The first time I played golf with Beachview Golf Club member Gholi Darehshori, I asked him a simple question: "Where are you from?" His accented English told me it was not the USA. The Middle East, maybe... but which country?
"Nowhere," Gholi answered with a straight face.
"No, really, Gholi. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?"
"Nowhere," he said again. "I mean it. I'm a nomad."
A nomad playing golf on Sanibel Island? It just doesn't add up, but it turns out Gholi actually was born into the nomadic Darehshori Tribe, the largest of 12 subtribes of the Ghashghai in south and central Iran. His family had nine brothers and two sisters and made their living by herding sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, mules and especially famous Darehshori horses, larger and faster than Arabians.
As documented in "Strange Lands & Friendly People," a book by Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, the Darehshori tribe is very pro-American and provided strong support to the Allies during World War II. Douglas also pointed out that the leadership — of which Gholi's father was a part — modeled democracy, and there was no level of poverty in the entire tribe of several thousand people.
Gholi consulted with Nasser Kahn, head of the entire Ghashghai tribe, who insisted that Gholi was a fit for America. He took him by the hand to the American Embassy in Switzerland, and within minutes, secured a visa for him to come to the United States. He then paid his passage on the Queen Elizabeth 2 and gave him $100 spending money. Gholi arrived in January 1960 at the age of about 20 — plus or minus, because birthdays aren't celebrated in his culture — with just $36 left in his pocket. We send our kids out to the mall with more than that!
He started out living with his cousin in Milwaukee and enrolled at Marquette, a Catholic University. He was given the job of serving coffee to the nuns, and on his first day, he watched 30 sisters coming down the wide staircase for breakfast in their black and white habits. He thought he was seeing angels! But when he nervously spilled coffee on the first nun he served, she shouted an explicative, so he knew they must be human.
While visiting in Austin, Texas during Christmas break from Marquette, Gholi passed a highway sign for Texas Christian University, remembered he had a friend there, and decided to look him up. He instantly fell in love with the campus, and on impulse, went into the dean of foreign students and asked for a scholarship. To his amazement, Dr. Fowler said he had one more to give out, and Gholi could have it. He also offered a free room above a kind university patron's garage. As Gholi was leaving the office after the interview, Dr. Fowler noticed a big hole on the top of his shoe and handed him $20 to buy a new pair, a kindness Gholi has never forgotten.
Given a job in the cafeteria kitchen to help pay his way, Gholi asked if he could collect the dirty plates at the return window. He wanted to take the more palatable leftovers home for himself and his foreign student friends to share. A pretty ballet major from Iowa named Georgia, having practiced dance for four hours prior to dinner, was always famished and first in line. Invariably, she took more than she could possibly eat, and often left a lot of untouched plates of food on her tray. Gholi took notice of these leftovers, as well as the co-ed. He quickly fell for her and asked her to marry him at an IHOP restaurant on their third date.
He graduated from TCU with a degree in chemistry on a Friday and got married the next day. He had promised his mother, whom he adored and respected (a tribal judge), that he would get his degree before marrying. Georgia and Gholi are still happily married 47 years later.
Two of Gholi's goals in America were to become vice president of a major corporation and to own a Cadillac. After college, he started out as a chemist in a small company in Chicao and supplemented his income by delivering fried chicken and collecting debts in Cabrini Green, a low-income housing project in the inner city of Chicago. Soon seeing the folly of this course, he took a position with Cargill Corporation, 30 miles outside the city. His intelligence, ambition and hard work resutled in a highly successful, 25-year business career. He rose quickly through the ranks from his start as a lab technician, and realized his first life goal of becoming a vice president at Cargill in the Minneapolis headquarters. However, when he saw that one of the owners of the company was driving a dusty old station wagon, he thought it wise to defer on the Cadillac.
The owner of the company — and the station wagon — heard this story later, laughed and, as a thank you for his considerable contribution to the division, saw that Gholi wa gifted at his 1990 retirement party with a wonderful bonus sufficient to put him in the driver's seat of a Cadillac for the rest of his life. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Gholi believes Cargill to be the greatest company in America.
After retirement in 1990, he founded his own company, Peninsula Polymers, selling raw materials to paint companies. He sold the company in 2005 and retired to a beautiful penthouse apartment in Fort Myers, overlooking Pine Island Sound. Now he watches the beautiful sunsets each night and commutes back and forth to Beachview Golf Club... in a Cadillac!
This talented and successful nomad who proudly became an American citizen in the auspicious year of 1976 has a great appreciation and love for his country and the opportunities it offers to anyone willing to work. He also has an innate desire to give back, which he does whenever the opportunity presents itself. He's an avid golfer who has played all the major courses, including Augusta and Pebble Beach.
Upon finding his ball recently in a Beachview sand trap, Gholi quipped, "Don't worry, I was born in a sand trap... and I know how to get out!"
Gholi Darehshori wears a traditional native hat, as depicted in the photo on the right.