While most people on the island know Paul Gaeta through his many successful business ventures over the past three decades, which includes operating The Sanibel Steakhouse, The Jacaranda and McT's Shrimp House & Tavern, others might have had no idea that the recently retired 76-year-old was such a great golfer.
Last week, Gaeta again defied the odds and shot a round of 73, an incredible three strokes better than his age. According to the former restauranteur, it's really not such a big deal.
"I've been shooting better than my age for a couple of years now," Gaeta said on Monday. "In fact, I've done it better than a dozen times this year alone."
Longtime Sanibel resident Paul Gaeta, known for his string of successful restaurants throughout Southwest Florida, took up golfing at age 24. Now 76, he practices or plays the game every day.
But according to Matt Oakley, head golf professional at The Dunes, "This accomplishment is statistically much less likely than a hole-in-one!"
Not surprisingly, Gaeta has done that, too. Not once... but nine times!
"I've shot four holes-in-one here at The Dunes... twice on hole 9, once on hole 2 and once on hole 11," Gaeta noted nonchalantly.
However, becoming an excellent golfer took many years to achieve.
At age 24, Gaeta became interested in the sport through his brother-in-law, who at the time was the mayor of Rutland, Vt.
"I thought it was a stupid game," Gaeta recalled. "But he took me out on the practice range... I think I whiffed at a few."
By the time he had completed the 16th hole, he counted his score at 123 strokes.
"I stopped counting at that point," he said. "But I also remember thinking, 'I'm gonna like this game.'"
After taking a few lessons, the following summer Gaeta joined Andover Country Club in Massachusetts and began taking a serious interest in golf. By the end of his first season, he was shooting in the low 80s.
"They told me that I was kind of a natural at it," Gaeta added. "And they said that if I stuck with it, I was gonna get better."
Now, more than 50 years later, the Boston, Ma. native has gotten better, indeed. Gaeta gives a lot of credit to his golfing instructors - which includes Dune staffers Oakley, Chris Shaul and Catherine Ransabage as well as Bart Cook of Golf Tech in Fort Myers - which helping him progress in his abilities.
"I do practice a lot and I try to stay in shape. I lost 30 pounds in the last year," he explained. "After I retired last November, I thought now I'll have more opportunities to play golf."
Gaeta, who is married with six children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, hopes to keep shooting better than his age for as long as he can.
"The best round I've ever had here (at The Dunes) was a 65... and I did that twice," he added. "I'm gonna keep working at my game, but I think my days of doing that may be over."
Don't count on it, Paul!