Gus Andreone, the oldest member of the PGA of America — whose professional career and longevity were sparked by playing what he called “the greatest game ever invented” — passed away Saturday evening at Tidewell Hospice House in Sarasota, Florida. Andreone, who had suffered a stroke, was 107.
Andreone’s rich, charmed life included escaping death three times while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II; being awarded three Bronze Stars; winning the Pennsylvania State Lottery in 1983; and in 2017, being presented the Order of the Legion of Honor medal by France.
“Gus Andreone’s remarkable life was filled with a love of country and for the PGA of America,” said PGA of America President Paul K. Levy. “Gus fought valiantly in World War II and when he returned home brought a special passion to teaching and promoting a game that he would play for more than eight decades. Our heartfelt prayers go out to his wife – Betty – and family as we pay tribute to an unforgettable PGA Professional.”
Born Sept. 30, 1911, in Bellaire, Ohio, Andreone was the fourth of eight children to father Eduardo, a coal miner, and Teresa. He was a toddler when his father moved the family to Pittsburgh for better opportunities in the coal industry, and as a teenager Andreone began caddying at St. Clair Country Club. He worked his way into the golf shop and gave his first lesson in 1934. Five years later, he was elected to the PGA of America and was inspired to pursue a teaching career by attending a summit hosted by Horton Smith, a two-time Masters Champion who would become synonymous with PGA education.
Andreone’s golf career was beginning to flourish when World War II began. He was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 31 and became a member of the 61st Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division. He would be part of the first Armored Division to sail from the United States directly to the European mainland. His armored division would soon be attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army and he was promoted to staff sergeant in the battlefield when his commanding officer suffered a nervous breakdown. Suddenly, Andreone was the leader of 16 men – all of whom returned home.
Surviving the ravages of war, Andreone said, was possible by keeping his love for golf close to his heart. “The thought of golf kept me going,” Andreone said. “I have great memories of playing the game and the people I’ve met.
“The other memory I carry with me was off the course.” Andreone gave a long pause and his eyes began to water. “I was on a troop ship coming into New York harbor. Then I saw her (the Statue of Liberty). I thought that I would never see her again.”
When he was discharged on Nov. 6, 1945, Andreone’s commanding officer asked if he would re-enlist. “Captain, “I’ve got some unfinished business,” said Andreone, who returned to Pittsburgh and restarted his life in golf.
In 1947, he became the PGA Head Professional at Pittsburgh’s Edgewood Country Club, a position he held for 34 years. While he enjoyed giving lessons and managing the golf shop, Andreone remained a skilled player.
He posted a 66, which were then course records at Edgewood and St. Clair Country Club. In 1971, Andreone was the Tri-State PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
Andreone made his first of eight holes-in-one in 1939. His last was struck on Dec. 12, 2014, at age 104, using a driver on the 113-yard 14th hole at Palm Aire Country Club near his home in Sarasota, Florida. According to Golf Digest, Andreone is the oldest in history to record an ace on a regulation golf course.
Andreone’s first wife, Henrietta, died of breast cancer in 1977. Betty, his second wife, 101, is the daughter of the late PGA Professional, George Lumsden of Plantation, Florida.
Betty made three holes-in-one before heart surgery ended her playing days. She also has a place in golf history, recruited from managing the shop at Plantation Preserve Golf Course to play a bit part in the motion picture, “Caddyshack.” She can be seen in a brown bathing suit in the scene where caddies caused mayhem in the Bushwood Country Club pool.
Betty and Gus were married Jan. 2, 1985, and became beloved ambassadors at Palm Aire Country Club, where they annually danced past midnight at the New Year’s Eve party.
Andreone carried the distinction of being the oldest PGA Professional with pride. He also explained what the title implied. “A golf professional is a professor,” he said, “and a professional golfer plays for a living.”
Prior to enjoying the Ryder Cup from the comfort of his living room, Andreone shared insight on what he considered the role of a PGA member:
“The job you have in golf is working with people. You treat them all the same if you intend to be a professional. Personality is very important. Treat them alike and learn all you can about your business. Remember that the juniors are the members of tomorrow. You treat your members with fairness and respect and it will come back to you tenfold.”
Andreone is survived by his wife, Betty, and 14 nieces and nephews, and their families. He was preceded in death by seven siblings, and his first wife, Henrietta.
Memorial plans are pending.
Gus Andreone — A Career by the Numbers