. Parajeckas ended up playing in several PGA Tour events at PV.
Parajeckas practiced at PV and gave a few lessons while he played on the Champions Tour off and on for several years after he turned 50.
When Gary Young decided to leave as head pro to work as a rules official for the PGA Tour in 2007, he recommended that owners Ted and Audrey Mingolla hire Parajeckas to replace him. Parajeckas still feels indebted to Young and the Mingollas, as well as the Magill family for keeping him on after they bought the club in 2010.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ve had an unbelievable career at Pleasant Valley Country Club. There’s no question about it. The highlight is being around all these people every single day. The members have been great.”