It’s that kind of “rags to riches” kind of story we all like, boy loves golf, boy starts to caddy, boy pursues his dream and becomes a professional golfer. But what followed has been a challenge for now 60-year –old Mike Colandro, a 1972 Newington High School graduate who has Type II diabetes and is legally blind. Colandro, who recalls meeting Arnold Palmer as child at the former
Insurance City Open, had a successful career as a pro on the PGA tour, racking up wins including the New Zealand Open, the West Australia PGA and the Victorian Open. And he has chronicled his decades of success in a new autobiography called “Almost An Aussie.” Colandro, who still manages to get out on the links, explained his book is about golf and something much more when he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: The obvious question is how did you end up playing golf as a career?
A: I always loved the sport and the story is in 1956 my parents took me to the Insurance City Open, the predecessor to the Greater Hartford Open, and I sat on Arnold Palmer’s lap. And he won the tournament that year. I loved the game and began caddying at places including Rockledge in West Hartford. It was good because caddies got to play for free on Mondays. I grew up playing at the Goodwin Park course, too. I graduated from high school and went to Arizona State and knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to play golf.
Q: After quickly looking at your book, it looks like you did. Were you good?
A: It was great. I played all over the world, New Zealand, Scotland, Japan, Canada, Australia. I was pretty good overall, ranked 76th and was considered a very steady player. I loved Australia and that is why the name of the book. I was engaged to an Australian women but she was killed in a car crash in 1986. I competed in the Australian tour for many years. Q: Who are some of the pros you played with?
A: I have played with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Steve Ballesteros, a lot of great golfers, some of the best.
Q: Who do you think is the best these days?
A: Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and a Swedish golfer named Henrik Stenson.
Q: You have diabetes and some related medical issues so golfing is limited for you these days. Why write the book?
A: Friends encouraged me to do it. I had been wanting to do a book about my experiences and figured no one can write a book about me as well as I could. It took 15 years and was a journey for me. I met so many great people and the professional golfing was such a wonderful life. But it was more than just about that.
Q: What else?
A: I think the unique part of the story is that despite everything I kept going forward. I’d like to think that those with disabilities will read it and see that even after a successful career I didn’t give up, I pressed on with life. You need to go forward no matter what life hands you.
Q: But oh this time of year you know golfers are counting down the days until March. What is the appeal of the game do you think?
A: You never master it. No matter how much you play, no matter how much money you have, no matter what breaks you get in life, it is Always a game to be conquered and in that way, it is the same for everyone, no matter what you do for a living and no matter what you do or don’t have. It is always a different challenge. When you get out on the course, you are never sure what is going to happen that day.
Q: I know you are doing some limited golfing, despite the handicap, but know you have some other endeavors keeping you busy. Tell me about them?
A: I do a little program on my golfing experiences and add a little entertainment, some songs and stories about golf, just a little fun. I still give golf lessons and write for golftips.com, too. I am doing book signings on the “almost an Aussie” and there is also a 2014 calendar too with pictures from the book and golf tips and more.
Q: Where do proceeds from the sales go? And when is the next book signing and where can people go to find the book and calendar?
A: I have a passion for charitable groups. In 2013, Food Bank Inc., Survivors of Homicide, Pancreatic Cancer, Ct. PGA Junior Program and Chip In for a Cure were among the beneficiaries. My plan is to continue that in 2014. My next book signing is on Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Enfield Public Library with more in March.
For more information on Colandro’s books, appearances and book signings go to almostanaussie.com