Vindicator Logo

Fore dads ...

By Todd Franko

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Golf – with all its highs and lows over hours and hours of play – can tell you many things about people.

As one of the gurus of Greatest Golfer of the Valley, I’ve had a great seat the last nine years watching lots of people engage life as they engaged golf.

Sure, some golf swings are ugly, and so are some attitudes. I’ve seen both – and sometimes even in the same person.

But many swings are beautiful, and so too are most of the people.

One of the most rewarding Greatest views is watching dads, and how their sport intertwines in their lives and the lives of their sons and daughters.

There are many families where this is true, and it would be fun to showcase many of them.

Two of the more special father-son stories over putts and pars happen when you watch Warren’s Dick Vitali and his son, Joey. It’s also been special to watch Tim Porter and his sons Michael and Scott. It seems since there’s been Greatest, there’s been these two dads to watch and admire.

RELATED: Read Tim's first-person story here.

No Valley golfer has played more rounds of Greatest Golfer than Joey. It seems every step that Joey has walked in Greatest, Dick has walked, too. The golf course has been Dick’s home back to his days with his dad and grandfather on Massachusetts’ legendary Orchards Golf Club. And the golf course has been Joey’s home since age 5. (See the photo on the Greatest Facebook page.)

I encounter many parents during Greatest, and the quality of the day and their child’s play can affect their mood. I had one dad yell about the course’s lemon water after his son’s bad score. If I had a dog there, he’d have probably kicked that, too.

Dick’s warm smile and gracious handshake could never tell you if Joey shot in the 70s or the 170s.

If Joey had a bad score, it was never due to the course layout, or his playing partners, or slow play, or shiny grass blades, or whatever ...

There are many golf events for the families to choose. Two years ago, when all the top teen players were off in Akron playing a larger regional event, Joey was playing yet another Greatest. Mom Tracey said joining his peers was not even a consideration, she said. “He said he’s loyal to Greatest.”

This year, Greatest time for Dick and Joey wasn’t so sure.

Dick had a serious health setback just after the holidays. The golf season was fast approaching, and father and son spent many nights in the hospital talking about life’s lessons. Golf always worked its way in. There was talk of Joey’s spring golf season starting without Dick in his usual place somewhere in the tree branches down the fairway.

“All Dick lives for is to go out on the golf course with Joey,” said Tracey. (She always rides in a cart.)

This is Joey’s last year in junior Greatest and with Howland High School golf, and Dick was not set to miss a moment.

When Greatest teed off the first of May, there was Joey, as always. And far up the fairway, off in the trees and behind some branches was ... well, you know who.

Tim Porter is seemingly always in the fairway and never in the trees. At age 70 last year, he carded a 65 at his home course, Tippecanoe Country Club.

The quality of his golf is outshined only by the class he and his family carry for the game and their competitors. Golf is a family sport from Tim’s dad to him and siblings Don and Pam.

Given the local legacy, it was poetic for Greatest Golfer that our first men’s champion was son Michael. Son Scott has been in the final men’s open group a couple times. Tim has won Seniors once.

So in a combined 20 or so Greatest events between the three of them, there are just two championships, despite a reputation that makes one think they always win.

Yet, you would never tell that from their demeanor. Win or lose, they are grace and class to the game and to their competitors.

True to that, I asked Tim about how it all started, and his credit went to wife Janet for managing the golf of three sons as boys.

So prolific is the Porter name and class, I asked Tim if he would write a Father’s Day letter of sorts.

He obliged. He writes in part:

“Golf is a game that, played at any level, teaches you about people. I used a phrase on the boys as they started to mature: ‘You will learn a lot about someone by playing 18 holes of golf with them.’ Egos, patience, character all comes out.”

You can find Tim’s Father’s Day letter on our Greatest Golfer page on Vindy.com. It’s a great read.

These are just two of so many blessed dads we see in Greatest. This theme could have easily extended to father-daughter tales, as they are just as rich in Greatest – from our Women’s Open champ Katie Rogner and her dad, the Dominic Vecchiarelli crew, Carpenter duo, the Taylors and more.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.