Mike Gianessi Home
Mike won the 1958 Tazewell County golf tournament and was known as an aggressive, brash player with a little of a bad boy reputation. When I first heard of him and saw his swing I didn't like him because he swung with an upright swing and a fade. That may sound ridiculous but as a child my dad hit a big draw and I had grown up thinking good golfers (Hogan, Palmer) hit draws. Anyone who had an upright swing was like the anti-christ to me.
In the summer of 1961 after my junior year in high school Mike approached me about playing together. I was very serious about my golf and was especially determined to beat anyone with an upright swing. We played for several months and Mike was unable to beat me. Sometimes he would shoot a better medal score than me but we played match play and I was pretty tough at that. He was always around par and under it many times on the Parkview golf course which was a par 70. One night after I had beaten him again a friend said Mike wanted to talk to me. I went and got into his car and he was drinking a beer. He asked me if I wanted one and I declined. He seemed a little drunk and he asked me why he couldn't beat me. He was clearly upset about it. I said I didn't know but in the process of talking to him my view of him as the anti-christ was shattered and we became friends. He beat me soon after that as I guess I might have lost some of my determination. In fact after that the tables were turned and it was he who usually beat me. But he was shooting near the course record a lot of the time as I remember several 64s he fired at me.
We played together in the 1962 Tazewell County tournament. Neither one of us had a very good first round. He shot 75 and I shot 76, but we were paired together for the 2nd round. I shot 37 on the front and was not very happy when I finally started to play on the back when I birdied 11, 12, & 13 to get to 1 under. The 14th hole was a blind shot to the green and I had hit a 9 iron and as I walked to the green I saw Fritz Wool, Old Man Lunini, and one other person I knew but can't remember who it was. Fritz ran the tavern near the course and the Luninis were a long time local golfing family.
There was a ball about 12 inches below the hole. I thought they were playing a joke on me and said “OK – where did my ball stop?” They said that it had stopped where it was. I was surprised and said “This will be my 4th birdie in a row.” Lunini asked me - “That will make you 2 under?” I said yes. It was a rainy day and the scores weren't that good so they were surprised. When Mike finally got to the green he found out where my ball was and saw the 3 guys standing there and I wondered if he didn't think something was fishy. As I went to knock my putt in I failed to give it the attention it needed. It was straight uphill and against the grain and I left it short. I couldn't believe it. I have never felt such a let down in my life.
There were 2 birdie holes left and in my mind I was already targeting a 66 and that bubble had just burst. When I got to the next tee Mike said “you're up”. I told him to go ahead. I was so shaken up I didn't even feel like continuing. On the birdieable par 5 I dubbed a shot and bogied the hole and would up shooting a 70 which was good enough to tie the leader for medalist for the day, but still left me 9 shots behind and when I found out that they had decided to determine the flights by the first day's score only (76) I didn't even feel like continuing because I was in A flight and had a 10 shot lead over the next best score. I was humiliated as I had hoped to be competing for the championship. Instead of being 5 shots behind the leader I was still 9 shots behind and in A flight.
When my mom told me my childhood friend Gene Durbin had called and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him next Saturday to the new St. Louis Cardinal's stadium to watch a doubleheader I said “OK” and I didn't even show up for the final 2 days of the tournament. I wanted to make a point of objecting to the idiotic idea of basing flights on the first 18 holes instead of all 36 holes and there was no way I was going to make up 9 shots on Don Hermes. After the St. Louis game on Saturday I went back to watch the final 18 holes of the tourney as a spectator as I loved to watch the tempo of the eventual winner – Don Hermes.
Mike and I played off and on in the summers thru 1966 until I stopped playing in 67. I hadn't seen Mike in several years when I came home from Champaign one weekend and decided to look him up. I took my friend and former PCHS golf team member Daryl Hornecker with me to visit Mike at a bar where he was bartending. He set us up with a free drink and we chit chatted for 15 minutes before leaving.
After I graduated in Feb 68 I went to LA to work for Northrup Nortronics. In August I dropped out to protest the Viet Nam War and came back to Champaign-Urbana and began my attempt at being a hippie. One day in 1971 I hear a knock on the door and find Mike Gianessi standing there. He wants me to play golf. I hadn't played golf since the spring of 68 when I played a round in LA. We went to a local course and somehow I was able to shoot around 40 and beat Mike. I guess he wasn't playing much either. We only played 9 holes. I probably wasn't showing much enthusiasm.
If I ever get back to Pekin I'd like to look him up.