|The Club Pro|
|Miami Valley' s Frank Marchi fits the role|
|By GARY NUHN Daily News Sportswriter (1977)|
The first time he swung at a golf ball, little, 9-year-old Frank Marchi figured he was going to hit it so hard; he'd knock it right on out of Columbus. So, let's see, grip tight, big backswing, let 'er rip.
"I missed it and fell down in a heap and couldn’t get up” Marchi was remembering the other day”. “It turned out I had taken my knee cap out of place and I was laid up for two weeks”
From those humble beginnings, one of Dayton's most respected golf pros sprang. Frank Marchi is 53 now .and has been at Miami Valley Golf Club 24 years, the last eight as head pro. To show you how far he has come, he hasn't swung and missed once this month.
A couple of weeks ago, the Miami Valley PGA met and made its annual Pro of the Year selection. Someone mentioned Frank's name, someone else said, "Hey, he's perfect; what're we waitin' for?" and someone else said, "OK, Frank's it; meeting adjourned."
IT IS ALMOST THAT simple to pick Marchi as the consummate head club pro. When it was suggested to his assistant, John Kurzynowski, that perhaps Marchi would be the man to model a club pro textbook after, Kurz thought awhile and agreed.
"He always thinks of the members in everything he does," Kurz said. "He goes out of his way, whether it's to fill a foursome or to make a new member comfortable. If somebody needs a club repaired and the only place it can be done is Cincinnati, Frank will make sure it gets there, even if he has to take it himself."
At Miami Valley, Marchi has 338 club members sometimes pulling in 338 directions. He has learned to cope, sort of like Rawly Eastwick with the bases loaded. He's cool. “I used to let things upset me a good bit," he says. "But I don't do that anymore. I figure if there's a problem, it isn't going to get any better by me blowing up.”
"I've seen him when a club member was making outrageous demands on him," Kurzynowski says. "But all he does is get red in the face; I've never heard him yell at one."
Marchi is a small man with a ruddy complexion who looks very· much like tennis player Rod Laver. He complains he isn't the player he once was. He has had hand problems for nearly 10 years now. "I had'em checked for gout and arthritis and the doctor said neither was there," Marchi says. ''He just said to take aspirin when I play. I do, but when I get near the end, the pain is there, anyway."
HIS GOOD FRIEND, Jim Rudolph, co-owner of Holly Hills, was asked if the bad hands affected Marchi's fishing. "Naw, because he never catches anything anyway," Rudolph said.
Chris Hale, now the head pro at Vandalia's Cassel Hills, said Marchi was like a father to him when he was Frank's assistant. "He made me take on responsibility," Hale said: "Like when he knew I was ready to give lessons, but I didn't, he just said, 'Go do it,' and that was it. I'd see him in the trees behind the practice range watching over me, just like a dad.
''He did other things like forcing me to handle situations, so I would be ready for my own head job. If a guy came in with a busted club, Frank would suddenly leave the shop and it was up to me. And he forced me to take the Cassel Hills job; he wouldn't let me stay because he thought I was ready, even though I was just 24."
When Chris Hale's older brother, Randy, came back from Vietnam in 1969, he couldn't find a job. "Frank hired him, even though he didn’t need an extra man," Chris said. "He just did it ‘cause of what a guys he is."
Marchi's nice-guy image is no ruse, according to Rudolph, who knows him best. But Rudolph says there is also a fun side to Marchi, which includes being able to find any golf course, but getting lost' going anywhere else.
Rudolph remembers when the Met was closing its downtown store, he and Marchi went to the auction. "We didn't know what would be there," Rudolph says, "but we figured we might be able to use something in our shops (Rudolph was then at NCR). Well, we found some clerks' stools for fitting shoes and decided we could use one of those.
"We were standing in the audience talking and Frank always talks with his hands. Well, he's waving his hands around and talking and I'm talking, and the price kept going up and pretty soon the auctioneer got really mad and we wound up buying all 35-foot stools."
FRANCIS JOSEPH MARCHI was born in 1923 of immigrant Italian parents in Columbus. (Local pros call him, among other things, the Italian Stallion.) His dad and mom ran a grocery store. By the time he was born, Frank already had three older brothers - Gene, 19; Al, 17; and Italo (called Tee), 10.
He was named after yet another older brother who had died. The first Frank was about 2 or 3 years old when he followed Gene and Al to a golf course where they caddied. The two older boys tried to chase the baby back home. "When they were chasing him back, he fell off the curb in front of a truck and was killed," Marchi said. "I was the next one to come along, so mom named me after him."
The Marchi boys caddied at 25 cents a bag per nine holes to help the family, which also included five girls. "I remember taking money home to mom and she'd give me back a dime," Frank says. For all of them, caddying led to playing and playing led to loving the game and loving the game led to making a career out of it. Gene was first. Then Al leased a course just outside Columbus. The others followed as if programmed by a master career deciding computer somewhere.
Gene came to Dayton first, as an assistant at Miami Valley in 1930. Soon, he was elevated to head pro, where he would remain until 1969, an Incredible tenure any king would be proud of. Gene bought into a driving range and when Frank graduated from high school, he came to help Gene run it.
SOMEONE STARTED World War II and someone had to finish it. Frank went in the Air Force and flew 52 bombing missions over Germany, France and Italy. "We got shot up quite often, but I never got hit," he says. "You really didn't get afraid until you got over the targets and you'd see that first poof of smoke outside. They were shooting at you and anyone who says he wasn't scared then is crazy. Every time you went up, you wondered if It was the last time."
When the war ended, Frank enrolled at Ohio State. Then Gene called and said Norm Butler needed an assistant at Wright-Pat. Golf was in Frank Marchi's chromosomes; how could he refuse? In 1953, Frank took a job as head pro at Lancaster CC near Columbus.
But when his brother, Gene, beckoned once more later that year, Frank gave up his head job to become Gene's assistant and the two ran Miami Valley together for the next 15 years. Frank had
an opportunity to become Hueston Woods' first pro when it opened, but at the last moment, withdrew his name.
When Gene retired in 1969, there was never a question on who would replace him. Arnie Palmer could have applied, and he probably wouldn't have been granted an interview. "Sorry, Arnie," the card would have read.
Now, Frank is the next-to-last of the golfing Marchis. Al, once the Ohio Open champ, died at age 49. Gene died just one week after he retired. And Italo died last November at age 62, leaving behind a nine-hole course he designed (Cliffside outside Tipp City) and the only golfing Marchi son, John, who is Cliff side's head pro.
"I don't think I ever want to retire," Frank Marchi said, looking up from a glass of iced tea. "I feel I'm good at managing and taking care of a pro shop. I feel like a part of Miami Valley."