Game Changers

Vincenzo Rallo, PGA, is Saving Lives as an NYPD Officer & Changing Lives Through Golf

By Ryan Adams, PGA
Published on

It was Valentine's Day in Brooklyn and Vincenzo Rallo knew what he needed to do.
Rallo, a New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer, and his partner Officer Mark Kalwa normally do the afternoon to midnight shift but this time they were on a day tour in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. And they heard screams and calls for help coming from Langston Hughes Houses complex.
Then they saw smoke coming from the building. It was time to bolt into action.
"There was no time to wait for FD (NYFD)," remembers Rallo, who's also a PGA of America Golf Professional. "In the moment, it's like a switch gets flipped. We had to do something."
Vincenzo Rallo during an NBC New York interview.
Vincenzo Rallo during an NBC New York interview.
Officers Rallo and Kalwa put a call into NYFD, then ran into the burning building, where their body-worn cameras show how they were first met with a wall of smoke. They had to do a "one in, one out" method, using their good air to go into the smoke-filled areas of the building to pull people out.
Officer Rallo took a young mom's toddler from her arms who looked like she was about to faint. He helped her down the stairs, with her baby in arms. "It was the most gratifying thing," Rallo told NBC New York. "The kid being safe was just the coolest feeling."
Officer Kalwa helped a man with crutches go down the stairs. There were more children stuck on the fourth floor, so Officer Rallo and a firefighter went back and were met by a father struggling to breathe and holding two toddlers. The firefighter helped the man, while Rallo took the kids down the four flights and brought him to his squad car to warm them up with blankets.
In all, the rescue operation was all of 10-15 minutes and the two officers were able to get 12 people out of the building burning. No deaths, no major injuries.
"You always talk about the 'what if' scenarios, and this was one of them," says Rallo. "In the end, it's all about getting people in and out as safely as possible. You do what you have to do because just standing there . . . that's not an option."
Officers Mark Kalwa and Rallo being interviewed by NBC New York.
Officers Mark Kalwa and Rallo being interviewed by NBC New York.
Officer Rallo isn't a guy who likes to stand around when it comes to being a PGA of America Member either. After graduating from Penn State University PGA Golf Management program in 2008, he was an assistant and merchandiser at a few clubs before becoming a Neighborhood Coordination Officer for the NYPD in 2013. He keeps his membership active by serving as a rep for True Linkswear, but also through running a program special to him.
Last summer, he created PGA Bridges with the help of a Metropolitan PGA Section Foundation grant. It’s a collaborative effort between the Section and NYPD aimed at growing the game for underserved and minority kids to help build police relations within inner city communities. It also introduces the game to a demographic that would never be exposed to golf, giving local youth another sports outlet to pull them away from gangs and keep them on the right path.
Rallo and a fellow NYPD officer at a PGA Bridges event.
Rallo and a fellow NYPD officer at a PGA Bridges event.
Rallo helping a PGA Bridges youngster.
Rallo helping a PGA Bridges youngster.
"These kids, a lot of them have hard lives and they're used to this concrete jungle where golf doesn't seem possible," says Rallo. "This program changes that."
Almost Golf sent a crate of golf balls and inflatable pins for Officer Rallo to use, while Golf Daddy send strike mats. Rallo then built a mini golf course with the equipment and taped together pool noodles to give the kids, 35-40 in all, their first golf experience.
"They see a different perspective of us as officers than they're used to," adds Rallo. "And sometimes we don't even hit a shot. We'll listen to them, let them vent, tell us how school went. Golf is just a bonus. Ultimately, we're there to help."
And no matter where Officer Rallo is in New York City, helping people is, well, the right thing to do.