St. Thomas (right) with friend and Past GCSANE President Bob DiRico
The Ouimet Fund notes, with great sadness, the passing of legendary superintendent Bob St. Thomas on July 31, 2014 at the age of 83 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His family has requested that memorial donations be made in Bob’s memory to the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, 300 Arnold Palmer Blvd., Norton, MA 02766.
The below excerpt comes from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New England (GCSANE) newsletter tribute on August 3:
Bob, or “The Saint” as he was affectionately called, grew up in Worcester, MA. The son of Oscar and Loretta, he was the second youngest of six brothers and sisters. His family owned a tire business on Park Ave. and it is there that Bob began his rambunctious ways. After graduating from Worcester Trade and off to Gloucester for a summer break tragedy struck. In his euphoria of seeing the cool waters he dove off a bridge not realizing it was low tide. He broke his neck and prospects for The Saint were looking grim. Through sheer determination and many months of healing he recovered. His prognosis was, no sports of any sort or physical activity. He was told to find a desk job. In Bob’s inimitable way he did the opposite.
He was hired by Tony Sperandio, greenkeeper at Framingham Country Club, around 1950. Bob fell in love with the business and most especially the game. He then attended UMass, where he was one of the very early graduates of the Winter School. Soon followed his first head greenkeeping position at Cohasse Golf Club in Sturbridge, MA. He and his family settled in Prides Crossing (Beverly) while he roamed the North Shore selling equipment lines such as Gravely and Locke. The sales industry was short lived and before long he was selected as Superintendent at Hyannisport Golf Club. He crossed the Cape Cod Canal in 1963 and that’s where he found his home in golf and life.
“The Saint” spent 25 years tending to the grounds at the “Port”. Those were incredible years. During his tenure at Hyannisport, in the early 70’s, he managed the design and construction of Iyannough Hills Golf Club (Hyannis Golf Club). In the early 80’s he partnered with his good friend Danny Hostetter to begin design/construction of Willowbend Country Club. He officially left Hyannisport in 1988 and by then he was completely immersed in construction of Willowbend. Economic downturn hit. He operated the club for the bank for a few years, until purchased by the Fireman’s (Reebok). It would have seemed Bob’s career at Willowbend was doomed but quite the opposite. The new owner and Bob hit it off immediately. They went on to complete Willowbend, build another course, Rio Mar, in Puerto Rico, then add another nine holes at Willowbend. He never really retired from golf as he continued to consult, offer advice, and found time to lease-manage Chatham Seaside Links. He was President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Cape Cod in 1969.
Bob’s golfing career was legendary. He played left-handed, Lefty, and had a deft putting touch. He won many events, but one of his biggest accomplishments was to win the Sea Gulls played at Hyannisport. He had eleven holes-in-one. I remember that two of those came back to back, exactly a week apart, same hole (#15) at Hyannisport. Same foursome, same match, and both times even in the match. Of course he and his partner won the match! Incredible stuff, you can’t make it up.
Bob had other interests as well. He maintained cranberry bogs, loved reading, card playing, clamming, swimming and at one time was a pretty decent tennis player. So much for a guy that was told to live life sedentary! He also loved taking long walks with his dogs.
He is survived by his wife Maria. Maria stood by and cared for Bob through a long fought battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Bob is also survived by daughters Mary, Suzanne, Jackie, his son Joe, several grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Predeceased by brothers Bud and Buck. Survived by sisters Grace, Lillian, and Loretta.
*Bob DiRico (Golf Course Superintendent-Retired & Past President, GCSA of New England)