DADE CITY, FL — Tommy Economou bent down on the beautiful Lake Jovita’s 11th tee, surveyed the terrain, leaned on his club, and then turned around to ask a question.
“What do you think of the Rudy Gay trade?”
The Rice University men’s golf team calls the sophomore golfer “The Hippie” for a reason.
Economou, 19, hails from Hillsborough, Calif., where he attended Burlingame High School, miles away from his university campus in Houston. He differs from his teammates, not only in in culture, but in playing approach.
“It’s kind of like I’m always doing stuff differently,” Economou said. “Like when we chip, I have this chip shot that I do, it’s pretty unconventional.
“I swing it very inside to out, so I can I can put draw-spin on the ball to make it roll more. I use that shot a lot and it looks real funny when I take practice swings.”
Admittedly a fanatic of Bay Area sports teams, he keeps his twitter account updated on the happenings of his beloved Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
It is the latter which whom he gushes about when speaking about a season that featured a Super Bowl appearance.
He credits his father, Michael, who is of Greek heritage, a former walk-on tennis player at San Diego State for introducing him to sport.
“He kind of got into golf through Tiger [Woods] like a lot of people did, and I basically followed him everywhere he went,” he said.
“So he would go to the golf course and I would just follow him. I played baseball and basketball too, growing up but I was just the best at golf, so that just stuck.”
Singer and guitar player
Economou’s passions are different than most NCAA golfers. He makes music a top priority in his life – he is currently a singer and plays the guitar.
He started singing in the choir for 11 years, from ages seven to 18, at the demands of his Hungarian mother Nicole, an experience that he hated then, but appreciates now.
“My mom got me into choir when I was seven,” said Economou. “She made me do it and I always wanted to quit and she forced me to stick to it and that’s one of the best things that’s happened to me in all of my life.
“It’s taught me how to sing, music theory and I love music, probably my favourite thing, more than sports. Her making me stick to it, outside of school was awesome because we got to go to all these countries all over the world. It led me into the world of music.”
In Economou’s life, the rigours of golf and music often meet.
“There were some hard days in choir where you didn’t want to stick to it and sometimes you get that out here in golf, but my mom taught me to stick it out.”
His teammate, senior Brock Wilson, acknowledges how Economou’s upbringing can help with his golf game.
“He’s from California, so that makes him laid back and definitely helps in golf, helps with not getting frustrated, said Wilson.
“He doesn’t seem to get too angry out on the golf course and he’s good at getting the next shot at hitting to make it much better to make up for a bad one”
Calm and cool on at the tee, Economou takes his approach, and launches the ball towards the fairway. He turns back to add another comment.
“One more guy, and the Raptors might have something.”
He glances to see where the ball lands and proceeds to advance on the course.