Basketball was part of David Pelekoudas' DNA, so it made sense that when he first attended University High that he would find his way onto the hardwood.
Pelekoudas' father Dan played at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s and was drafted in the 10th round of the 1984 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. But for David, his basketball career lasted only as long as his back would allow.
A compressed disc in his lower back ended his short-lived basketball career, but it also opened up a new athletic endeavor.
"I felt pain in it running and jumping playing basketball at the end of my sophomore year," said Pelekoudas, 18, now a senior at Uni. "When I was running and jumping it was grinding and the nerves were irritated. I had physical therapy for four or five months, but it didn't hurt to swing a golf club. I always loved golf so I tried to commit myself to that full-time and started playing competitively."
Pelekoudas got into the swing of things quickly. He placed third in the Pacific Coast League individual championships his junior season, and this season placed second at league finals with a two-round score of 143 at San Juan Hills Country Club earlier this month.
He didn't stop there. Pelekoudas shot a 74 at the CIF Southern Section Regionals at Skylinks in Long Beach, qualifying for the CIF Southern Section Individual Finals. At the Victoria Club Golf Course in Riverside, he shot another 74, this time qualifying for the CIF/SCGA championships coming Thursday at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena.
The CIF/SCGA championships are essentially the Southern California championships and are the qualifier for the state championship tournament.
In both the CIF regionals and CIF finals, Pelekoudas' 74s made the cut by one stroke. While it might be unnerving to come down to the final few holes of a round knowing that one bad shot could end your season, Pelekoudas handled the pressure, which is not surprising according to Uni Coach Kevin Kasper.
"He's a great kid, a great student, he takes care of everything and he's very responsible," Kasper said. "He's very steady and I think that's his strength in golf. He's relatively new to the sport but he's an athletic kid. With his athleticism and his stability he's only going to get better."
On the course, Pelekoudas' strengths are his long game – ball-striking and his approach shots. He has struggled with his short game, but has found a way to make it to the next level.
"I wasn't striking the ball well but I was able to score really well and scramble around the course until I was one-under through 14 at Victoria," he said. "Then I hit a couple of bad shots and all of a sudden I had a bogey and a double-bogey and I was right there [near the cut]. I kind of felt the pressure the last couple of holes but was able to his some good shots, I had a couple of iron shots that got me close to the pin."
At the CIF regionals at Skylinks, Pelekoudas' putting deserted him, but he is working hard on his short game in preparation for Thursday's CIF/SCGA championships.
"I've been driving the ball well and hitting my irons really solid, so those four or five greens I'm missing every round, I've been struggling to get up and down," he said. "So the last couple of days I'm spending my time at chipping greens, working on my bunker shots and getting my touch down for all the different shots I'll need next week."
Kasper said he sees no reason why Pelekoudas can't continue his run by scoring well at the CIF/SCGAs and qualifying for the state tournament. A lot of it, though, might depend on the rest of the field, Kasper says.
"I think David has shown when par is a good score, he's right there," Kasper said. "If a lot of birdies are going to be made, he's going to have to make some of those putts that he's missed. I don't know what to expect, but I'm hoping it's like his last two, and he makes it by one stroke."
Pelekoudas said he's confident going in, knowing that basketball and golf ultimately have the same goal – put the ball in the hole.
"It's a little different-sized hole, and there's no teammates in golf, but yeah, it's the same concept," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun