The Italian American (IA) Charity Golf Association is pleased to have completed the 1st installment of their three-year, $75,000 pledge to UPMC Chautauqua with a $25,000 check, proceeds from their 2021 golf tournament and other fundraising activities. This was the first installment of the IA’s three-year pledge to enhance local cancer care at UPMC Chautauqua through the purchase of a Genius 3D AI Detection and the Biodex Thyroid Uptake System.
Alex Johnson stood off the left side of the 18th green early Saturday evening, putter in hand, knowing that he and his partner, Mike Schifano, needed something special to happen on the last hole of regulation at the 51st Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament at Holiday Valley Resort.
Mike Schifano and Alex Johnson turned in a fine opening round at the 51st Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament at Holiday Valley Resort on Thursday.
They had company.
Schifano and Johnson fired a net best-ball 10-under 60 to put them atop the leaderboard, but only by one shot over the teams of Zack Panebianco and Matt Hoaglund, and Corey Schmitt and Ryan Calalesina. Four teams are tied after firing 63s — Sam Peppy and Charlie Moss, Joe Vitello and Colin Whitermore, George Panebianco and John O’Marra, and Casey Digirolamo and Dusty Carlson.
The formal photo opportunity complete, Tim D’Angelo turned around, pulled out his cellphone and pointed it toward the scoreboard that stood at one end of the deck at Holiday Valley Lodge.
Jason Stronz, D’Angelo’s playing partner in the 50th Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament, then turned to a nearby observer and whispered, “Now that’s a good photo.”
Indeed it was.
For if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the strip of cardboard that appeared under “overall champions,” certainly had a story to tell, especially for D’Angelo, who now has two championships to his credit after he and Stronz fired a final-round, best-ball 64 on Saturday. When combined with their first two rounds of 63 and 61, their 188 total was just enough to hold off the team of Jon Scalise and Kurt Eimiller, who finished with a 67-58-64-189 for runner-up honors.
“I’m going to tell you, we didn’t have a lot of doubt we were going to win after the front side,” D’Angelo said. “We shot 6-under, so we weren’t losing ground to anybody.”
On the back, the tandem shot even par, highlighted by D’Angelo’s 5 (net 4) on the 18th, and final, hole.
“I was in the creek, I got a drop and dropped it 8 feet past the hole,” D’Angelo said. “Jason had a 20-footer and he knocked it down to 2 feet. One of the putts had to go in.”
“I was happy his went in,” Stronz said. “Not because I didn’t feel comfortable about mine, but the way he played today, he deserved to have that putt go in.”
D’Angelo’s demeanor after the ball found the bottom of the cup didn’t change at all, but for good reason.
“I didn’t know that was for a win,” he admitted.
Added Stronz: “I knew, but I knew he didn’t want to know, so I kept it to myself. It was just nice to see that one hit the cup for him. He was doing it all day on the front.”
But the D’Angelo-Stronz victory meant more than the hardware the men took home with them, especially for D’Angelo, whose history with the tournament goes back decades when his late father, Tom, played.
“Starting out when I was a kid, and then truly participating as a bartender at Restivo’s Alibi for committee meetings, to working with Pete Hubbell (of WJTN Radio) at Peek’n Peak, to now what has been an unbelievable run at Holiday Valley.”
In addition to his two titles — the first one was with partner Jeff Keppel in 2006 — D’Angelo’s middle brother, Todd, has also claimed two victories. Youngest brother, Tom, didn’t play this year, but he was there rooting Tim on while sporting the hat that their father used to wear when he teed it up for the IA. Meanwhile, Tim, Todd and Tom’s uncle, Ralph D’Angelo, followed in a cart, watching all 18 holes.
Asked what winning the tournament means to him, especially in the 50th year, Tim D’Angelo admitted it was significant, but added, “They’re all unbelievable.”
“As amateur golfers, this is a major,” he said. “We just wanted to be in contention. … It takes a while to sink in.”
“We’re still speechless,” Stronz said.
The flight winners were Adam Mason and Pat MacIntyre, 62-67-62-191 in the First Flight; Tony Vitello and John Deppas, 64-62-64-190, in the Second Flight; Dave Foti and Nick Madden, 65-63-62-190 in the Third Flight; Dave Munella and Dave Currie, 67-67-58-192, in the Fourth Flight; Phil Ribaudo and Bill Bernard, 68-64-65-197 in the Fifth Flight; John L. LaMancuso and Mike Roberts, 70-64-67-201 in the Sixth Flight; and Todd Frangione and Mark Tarbrake, 74-70-69-213 in the Seventh Flight.
“Over the years, the committee has perfected running the tournament,” said George Panebianco, IA chairman. “To have this many teams all in contention and have this tight of a tournament shows how hard they work to get the handicaps correct. And for all of us, it’s great to have this competitive tournament, but it’s also great to spend time together with friends and family, and then raise money for cancer and other causes.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of last year’s event, Panebianco said that 2021 has been the most successful fundraising year in the last decade, bringing the total amount raised the last half-century to $1.5 million.
“Go and ask the original committee people,” he said. “They wouldn’t even think this was going to last five years or 10 years. To go 50 years and have everyone’s support in the year of a pandemic where businesses are struggling, and to raise this kind of money for our local cancer charities, is just great.”
Tim D’Angelo and Jason Stronz sit alone in first place entering today’s final round of the 50th Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament at Holiday Valley Resort.
But they have plenty of teams nipping at their heels.
While D’Angelo and Stronz’s second-round 61 gave them a 124 total, it is only one shot in front of the tandems of Carl Pillittieri and Dave Bogdan (64-61-125) and Jon Scalise and Kurt Eimiller (67-58-125). Scalise’s round Friday was highlighted by a hole-in-one on No. 10, one of two aces on that hole in the second round.
Two shots out of the lead are the teams of Tony Vitello and John Deppas (64-62-126) and Greg Pietrocarlo and Hans Auer (61-65-126).
The first-round leaders, Jasyn Consiglio and Josh Dankovich, followed up their opening-round 59 with a 74 and are nine shots off the pace.
D’Angelo-Stronz and Pietrocarlo-Auer are playing out of the First Flight; Pillittieri-Bogdan are in the Second Flight; and Scalise and Eimiller are in the Fourth Flight. The overall winner can come out of any flight.
The other ace on No. 10 yesterday was by Pete Scheira.
The first committee was convened to consider a possible celebration event to honor the heritage handed to us by our forefathers. The committee was asked to consider a golf tournament as a possible activity to communicate the theme. They were unanimous in their response that a golf tournament of this magnitude would never fly, especially in our geographic area — a crazy idea.
— Samuel Restivo Sr.
Past chairman, Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament
The late Samuel Restivo Sr. stewed about that contrarian view described above for two weeks a half-century ago, but he wasn’t about to let the dream die.
So another committee was formed.
The crew included Mike Guinta, Jim Barone, Anthony Brigiotta, Cappy Caprino, Phil DeMarco, Robert Enserro, Gino Micciche, Joe Mistretta, Angelo Munella, Jack Munella, Joe Restivo and Anthony Tuccio. Restivo was the chairman.
Their first meeting was relatively short. Discussion was minimal. What had once been deemed a “crazy idea” just days before was almost immediately embraced by this new group of 13, a collection of friends, who loved golf, but who loved their heritage even more.
And by early June 1971, the first Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament was held at Jackson Valley Golf Club in Warren, Pennsylvania. For the record, Fred Cusimano Jr. and Tim Edwards held off 81 other teams to claim the first title. Proceeds from the event — nearly $3,000 — went to the American Cancer Society.
“We are definitely planning to have a similar tournament for charity next year,” Sam Restivo said afterward.
Five decades later, it is stronger than ever.
The 50th annual IA was supposed to be celebrated last year at Holiday Valley Resort, but it had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee had no choice. While golf was played during the coronavirus outbreak — as long as appropriate social distancing and other safety precautions were observed — the idea that the IA could maintain those requirements was just not feasible. Because, really, this event is not only for the participants, but also for their families. Hundreds of people descend on the resort in Ellicottville for fun, fellowship, food and music, with three rounds of golf thrown in for good measure.
“The one thing that’s hard to describe is that instead of just saying, we play in a golf tournament, we have a hot dog and we go home to our families, we have 88 families show up with their children, and everyone who plays in the tournament treats it like a vacation,” Chairman George Panebianco said last year. “They plan their whole year around it.”
UPMC Chautauqua, formerly WCA Hospital, is the beneficiary.
Amidst the fun, the group is also very much aware of a larger battle — the fight against cancer. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the hospital’s cancer treatment program.
The quote from Restivo at the beginning of this story was included in the 1995 25th anniversary IA program book. As it has turned out, the decision he and his dozen friends made decades ago has turned out to be prophetic.
Since that first tournament in 1971, the Italian-American Charity Golf Association has raised in excess of $1.45 million.
“We made a switch to go from the American Cancer Society to donating our money locally, and the donation exploded,” committee member Joe Paterniti said. ” … We’ve made as much as $67,000 (in a year). People believe in what we do and want to be involved. They love our tournament. I live for this thing.”
The impact the tournament has had financially cannot be overstated. In fact, since 2000, the Italian American Golf Association has donated to the following with three-year commitments of $150,000 ($50,000 per year): 2000-2003, Lumenis Versapulse Powersuite; 2003-2006, Digital Mammogram; 2006-2009, Endoscopy Equipment; 2009-2012, Electromagnetic Bronchoscopy; 2013 Superdimension Ilogic System; 2012-2014 Fluoroscopic C-Arm; 2014-2017, Carestream DRX-Ascend System, 2017-2020, Oncology Treatment Room-Hillman Cancer Center.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind event and one of the first tournaments to do two things,” Panebianco said. “One, to celebrate our Italian heritage and then bring in a non-Italian (playing partner) to kind of meld the cultures.”
Just like the original committee had predicted way back when.
So much for a “crazy” idea, huh?
And, along the way, memories are made.
Henry Mole, an optometrist in Jamestown, sure has a few.
“When I think of the IA, my entire family and staff know that I refer to those four fun-filled days as ‘Christmas in June,’” he said. “Not only have I played in the tournament for over 25 years, but some of my fondest childhood memories were also going up to watch my father, “The Big Chief” Paul Mole, play in the tournament.
“Back then, it was played at Peek’n Peak. We would spend the day swimming, eating all the complimentary food, and watching the golfers come in. The IA has been part of my life for the last 50 years.”
In 2001, Mole and partner, Kirk Brown, won the whole thing.
“I can relive that final round like it was yesterday,” Mole said. “My dad came out and he got to watch all 18 holes as a spectator. He followed Kirk and I around the course the entire five hours. It’s hard to put in words the pride you feel when you are playing golf at the most competitive level in this area and your dad is there to watch you pull it off.”
Years later, Mole had a photo of his dad and nephew laminated and he keeps the image in his golf bag.
“During the IA, I usually keep it on the steering wheel of the golf cart under the scorecard,” Mole said. “Sometimes, when Tom Ames, my IA partner for the last 15 years, and I struggle, I’ll bring the card to the forefront and call on him for some good vibes. If the next shot I hit is less than perfect, I joke, ‘Chief, just send good vibes, but keep your hands off the golf club.’”
Other news and notes from the tournament:
– Jack Munella Sr., an original committee member, hasn’t played in the tournament since 2015, but his two sons and two grandsons now do.
“Although I dropped off, they’re carrying it on,” he said.
– Paterniti, a past chairman, reunites with seven or eight of his Jamestown High School (Class of 1979) buddies every year. Oh, the stories they could tell. One of their favorites involves Kevin Kaiser, who one year dropped a marshmallow on a green at Holiday Valley, right next to the flagstick. The unsuspecting player who had taken the blind shot up the hill, thought he had nearly holed out only to realize that his ball was 60 yards short of the green.
“It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life,” Panebianco said.
– There have been 12 chairmen since the event debuted. In order, they are Restivo, 1971-74; Ben Conti, 1974-76; Chic Fasciana, 1977-79; Sam Paladino, 1980-82; Jon Scalise, 1983-88 and 1996-98; Frank Vassallo, 1989-1995; LaMancuso, 1999-2001; John Calamunci, 2002-2007; Sebby Baggiano, 2008-2009; Jack Munella Jr., 2010-2015; Paterniti, 2016-2018; and Panebianco.
-There have been two two-time winners of the tournament and one three-time winner — the team of Carl Pillittieri and Bob Johnson.
-Gabe Panebianco played in the first 45 tournaments. Forty-five!
-In 49 previous events, there has been only one time — in 2013 — that it has been shortened by rain.
Of course, nothing can ever truly “rain on the annual parade” of this much-anticipated weekend.
“The IA is now here,” Mole said. “Tom Ames and I will ‘do battle,’ spend some time with good friends and, three days later, ‘Christmas in June’ will be over. On this Sunday, I’ll know that we are just 362 days away from the next IA, and the countdown commences.”
The 50th Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament will be held June 10-12 at Holiday Valley Resort. Above are members of the IA Committee with their $50,000 check, the last of a three-year installment for $150,000 toward an infusion room at Hillman Cancer Center. From the left are Dr. Rohit Gosain, oncologist Hillman Cancer Center; IA committee members Joe Paterniti, Jack Munella Sr. and Mike Guinta; and Cecil Miller, vice president operations, UPMC Chautauqua. This year, the committee will be starting another three-year project totaling $150,000. The use of those funds is yet to be determined.
Three playoff holes later, John Foti was speechless.
Not only had the 32-year-old son of Rob and Diane Foti and partner Dan Cotter paced day one and two leaders Todd D’Angelo and Joe Willig all day Saturday, but he had minutes earlier sunk a fast 6-foot putt to save face and possibly force a continuation Sunday morning.
But after Willig missed on a subsequent 3-footer, the comeback by Foti and Cotter was officially complete, giving the pair their first overall victory in the 49th Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament at Holiday Valley.
“It’s a huge monkey off my back,” Foti joked, finally finding words for the accomplishment, noting his father Rob’s victories in 1995 and 2010 with partner Craig Lundgren, and brother Dave’s victory in 2014 with Nick Madden.
“To finally win it after my dad and my brother had done so, it’s just amazing,” he said of winning the tournament that has benefitted cancer research since 1971. “It’s such an amazing cause and such an amazing tournament and we grinded all day to get here. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Entering the day down two strokes to D’Angelo and Willig’s 123 overall, Foti and Cotter stayed with the pair, who were last victorious in 2016. After nine holes, the victors had taken a one-stroke lead, yielding it after the 16th before taking it again heading into the 18th hole. But, the pair could not hold the lead, allowing D’Angelo and Willig to tie it to force the playoff. The pair finished having shot a 67 to finish with a combined 192.
Cotter added, “It’s just all for a great cause. I love the cause and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”
D’Angelo and Willig shot a 69 to also finish with a combined 192. Adam Mason and Patrick MacIntyre led the second flight with a 195. George Panebianco and John O’Mara led the third flight with a 197. Sandy Volpe and Jamie Barton led the fourth flight with a 202. Dave Foti and Nick Madden led the fifth flight with a 200. Mark Panebianco and Sean Larson led the sixth flight with a 206. Chris Cusimano and Josh Nelson led the seventh flight with a 216.
The final putts of the 49th Annual Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament (video courtesy of Cam Hurst):
John Foti-Dan Cotter 192
Todd D’Angelo-Joe Willig 192
Chris Cusimano-Josh Nelson 216
Vic Tarana-Randy Ordines 221
Steve Cusimano-Tad Wright 221
Mark Panebianco-Sean Larson 206
John Panebianco-Nelson Johnson 208
Pete Pillittierri-Andy Sandstrom 210
Dave Foti-Nick Madden 200
Chris D’Angelo-Craig Knorr 206
Tony Vitello-John Deppas 211
Sandy Volpe-Jamie Barton 202
Tom Tantillo-Nick Bell 202
Joe Vitello-Kevin Thorpe 204
George Panebianco-John O’Mara 197
Joe Frangione-Tyler Nelson 198
Tom D’Angelo-Steve Johnson 199
Adam Mason-Patrick McIntyre 195
Jon Scalise-Kurt Eimiller 199
Jordan Bardon-Jordan Woleen 200
John Foti-Dan Cotter 192
Todd D’Angelo-Joe Willig 192
Sam Peppy-Charlie Moss 195
Todd D’Angelo and Joe Willig hold a two-shot lead after the second round of the 49th annual Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament.
The duo, who won the event in 2016, recorded a net best-ball 67 on Friday at Holiday Valley Resort, bringing their two-day total to 123, two shots in front of John Foti and Dan Cotter, and four in front of Sam Peppy and Charlie Moss.
There is a two-way tie in the Second Flight between Jon Scalise and Kurt Eimiller (129), and Adam Mason and Pat MacIntyre (129). John LaMancuso and Mike Roberts are two back.
Tom D’Angelo and Steve Johnson parlayed a 61 into first place in the Third Flight with a two-day total of 129, three shots in front of Joe Frangione and Tyler Nelson and five ahead of Dennis Palermo and Bernie Auer.
In the Fourth Flight, Joe Vitello and Kevin Thorpe lead the way after their 64 gave them a 134 total after two rounds. Sandy Volpe and Jamie Barton are one shot back, while Nick Trussalo and Kyle Hocking stand two back.
Topping the Fifth Flight are Dave Foti and Nick Madden (66-137). The teams of Chris D’Angelo and Craig Knorr, and John Sirianno and Ryan Calkins are tied for second two shots back.
In the Sixth Flight, Mark Panebianco and Sean Larson lead the way at 66-139, a shot in front of Jasyn Consiglio and Josh Dankovich and two ahead of Pete Pillittieri and Andy Sandstrom.
Finally, in the Seventh Flight, Chris Cusimano and Josh Nelson are in first place after a 66 yesterday put their two-day total at 142, four strokes in front of Sam Triscari and Dave Rowe, and five shots in front of Steve Cusimano and Tad Wright.
The tournament concludes today. The overall champion and runners-up can come from any flight.
Todd D’Angelo and Joe Willig teed off at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament.
Their score stood up all day.
The tandem fired a net best-ball 14-under 56 for medalist honors at the 49th annual event at Holiday Valley Resort.
That was three shots better than John Foti and Dan Cotter and four better than Sam Peppy and Charlie Moss. Those three teams are in the First Flight.
Ties dominate the remaining flights.
Jon Scalise and Kurt Eimiller, Dave Rizzo and Tim Mead, and Mike Schifano and Alex Johnson all shot 66 in the Second Flight; Mike Condella and Dave Anderson, Pete Morgante and Jon Gren Jr., and Dennis Palermo and Bernie Auer all fired 68 in the Third Flight; and Nick Trussalo and Kyle Hocking, Mike Caprino and Mike Marshall, and Tommy Tantillo and Nick Bell each recorded a 69 in the Fourth Flight.
Also, Sam LaMancuso and Matt Hartweg, Mike Panebianco and Nick Shelley, and Dave Foti and Nick Madden all shot 71 in the Fifth Flight; and Mark Panebianco and Sean Larson, Pat Smeraldo and Richie Joslyn, and Paul Pappalardo and Mark Brunenavs had 73s in the Sixth Flight.
In the Seventh Flight, Sam Triscari and Dave Rowe lead the the way after a 75. Vic Tarana and Randy Ordines, and Todd Frangigone and Mark Tarbrake are second after shooting a 76.
The second round is today, followed by the final round on Saturday. The overall champion and runners-up can come from any flight.