Golf Course Management

JAN 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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46 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.19 was hired at Chester Engineers, everything changed. He married Susan, his wife of nearly 54 years (they have three children). In his spare time at Chester Engineers, Tanto earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1967. Tanto also took up golf. "I went to Sears, Roebuck and Co. and bought a set of Doug Ford clubs (Ford won two major championships, including the 1957 Masters)," he says. Tanto became so enthusiastic about golf that he purchased a bulldozer and built Meado - wink Golf Course in Murrysville, Pa., on his wife's family's farm. The board of directors at Greenville (Pa.) Country Club heard about his project, paid a visit, and were so impressed by what they saw that they asked Tanto to build them a back nine to make their facility 18 holes. It resulted in a life-changing experience. "When they asked me to build it, I didn't have a company, so I quit engineering and didn't use my degree very much longer," says Tanto, who in 1969 borrowed $5,000 from his bank to launch Tanto Construction and Supply. An oil crisis in 1973 played a key role in Tanto's shifting gears — a decision that fueled his company to major achievements. "People were scared. Panicked. I took a couple of shapers to Florida, and they couldn't buy gas. The oil crisis forced me into irrigation because I couldn't compete with the local guys to move earth. But I wanted to stay in golf," says Tanto, who resides in Greensburg, Pa. Not only did he stay in golf, Tanto cemented his legacy in it. He has worked on more than 25 of the top 100 courses as listed by Golf Digest, including Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. Relationships he built with superintendents were crucial to his success, Tanto says. "I compare them to farmers. They're disciplined. With them, it's not, 'I'm not going to work today.' They taught me a lot. They take pride in it. It's easy to take pride in it because ev - erybody can see it. You see the results. They put in whatever it takes. They're a different breed of people." At Ligonier (Pa.) Country Club, Tanto installed irrigation for a first-time superinten - dent. You may recognize him: Mark Kuhns, CGCS, who went on to become GCSAA president in 2009. In 1978, Kuhns was only one year into his job when Tanto was hired to do the work, an event that had meaningful impact. "Tom actually took this young guy under his wing. He also took me and a group of us to my first Golf Industry Show in At - lanta in 1979," says Kuhns, director of grounds at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. "He cared for you, and he made a difference in my career. He is significant." Famed golf course architects have worked with Tanto, including Rees Jones. The two - some created Totteridge Golf Course in Greensburg, Pa. "His friendship gave me credibility in the industry," says Tanto, who also has been involved in projects with Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman. Jones cannot imagine a more deserving recipient for this award than Tanto. "He'll help anybody. You don't meet many like him in your lifetime," Jones says. "He's a great salesman because he's so real. He paid for dinner. Every time. He'd say, 'I came here (to America) with nothing, and I plan to leave with nothing.' Just a generous person. He didn't want glory. He just wanted the right thing for clients and superintendents. Look what he made of his life. Only in America." Tanto says his professional approach was simple. "The key was to do a good job. Don't cause problems for the architect and superintendent," he says. "I promise one thing: When I leave, it's (a project) not going to be a problem. The superintendents depend on us. We could not let them down." In 2003, Tanto sold his business, which now is called Tanto Irrigation. He remains a consultant for the company and has no thoughts of retiring. "I'm 80 and still looking for opportunities. I want to keep going," Tanto says. "I don't have to go to work every day, but I want to." Tanto still has relatives in Hungary. He has returned there and bought and restored a golf course. His mother, Jolan, came to visit him years after he had left the war-torn coun - try, to see what he had accomplished. He dearly holds tight to what she witnessed. "When I left Hungary, I had to prove it to her that I'd be successful," Tanto says. "She was proud of me." Howard Richman (hrichman@gcsaa.org) is GCM 's associate editor. "He'll help anybody. You don't meet many like him in your lifetime. He's a great salesman because he's so real." — Golf course architect Rees Jones

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