Tom Avezzano’s mother sent him to Sprain Lake Golf Course to earn a little money as a caddie in 1956 and he’s been there ever since. This year, the 76-year-old PGA professional will be inducted into the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame.
Avezzano went to work in the Sprain Lake pro shop after a year as a caddie and took over as head pro at the age of 31 in 1975. The Yonkers native, who still lives less than two miles from the golf course, manages the tee sheet, organizes events, sells equipment, and gives golf lessons. Thousands and thousands of lessons.
“What makes me happiest is that I have helped so many people enjoy the game,” he says. “I’m very thankful. People have been great.” Avezzano says he tries to give everyone one simple tip about golf: “This is recreation—and you’re supposed to have fun at it! It’s more important that people learn to enjoy the game than to get a low handicap. That’s the only goal I have.”
One demonstration of Avezzano’s belief that “fun” is synonymous with “golf” is the annual Halloween Scramble Tournament he initiated. This year, so many golfers signed up that the event had to be spread over two days at the end of October. Nearly 250 men and women golfers navigated the golf course that had been transformed into a veritable Halloween-themed amusement park with a skeleton driving the beverage cart and fairways roamed by ghosts, witches, goblins, and the scariest figures of all, a quartet of mimes. A closest-to-the-pin contest was held on the par-three 13th hole, but shots had to dodge an obstacle course of pumpkins to get anywhere near to the hole.
Being named to the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame came as quite a surprise. “I was very humbled by the honor,” Avezzano says, “especially when I see the many others who have received it.” Some of the Hall’s inductees include former New York Giants halfback and Monday Night Football commentator Frank Gifford, former Yankee centerfielder Bernie Williams, and Emmy Award-winning sports journalist Jimmy Roberts.