The American Italian Golf Association
A Monument to Ethnic Pride
It was in the 1930’s and early 1940’s that we remember caddying at the old Arlington golf course with our brothers and uncles and friends under the watchful eye of Pat Guidi, our caddie master. Pat would arrange caddie tournaments on Mondays when we were allowed to play.
Most of the American Italian boys around the city were caddies at Brookside, Scioto, Twin Rivers and Dublin. On some of the Sundays when we were caddying, our parents would bring our traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner right out to the golf course. We would gather under a tree for dinner and this is one of the ways we learned about true ethnic pride and family.
When World War II was declared, the young American Italian men were first to join the various branches of the service. After defending the rights of Americans, most of the men returned home to Columbus with their dreams centered on family, they also dreamed about participating in the game of golf in a more organized manner.
They enjoyed playing “pot games“ and competing against each other. They also enjoyed the brotherhood of the friendships build from the time of adolescence through adulthood. While these young golfers were developing into adult sportsmen, several of them were beginning to mold the dreams of the future. They were dreaming of forming a group that could eventually become an association perpetuating the game of golf and contributing to the community.
Fortunately for these golfers, Pat Guidi, an American Italian golfer and one of the central Ohio’s most popular golfers was preparing to begin the realization of a dream he had envisioned for years. He hoped to organize a group that would create respect for the American Italian golfer in central Ohio , encourage future sons to participate in the sport, create a competitive spirit among its members and eventually construct a golf club with facilities for the golfer and his family.
Pat’s dream took flight when on October 12, 1947, the first golf tournament was held at Indian Springs Golf Course. Following that tournament, a dinner was held at the 20th Century Restaurant at which time the American Italian Golf Association ( AIGA ) was formed and the first elected officials were named: Tony Melfi, President; Pat Guidi, Vice President; Bob Bisciotti, Secretary; Mondo Tarini, Treasurer; and Joe Martina, Sergeant at Arms.
The golf schedule was expanded in 1948 with various golf courses used for the tournaments. A golf league was organized that year with 12 teams of 4 golfers each. Twin Rivers Golf Course was the league’s first golf course used. The AIGA was enjoying a good reputation and the membership for the next several years and monthly meetings were held at the 20th Century Restaurant, Cenci’s, Knotty Pine, Amicon’s and the Gold Room at Twin Rivers. Non playing golfing names were now starting to show up on the membership roster and the group was beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment. It was evident that a clubhouse was necessary, and after many planning sessions, and backed with contributions from members and Italian businessmen, a 33 acre tract of land on Wilson Rd was purchased. Word of the organization spread fast and like a chain reaction the membership began to grow with members joining from all areas of the city. AIGA had several goals, promoting golf, develop our property, to involve community and family and finally to provide an opportunity to work and play together. To develop our property, all members were asked to apply their skills to one of the toughest jobs they could handle. Since many of our members were skilled in construction and due to the strong work ethic of our membership, they process was quickly begun. The physical work of clearing the grounds, digging ditches, sewer lines and foundations, found many willing and able bodies.
With shovels in hand, the members showed up on the AIGA grounds and the idea of a picnic and playground area began to materialize. On that day, the footer for a shelter house was excavated. Months later, walls were being erected under the guidance of Tony DeGiralamo, our building chairman.
The young club, with its vital and diverse members, began to branch out into all directions. There were new ideas coming up all of the time on ways to share time both socially and competitively. There were still annual dances and regular tournaments, but now there seemed a need to include others into our group so new tournament ideas were born. In the Brother-Brother Tournament, brother teams competed against other brother teams throughout the city for rounds of enjoyment. Juniors challenged Senior’s in the Junior-Senior.
Dances were always popular and smokers and outings to Hilliard Raceway began to fill the club’s social calendar. This was a restless time of growth and the Wilson Road Clubhouse was still in the future. It was decided to have a fundraising driver for the money needed to finish this project. Quietly, but not unnoticed, the AIGA continued to grow through the hard work and planning of our capable membership. On June 3, 1954, the new clubhouse at Wilson Road was officially opened. Perhaps when we saw our success, it triggered our desires to share. Bob Adams instituted the 1st Christmas party for children of all AIGA members and Bill Amicon started the Adopt-A-Family program at Christmas. Both of these programs were very successful and brought a sense of honor and accomplishment to the membership. Opportunities for community involvement were everywhere. AIGA had a float in the Columbus Day Parade and we sponsored a night for Jet baseball at Jet Stadium.
As the 50’s neared the end, it was necessary to rethink the organization of the group. All aspects of the organization seemed to be experiencing rapid growth so it was decided that committees be formed with chairmen who would direct the changes with planning in mind.
As always out leaders were dedicated to improvements so in the 60’s they planned and built a 6 hole golf course on out Wilson road property. In 1962, under the leadership of Dan Cacchio, the AIGA became the proud owner of the Groveport Golf Course. At last the big dream had come true and it had an address. This purchase was possible because the AIGA members enthusiastically raised enough money to acquire controlling stock in the Groveport Golf Club. Wilson road was sold to the State of Ohio for the Columbus outer belt highway.
We had managed to amaze ourselves with our determination and dedication to our cause but the best was yet to come. In 1964, club member Mario Gelonese, a land acquisition specialist, was appointed by the club to keep an eye out for a farm or property that could be used to build a golf course on, preferably in the Northwest area of the county. Mario came across a farm on Avery Road in the Dublin area and brought his findings to the club. After and inspection by the membership, it was decided to purchase the farm fur future development. The farm of 142 acres was then sharecropped for a few years with the membership now planning a 18 hole golf course. Rounding out our good fortune of the 60’s and one again concerned for getting behind the great game of golf, the AIGA decided to co-sponsor the LPGA Carling Ladies Open which was held at Walnut Hills Country Club. This was in 1965 and was a first for Columbus and was well accepted in the community.
The late 60’s saws the formulation of plans to build a golf course on the Avery road site in Dublin Ohio. In 1967 and additional 25 acres had been purchased, drawings and estimates for a construction of the golf course were obtained. Construction began in 1968 on Avery road for the golf course and clubhouse and Groveport Golf Club was sold. Riviera officially opened on June 15, 1970 and the AIGA league play started on June 30, 1970. The first scheduled golf tournament was held on July 12, 1970.
AIGA has set sail like Columbus and had discovered a land of opportunity in Dublin Ohio. The AIGA members felt at home and settled into the place their dreams had built. This seemed a good time to honor community members of Italian descent who had made a difference, and the Columbus Day Tournament and Banquet was originated by A.W Minnini in 1971. This is an annual event that recognizes a member of the American Italian community for his or her accomplishments within the community and family experiences.
It was the commitment to excellence begun by Pat Guidi and continued by Presidents, Officers and Members throughout the years which allow the community to look with pride to the American Italian Golf Association. Dedication of time and commitment to success, as well as contributions of vision and creative talent have been a role model for all citizens of Ohio and most specifically golf enthusiasts.
However, the “work is not over” or the “job finished!” Dreams and goals will always be there to excite and motivate to compel and stimulate.
We invite you to be a part of the continuance!