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Young stars emerged in league's 'golden years'

Saturday, March 11, 2006

All of the players brought their own caddies.
Editors note: The Penn-Ohio Golf League begins its 61st season April 2 at Sharon Country Club. Through the years, almost every top amateur golfer in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys participated in this early spring league. Former league president Frank Bellino of Youngstown has compiled a five-part history on the league which will run each Sunday until the season opener.
Part 2 The Golden Years 1958-1967
Golf courses did something in the 1950's that is virtually unheard of today. They would not allow any player to tee off for an hour or more in front of the Penn-Ohio Golf League.
When the first group teed off, with caddies by their side, it was normal to walk 18 holes in under three hours. Golfers played much faster in those days. If someone played too slowly and it persisted, he was booted out of the league.
Caddies were almost as integral to the league as the players. All of the players brought their own caddies, the most dedicated of whom was Andy Santor's brother, Mickey. He caddied just for the pleasure of being around the guys and was never paid for his services. The other caddies were usually friends or relatives of the players.
Some were paid while others caddied for the honor of being part of the league. Vince DeAngelo's caddy performed every valet service imaginable from shining his shoes to mowing his lawn to washing and waxing his car.
For the next nine years, 1957 through 1965, Youngstown's Jimmy Livingston Enterprises and Sharon's Slovian Home captured every title with Youngstown winning five times to Sharon's four.
Stars began to emerge
Young stars began to emerge on all teams. Bill Santor from Youngstown, an outstanding iron player, was the model of consistency and competitiveness. George Bellino, Doc's younger brother, found his best stride his second year in the league when he paced the league with a 68 at Castle Hills.
Dr. Robert Katula brought an all-around solid game that enabled him to break par in at least one match his first three seasons in the league. Jim Lucarell Jr. had a smooth, flawless swing that would carry him well into the 1980's.
Probably the most impressive young player of this era, though, was Harry Toscano Jr. of New Castle. In 1965 at Yankee Run, Harry shot a 65 in the final match of the year. When asked afterwards about his round he remarked that he never actually hit a ball on the center of the club face the entire day.
Harry turned pro soon afterwards and played on both the regular PGA and Senior tours. In New Castle, when golfers mention the name Harry, everyone knows they're talking about Toscano.
Sharon's young star was Ed Seginak. It wasn't until his ninth year in the league that he finally broke through with a 68 at Hubbard but prior to that he played well in nearly every match.
Warren building strong team
Finally, Warren was building a powerful team with Lalu Sabotin, a Publinx and Ohio Amateur champion, and Leo Zampedro, a National Publinx runner-up. They also added a solid one-two punch with the Banish brothers, Tom and Vic. Warren finally broke through in 1967 by winning the first of many titles.
Sadly though, it also marked farewell to the Penn-Ohio Golf League for Dr. "Chips" Bellino and Frank Bitenz. Under their leadership and drive, the fledgling league had established tremendous credibility which served as a showcase for the most exceptional golfers in the area.
The following spring at the captains meeting, John "Rags" Gennock took the helm as president, Ed Seginak secretary-treasurer and Billy Santor became the captain of Youngstown.