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Happy Father's Day

Tony dedicated this weekend's blog to his dad with a look back at the special bond he had with his mentor.

A Tribute to Dad:
It’s a Story of Weather and Golf and a Special Bond


Whenever I meet friends and family and the conversation turns to parents, I am quick to say that “my mom taught me the good things in life and my dad the bad things”. At first glance that may seem rather demeaning to dad. But it is intended as the ultimate complement. Here’s how!

What bad things did dad teach me? Well, dad showed me how to order a beer and how to play a parley card. You see, in order to compete in the world, dad knew a man must have a wealth of experiences to succeed. Some of those experiences are going to cater to the less sophisticated things in life (mom’s job was to show me that other side).

Turns out my dad never graduated high school, but he was street savvy. He fought with the First Marine Corp Division at Guadalcanal and Pele lieu. “We were the bastards of the war in the Pacific campaign”, dad reminded me as we watched WWII highlights on the History Channel. “Ike and Patton focused their attention on winning in Europe at the expense of our troops fighting in the tropics”, he proudly asserted.

His stories of lightning clanging off the tanks in the Pacific were among my favorite bedtime tales. That saga stands out as does the story of Klondike Anthony, a fictional character who lived in Alaska where it was always cold and snowy. Dad knew I loved winter so he conjured up a make-believe weather hero for me to latch onto. Dad’s are clever that way!

I also remember Dad telling me how a guy named Elmer was hit in the same foxhole he fought in. I don’t recall if that soldier died. Doesn’t matter, if he didn’t others near my dad did. Why, you ask? So some 60 years later I could live a good life free of Communism and enjoy a career in Meteorology at one of the best TV stations in America.

Ah yes, meteorology! My interest in weather showed its first spark when I was 10 years old and we had a Christmas Eve snowstorm in Philly. From there, that interest “snowballed” and all the while dad was taking mental notes. My mom wanted me to be a doctor, but my dad saw that sparkle in my eye when it came to weather. Dad’s premonition that meteorology would be a lucrative field someday proved to be dead on!

Since meteorology was science oriented and I was a straight A math student, dad knew that the weather would be a perfect fit for my God given talents. It was a natural match, dad surmised!

Oddly, when I chose meteorology, my dad gave me one last “food for thought” nugget to gnaw on. Dad had become a successful real estate salesman with his street smarts, debonair demeanor and some old fashioned hard work (he worked 2 jobs when he was struggling to support his family in the early days). “Son”, dad warned, “study meteorology with my blessing and financial support, but if you want to make money in this world, you have to go into sales”. Sure enough, 25+ years into my TV career and I do not make as much money as my dad made in his heyday. On the other hand, I doubt dad ever enjoyed his career as much as I do. His admonition was a final test I needed to pass.

Oh yeah, dad also taught me how to play golf. Starting at age 10, dad began to take me under his wings. He knew golf, a sport he didn’t take up until in his 40s (those days of two jobs put a crimp on any social activity) was a sport for a lifetime. A sport that was also a jumping ground for meeting people in the corporate world, the movers and shakers who could open doors to new challenges and opportunities.

I still remember the pride dad beamed when I entered the Philadelphia Pub Links Better Ball Tournament in 1979. Round number one was played in a steady, annoying rain and dad walked all 6 hours/18 holes with me and my partner (Munchie DiRugeris). We were among the first groups off and remarkably, held the clubhouse lead for more than 2 hours after we signed our scorecard. Dad walked every sopping step of the way that day.

Before he died five years ago, he still looked forward to riding 18 holes when I came home to visit. Naturally, I convinced him to hit a few tee shots on the par 3’s!

In fact, one tradition that my dad and I shared was to watch the US Open every Fathers day weekend. We did that for the last time 5 years ago when Jim Furyk won at Olympia Fields. This weekend, Bethpage Black is the sight of the Open and I will watch anxiously to see if Tiger Woods can repeat his Torrey Pines victory from last year. I will think of dad often and get a bit misty eyed no doubt.

I had walked my first US Open with dad at age 15 at venerable Merion in Philly. That day dad routed for the merry Mex, Lee Trevino, and I pulled for the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus. “How do you know what to do at a golf tourney,” I asked dad. “Just follow the roar”, was his insightful advice!

In the rain plagued 2009 US Open, more wet weather is a distinct possibility this weekend, lending some credence to a Monday finish. Our weekend coverage will follow the leaders for all 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday as we await the crowning of the new National Champion of American golf!

My Friday First at Five outdoors report is a tribute to all dads, including mine. I think you will enjoy it!

Happy Fathers Day.
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