Shamrocks dot the rolling hills of Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage.
They’re even the shape of the tee markers on the course — including a set of green tee markers, appropriately enough.
You could say that there’s a bit of the luck of the Irish around the place, and it likely comes from its longtime owner, Irishman Jack Kerins.
Kerins died peacefully in 2009 at age 97 — a long, fulfilling life complete.
Tam O’Shanter was just one of his strokes of luck.
You could say he was best lucky with his bride, Mary Louise, whom he met on the steps of Our Lady of Fatima Church as a young lad, and years later married her on those same steps.
Marriage was preceded by another lucky streak.
He spent three years in World War II, 22 months of it in the European Theater with the 63rd Infantry Division and the 1st Military Government Battalion.
Kerins survived 14 days in a foxhole in Germany — the enemy in foxholes just down field from him.
He was awarded the Silver Star, the highest award for bravery, the Purple Heart and a battle- field commission to a lieutenant. He was instrumental in liberating the Landsberg concentration camp.
Perhaps his proudest military moment was in 1966 when he took his family to the battlegrounds of France and Germany, at which time he located the exact position of his foxhole.
All of this is related by his son, John, who proudly owns Tam O’ today along with his brother, Rick.
Jack’s luck even extended a bit with that golf course. When he was seeking a loan to buy the course, no bank would loan him the money in 1947. Golf courses were just fad, Jack was told, John said. So course owner George Sawhill loaned Jack the money.
And 66 years later, Tam O’ is still a test of accuracy and control. It has been a three-year host to the junior Greatest Golfer of the Valley. Jack teamed up with The Sharon Herald for a longtime junior event as well.
Sprinkled around the course are Jack’s old tractors and tools that John showcases for golfers while paying homage to his dad.
This year, John added a new tribute to Jack that is paying off for golfers, too.
No. 14 at Tam O’ is the great Valley hole — a short par 3 that traverses a deep gully. Legend has it that Arnold Palmer scored an 8 on the hole ... Or a 12 ... Or a 9. Score aside, it’s a great story regardless of who tells it.
John had an idea from a course in West Virginia, and posted a bell near the green.
“My dad loved this place,” John said. “When I came across the bell last summer, I thought it would be a great tribute to him. My goal was to bring a smile to your face, and at the same time, a tear in your eye to all the golfers who play Tam O’Shanter.”
With the bell is this sign:
Ring the bell for Jack. If you make a birdie 2 on Tam O’Shanter’s 14th Hole Death Valley, we invite you to ring the bell for our dad, Jack Kerins, who made Tam O’Shanter this wonderful place we enjoy.
Ring the Bell for your father also. We are sure they will be smiling.
John and Rick Kerins
So it was in homage to Jack and to dads of others — if you made a birdie.
But the Irish have a wink in their eye.
Tam O’Shanter keeps track of its holes-in-one. Neatly handwritten and dating back to 1955 is every ace ever scored at the course. Joe Martin tagged the first one when they started listing them. On Oct. 8, 1961, Ed Donnelly and Jack Baltine scored back-to-back aces. There were 11 in 2004, and 10 in 1994. On a handful of years, there were none — including the first year of tracking, 1955, and ’57, ’72, ’73, ’76 and ’89.
The last couple of years have been especially stingy for aces: just two of them from 2008 to 2012.
This year, the drought at Tam O’ on aces has ended.
There have been six through June — Fred Gibson, Roy Rishel, Danny Pitullio, Joe Dantico III, Joan Wickerham and Dan Angelucci.
And all of the holes in one this year ... are on No. 14.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.