JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- John Goettlicher fondly recalls how a then 12-year-old Joe Shorto would arrive at Berkley Hills Golf Club each summer morning in the late 1950s.
Goettlicher was the golf professional at Berkley Hills back then. An eager youth, Shorto had plenty of questions for the pro to answer.
"Joe is one of my favorite people. I've known him since he was 12," said Goettlicher, a retired PGA of America Professional who served at Berkley Hills and Sunnehanna Country Club during his distinguished career. "I was the golf pro at Berkley and he asked me questions about golf clubs, how to swing, how to put a grip on. Years later, he once said, 'I was a pest to you.' I didn't think so. He was at the golf course almost every day.
"His mother would drop him off. He was well-dressed all the time. We became very good friends. I sponsored him to be in the hall of fame."
The Tri-State PGA Hall of Fame on Monday inducted Shorto, who joined his mentor, Goettlicher, in the hall with the likes of legends such as Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Bert Battell.
"I'm proud of Joe Shorto," Goettlicher said during a telephone interview from his Greensburg home. "I told him on Monday he deserves that award, no question. He is one of the best golf professionals in the Tri-State PGA."
No question. Goettlicher is on the mark about Shorto, who held the position of head golf professional at Sunnehanna for 30 years until his retirement in November 2012. Prior to that, Shorto spent 13 years as the head golf pro at Berkley Hills, then the City of Johnstown course. He now is Professional Emeritus at Sunnehanna.
In his role as pro, Shorto was among the key figures involved in the day-to-day operations during the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions from 1982 until his retirement. In that time, Shorto watched future PGA stars such as Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Scott Verplank and Bill Andrade as well as top amateurs Allen Doyle and Jay Sigel.
"In Joe's 30-plus years at Sunnehanna he exhibited a great compassion for the game of golf and a great willingness to contribute to the Sunnehanna Country Club and to the Sunnehanna Amateur's growth," said former Amateur co-Chairman Denny Wharton. "Joe's induction is well-deserved. He's had a tremendous career, and he has dedicated a large portion of his life to the game of golf."
Shorto previously was named the 2009 Tri-State PGA Golf Professional of the Year, which is one of the highest honors the association may bestow on a working club professional.
The Westmont resident was awarded the 2005 Merchandiser of the Year for private facilities. Among his other honors are two Bill Strausbaugh Awards for work with fellow golf professionals in 1997 and 2001. He's served on multiple rules committees in different tournaments and organizations.
As coach of Westmont Hilltop High School's golf team, Shorto has had more than 200 wins and double-digit undefeated seasons as well as producing two individual state champions and an individual state runner-up.
Despite the lengthy list of credentials, the hall of fame honor humbled Shorto.
"I was totally surprised. I really didn't anticipate this at all," he said on Saturday morning. "The guys that are in there are unbelievable golfers. Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Bob Ford. It's an honor that is just overwhelming."
Shorto accepted the hall of fame honor in front of 200 Tri-State PGA professionals during the organization's meeting on Monday near Pittsburgh.
He credited his family for supporting his career. He especially appreciates the opportunity to spend a lot of time with his grandchildren these days. Shorto also gets to play a few more rounds of golf than he used to when he worked at Sunnehanna.
Still, he reflects back to those days when that 12-year-old hitched a ride to Berkley Hills each day.
"Golf is what I always wanted to do, starting when I was a kid," Shorto said. "I played Little League baseball and was pretty good. I started golfing, which made my dad upset. I didn't want to play baseball anymore. Thank goodness for Berkley Hills.
"Mom would drop me off in the morning. I would play 36 holes and read everything John Goettlicher had in the pro shop. I was a pest to him even though he wouldn't say I was a pest."
"Not at all," Goettlicher said when informed of the pest remark.
Actually, Hall of Famer sounds much better in Shorto's case.
This article was written by Mike Mastovich from The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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