Oyler: Oldest PGA member has Bridgeville roots
I received an email recently from Fred Valentino, suggesting that I do some research on his uncle, Gus Andreone, and providing me with a link to an article titled “PGA’s oldest member at 103 is still making an impact.”
Gus Andreone, the oldest living member of the PGA, started his career as the golf pro at Edgewood Country Club about 40 or 50 years ago. I assumed that he was related to the Andreones who lived in Bridgeville when I was growing up.
Bob “Butch” Andreone was four or five years ahead of me in high school; he turns out to be Gus’ younger brother. It was a treat for me to fill in the blanks that make up the rest of Gus’ life.
Gus Andreone was born on Sept. 30, 1911. At that time, his family lived in the Mudville neighborhood of Bridgeville. When I discussed the Andreones with my Octogenarian Brunch buddies, a couple of them remembered the family living on Bower Hill Road when they were kids.
Gus was introduced to golf when he was 12, and several of his friends were “hitting a ball around” on a baseball field near his home. His natural tendency to play left-handed was frustrated by the shortage of left-handed clubs, so he made the switch to playing right-handed. He soon joined his friends in going out to St. Clair Country Club and caddying for the rich folks.
Eventually, he got a job in the golf shop, primarily cleaning clubs. In 1934, he worked his way up to become an assistant golf professional. During this time, he played a round of 66, which tied the course record at St. Clair. In 1939, he became a member of the PGA; today, he is its oldest member.
He went into the service during World War II and ended up serving in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army as a member of the 10th Armored Division. He narrowly missed becoming a fatality when a mortar shell hit his half-track armored vehicle.
After his World War II service, he returned to St. Clair. In 1947, he became head professional at Edgewood Country Club, a position he held until his retirement in 1977. While there, he shot another 66, a course record that still stands. Gus was a significant member of the Tristate PGA and a mentor for numerous assistants who eventually became head professionals at major golf clubs.
Arnold Palmer is among the younger golfers whom Gus influenced. On the occasion of Gus’ 100th birthday, Palmer thanked him for the memories he had of playing with Gus at Edgewood in the early stages of his career.
Gus served as head professional golfer at Edgewood until he reached the normal age of retirement in 1977. His wife, Henrietta, died that year.
In 1985, he moved to Florida, where he became associated with the Plantation Country Club, near Palm Beach. While there, he met his current wife, Betty, manager of the club’s golf shop. After they were married, Betty and Gus moved to Palm Aire Country Club in Sarasota, Fla.
In honor of his illustrious career and his remarkable success as a teacher, Palm Aire named its newly constructed practice facility the Gus Andreone Practice and Teaching Facility and dedicated a wooden statue of Gus as part of it.
For any golfer, being able to “shoot one’s age” is a lifelong goal. Gus first achieved this when he was 70. When asked recently if he still shot his age, Gus replied, “Only when I have a very bad day!” He plays rounds of nine holes on Monday and Friday and 18 on Wednesdays. These days his target is a round of 90 strokes. The evening I spoke with him by phone, he had just come in from shooting a 92.
Gus is a great inspiration to everyone who knows him. I am embarrassed to admit that we ignored him when we put together the “Bridgeville Sports History” exhibit at the history center last year. My apologies to Gus, and my thanks to Fred Valentino for bringing this wonderful story to my attention.
John Oyler is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or [email protected].