Julian Gressel finally talked his mom into letting him pick up golf as a teenager.
“She was already driving me to soccer and then to golf, so I understand it now,” the Atlanta United midfielder said. “I didn't start until I was 13 or 14. None of my family played and my mom gave into my begging.
“Now almost everyone in my family plays.”
His love for the game and a move to Atlanta, where courses pepper the landscape, proved a natural springboard for the first Gresselmania Golf Classic. The event, set for Sept. 3 at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, will raise funds for Soccer in the Streets to build a new StationSoccer at the East Lake Marta station.
“It bascially all started with me playing a lot of golf,” Gressel said with a laugh. “I'm very interested in the game, especially since I came to Atlanta. I like it. It's as simple as that.”
During his first season with the United, Gressel was focused on soccer only. He was a rookie and it was Atlanta inaugural season in the MLS. Both found wild success.
Drafted eighth overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft from Providence College, Gressel named MLS Rookie of the Year in 2017, scoring five goals and assisting on nine goals in 32 appearances for the United. In 2018, Gressel started 33 regular-season matches and all five playoff matches for the Five Stripes on their run to the championship. He scored four goals, notched 14 assists, and was named to the MLS Team of the Week six times.
“Midway through last season, I had the idea of setting something up,” Gressel said of the golf tournament's genesis.
He and his wife, Casey, both wanted to get involved in a charitable event in their new city.
“We wanted to give back to Atlanta,” Gressel said. “They've welcomed us with open arms.”
They had trouble finding a good date for the event last year and so held off.
During the 2019 preseason, Gressel found the right spot — his new home course at TPC Sugarloaf — and the right partners. He's tapping teammates and other Atlanta sports and entertainment celebrities to participate as well.
“A lot of them have come to ask if they can play,” Gressel said of the United players. “A select few play pretty regularly, but obviously a lot of them have family and kids. Usually on our off days we put together a foursome.”
The four-person scramble format will help for those who perhaps aren't on the course as often. The day also includes a hole-in-one contest sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, food offerings along the course, a VIP appreciation post-tounament party and a silent auction of experiences and memorabilia.
“We're trying to raise money for a good cause,” Gressel said. “It's growing the game of soccer while also improving the city of Atlanta.”
Soccer in the Streets aims to level the playing field, affording access to the sport regardless of race, gender, religion, or socio-economic status.
“We are excited to be the benefactor of the Gresselmania Golf Classic,” said Phil Hill, Executive Director of Soccer in the Streets. “Julian has been a great supporter of the program. The funds raised will support our StationSoccer project which is tackling the two biggest issues affecting urban youth participation in sport: affordability and lack of transportation.”
For information on companies sponsorships or on the tournament itself, go to gresselmaniagolfclassic.com.