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Santor’s gift of storytelling lives on

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It’s almost hard to believe, but it’s time for the start of Greatest Golfer of the Valley 6.0.

Everyone pretty much knows by now that round one of the tournament brings all of us golfers to the Mahoning Valley’s municipal gem, Mill Creek.

Personally, coming back to Mill Creek always floods the mind with special memories from the last 25 years.

For the first time, I’m going to write a column recognizing a Valley legend without first talking to his family. Forgive the lack of biographical statistics, but as the Valley’s golfers prepare for their annual descent upon “The Creek,” I think it’s only appropriate to recognize a man who meant so much to so many — Bill Santor.

If the name Santor sounds familiar, it’s probably because his son, Andy Santor, is the long time PGA Head Golf Professional at Mill Creek.

Bill Santor passed away a few years ago and I have to apologize because this column is long overdue. I got to know him about 15 years ago when I started playing in The “Y” League at Mill Creek on Tuesday nights. I played for my old high school coach’s (George Kesner) team, and I looked forward to the same routine week after week:

Show up at the Creek.

Play.

Get beat (almost every week).

Head to The Boulevard Tavern for some pasta, draft beer and stories with Mr. Santor.

I have no idea why, but me at 21 (for legal purposes let’s go with that age) and Mr. Santor at 70+ had the best time buying each other 75-cent beers and sharing golf stories.

Like I said, I haven’t really done my “research” for this piece, so I can’t tell you the exact dates of Mr. Santor’s accomplishments and milestones. But here’s what I can tell you.

He was one heck of a junior golfer. I’m pretty sure he played at East High on a state recognized team that included another local legend, George Bellino.

After high school he played golf at Ohio University for one of that school’s most famous players-coaches-almuni: Kermit Blosser.

He was one heck of an historian. I can’t retell the historical facts he shared with me week after week, but I’ll never forget being enthralled by his remembering of “who shot what” at tournaments and leagues covering a 50-year span.

He was a great family man. I didn’t have to spend too much time with Mr. Santor to know that he loved his wife, his son, and his grandchildren more than anything else.

And he was a great story teller. One of my all-time favorites was the story he shared about an experience he had during a rain delay at a junior tournament in the 1950s. He was a senior and was committed to play at OU.

During the delay, the kids were all sitting around a table talking about their futures. Mr. Santor said he was going to play at OU, Tommy was a senior and was going to play at this college and wanted to be a doctor and Mikey was going to Ohio State to study accounting.

Even typing this now I can still hear Mr. Santor say: “And then this chubby little freshman perked up and said; ‘I’m gonna grow up and be the best golfer who ever lived.’

“And Jonah, I’ll be damned if that kid’s name wasn’t Jack Nicklaus and he did just that!”

We laughed about that one, and many others, week after week at that old Boulevard bar.

I’ve been told that I get too “emotional” with some of my columns. But with this week’s Greatest bringing so many of us back to The Creek, I thought it was only appropriate to recognize and remember a lifelong Valley golfer who was a friend to so many.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com