By Bruce Berlet
HARTFORD, Conn. (October 1, 2019) – Stan Staszowski, who was a PGA of America member for over 80 years died Monday at age 101. At the time of his passing he was longest serving and oldest member. Only two former members, Errie Ball and Bud lewis, served longer that Stan.
Staszowski was elected to the PGA on July 22, 1939 and was the head pro at Green Woods Country Club in Winstead for 40 years. When he began a four-year stint in the Army during World War II, his late brother, Frank, stepped in as head pro at Green Woods. When Stan returned from serving in the South Pacific, he reclaimed his position at Green Woods and Frank began a long run at nearby Torrington Country Club.
Stan celebrated his 100thbirthday at Green Woods CC in 2017, when it was noted he had played in the 1951 PGA Championship at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio. In 1960, Staszowski received the Connecticut Section PGA’s highest honor, Professional of the Year, for “service and historical impact on their members and the golfers that they have served. The individuals have had exceptional careers and are recognized for their achievements and contributions to the rich golf tradition.
Staszowski, who lived in a skilled nursing home in Canaan when he died, won the 1968 Connecticut PGA Championship and was one of the nine members who were in the inaugural class of the Connecticut Section PGA Professional Hall of Fame in 2008.
“Stan is a legend at Green Woods,” current head pro Jared Smith said, “from teaching, playing and the management of the entire operations of the facility. Nowadays, his daughter (Mary Ellen Vaccari) still takes care of the flowers, his son Jim works for TPC and provides for our equipment needs, and his grandson Adam is currently a member.”
Staszowski was honored each year at Green Woods with the “Stan Open.” It’s actually two separate events, one for amateurs and a pro-am format with 28 teams taking part.
Staszowski was born only 15 years after Green Woods opened in 1903, when his father, Joseph, served as course superintendent. His father died of pneumonia when Stan was 14, and after Stan graduated from high school, he was asked to be the head pro. Two years later, he was drafted by the Army and served four years in World War II in the South Pacific in Australia and New Guinea.
At 21, Stan was the youngest-ever qualifier for the PGA Championship, a match-play event at the time. Future Hall of Famer Gene Sarazen beat him 4 and 3 in his tournament debut at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, but Staszowski had four more appearances in the tournament, the last in 1969, when he competed at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio
In his younger days, Stan dabbled in what was then a PGA Tour that hardly resembled today’s Tour with its mega-million-dollar purses and glamorous lifestyles that make it big. His golfing career was put on hold after he was involved in a car accident in Norwich on the way home from a tournament and sustained a broken pelvis. While in the hospital, he met a nurse, Bunny, who became his wife, and the couple bought a house 200 yards from Green Woods.
Only months after doctors told Stan he would need two to three years to recover, he shot a 66 in the first round of the Miami Open to take the lead while playing with Hall of Famers Tommy Armour and Sam Snead. His best finish was a 10th in the Western Open, then considered almost a major championship. He then left the Tour with some great memories after having played with the likes of Hall of Famers Sarazen, Armour, Snead, Walter Hagen and other legends.
Back at Green Woods, Stan served as head pro, course superintendent and manager for more than 30 years, jobs normally split among three professionals. He continuedto play competitively and enjoyed an excellent career in state and regional tournaments. He won the 1968 Connecticut PGA Championship, the Senior Championship in 1968-70 and 1978, and he and his brother captured the Section Pro-Pro Championship twice. Stan also twice qualified for the Insurance City Open (now Travelers Championship) when it was played at Wethersfield Country Club.
In the 1980s, Stan gave up two of his positions at Green Woods and served only as professional, teaching the game to youngsters such as Bobby Gage, a former PGA Tour and Champions Tour player and Connecticut State Senior Open champion.Stan retired in 1986 but remained a presence around his beloved Green Woods, always quick with a smile and words of advice for anyone smart enough to listen to his take on golf and how to play and enjoy the game. One of the people who paid attention was his grandson, Adam, a Berkshire League star at the Gilbert School in Winsted who went on to play for the University of Connecticut golf team.
“His peers knew him for his golf game,” Vaccari said. “But people around (Green Woods) enjoyed his teaching. He was a really good teacher.”
Stan was Section secretary and vice president and on July 22, 2017, at 101, he achieved his 80thyear of PGA of America membership, the third longest serving member of the organization.When asked about his longevity, Staszowski reflected on his life at Green Woods and his father being the superintendent.
“My work at Green Woods Country Club included serving as club professional, superintendent, general manager and chef,” Stan said on his 80thPGA anniversary. “My days lasted 16 hours. I’d close up the clubhouse, set my alarm and get up in the middle of the night to change the sprinklers on the course that I had set earlier. It was my and my family’s life. I would work in the local factory in the winter months and played some Tour events with my brother.”
When asked what kept him in the game, Stan said, “I was very competitive. I loved to practice, and I learned that I was a good teacher and player. I was very lucky that the game of golf – all aspects of it – and being a PGA professional was my passion as well as my career.”
Staszowski said he took satisfaction from helping mentor young professionals and had plenty of advice for those aspiring to make their own niche in the industry
“Keep working to improve your game and your people skills,” Stan said. “Members want someone they can relate to and rely on for service, information and advice. Grow the game by sharing your passion with young golfers, that was always the best part of my day, when I could help our caddies and young members to love the game
“You have to have some fun every day. Teach and play with your members and SMILE.”
Staszowksi leaves behind his three children, Joseph and wife Jane of South Windsor, Conn., Mary Ellen Vaccari and husband Leo of Winsted, James and wife Linda of Lenox, Mass., eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Also, sisters Janet Barnes, Josephine “Babe” Ochotnicky and brother John Stowe. He was predeceased by siblings Frank Staszowski and Veronica Rusckowski.
Calling hours will be Friday from 9 -10:30 a.m. at Montano Shea Funeral Home in Winsted to St. Joseph Church in Winsted for a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a. m. Burial with full military honors will follow at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Winsted, and a procession will go past Green Woods Country Club. Stan’s family would like to extend sincere gratitude to the staff at Geer Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Canaan for the support, care, kindness and compassion extended to Stan and his family during his stay there.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Stan’s name to The Connecticut PGA Junior Golf Program, 931 Main Street, Carriage House, South Glastonbury, Conn. 06073 or The First Tee of Connecticut, 55 Golf Club Road, Cromwell, Conn. 06416. For more info, or to send e-condolences, visit www.montano-shea.com.
On a personal note, the previous comments epitomized Stan Staszowski. He was the one of the nicest and most upbeat people that I’ve ever met, and he, indeed, had a smile on his face every time that I saw him. I was introduced to Stan by fellow Hartford Courant sports writer Owen Canfield, who lived in Torrington and often played at Green Woods Country Club. We always enjoyed renewing acquaintances with Stan and playing the cozy nine-hole course where you better hit the ball straight or you’d find yourself chipping out of the many trees that lined the fairways. I’m sad that Stan no longer is with us, but I’m delighted to have known him and that he lived such a professional life that benefitted so many others. RIP, Stan. – Bruce Berlet