Center Stage is a new series that spotlights individuals who continue to support the GAP Central Series.
He dislocated his left wrist during the BMW GAP Team Matches.
He wears a boot on his right foot because of an ankle ailment.
Health issues (afflicting a physician no less) diminished distance by 50 yards and increased Handicap Index by 10 strokes. They didn’t remove John Pagana’s passion for golf entirely.
“I’m still enjoying golf. Once in a while I shoot in the mid-70s and say, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Then I go out and shoot 85. It’s fun,” Pagana, 74, of Selinsgrove, Pa., said. “I just think golf is a wonderful game. It teaches you a lot. [My wife Barbara and I] play every day. Sometimes I’ll go out at night and play a few holes, listen to some music or a book.”
Pagana, a Huntsville Golf Club and Susquehanna Valley Country Club member, began his golf journey 40 years ago. He and Barbara previously indulged in tennis, with some impressive returns. The Paganas traveled the country competing as amateurs, qualifying for the 1983 US Open. They reached the semifinals in the Mixed Doubles Division that year.
“At that time, you could go into the adult locker room, and you’d see (John) McEnroe, (Jimmy) Connors and (Ivan) Lendl. It was kind of neat,” John said. “When you lose, you can’t go into the adult locker room anymore. But it was a lot of fun. We loved tennis, and our kids all played tennis because we played a lot when they were growing up. They all love golf now. We got them to the dark side.”
Not that Pagana dismisses tennis altogether nowadays. Golf just bears a richer appeal.
“You play tennis, and it’s, ‘Nice shot. I’ll see you next week.’ That’s it,” Pagana said. “The difference between golf and tennis is if you play 18 holes with somebody, you really know that person. The social aspect is much more rewarding than what I found in tennis. I can still play and play fast enough and play with some good players. I can go out there and have a good time with golf. I just think there’s a lot of things that golf teaches you that you may not get with other sports. Golf is special.”
Sprinkled on that special: the frequent lessons Pagana learns with each swing.
“It’s amazing. You always see something and say, ‘Gee whiz. This will help me,’” he said.
Pagana, from a professional standpoint, helps others by operating a free health clinic in Sunbury, Pa. He may not be the Six Million Dollar Man, but golf remains an invaluable part of his life. He and Barbara spend their winters in Port St. Lucie, Fla. When they return home, John becomes a fixture on the GAP Central Series circuit.
“It’s a great thing that you can play nice courses for a reasonable price. The GAP has done well for our area,” Pagana said. “The GAP Central Series is a lot of fun. I enjoy it.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.