At 104 years old, Palm Aire Country Club resident Gus Andreone is the PGA's oldest living member — and has a lasting friendship with golf icon Arnold Palmer.
A king and a living legend stood arm in arm on the green of Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, in Orlando, reminiscing over old times.
It was a visit three years in the making for Palm Aire Country Club resident Gus Andreone and American professional golfer Arnold Palmer, a pair of old friends who first crossed paths more than 70 years ago when Andreone was the golf professional at Edgewood Country Club, in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Palmer’s father, Deacon, played Edgewood once a year and on more than one occasion Arnold Palmer would stop in for a visit. Similar to Andreone, Palmer grew up in western Pennsylvania and whenever the younger Palmer would come to the club, the two would share stories. Arnold Palmer even penned a letter for Andreone’s 100th birthday in 2011.
On March 9, Andreone finally had a chance to reconnect with Palmer. Both legends in their own right, Andreone and Palmer, nicknamed the king of golf, shared stories and laughs over lunch before hitting the course for a few holes.
“He looks you right in the eye and gives you a firm handshake,” Andreone said. “That’s Arnie. He couldn’t do enough for us. He’s so good with people.
“Off the course, he does so many good things,” Andreone said. “He’s accomplished so much. They call him the king, and he’s earned it. He’s the king in my opinion.”
At 104 years old, Andreone is the PGA of America’s oldest living member. In honor of the PGA of America’s centennial celebration, CBS Sports highlighted Andreone in its special tribute to the organization during the PGA Championship July 30.
“It’s an honor and impressive to have something like that happen,” Andreone said. “Words can’t describe it. It’s humbling. I’m just an ordinary person who grew up on the other side of the tracks. I used to be a barefoot boy years ago, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come since then.”
Sitting in a lawn chair beside her husband of 32 years on the back patio of Palm Aire’s clubhouse, Betty Andreone couldn’t help but smile. Her eyes sparkling with admiration for her husband, who has become an icon and friend to so many since moving to the community in 1988.
“It’s great,” Betty Andreone said. “This is what keeps him going.”
“She’s a good partner,” Gus Andreone responded.
A native of Bridgeville, Pa., Gus Andreone began caddying at St. Clair Country Club in high school and spent nearly four years caddying, making 60 cents a round, before getting a job at the golf shop cleaning golf clubs.
“As a caddy, you experience and see a lot of different people from all walks of life,” Andreone said. “Everyone is so kind and down to Earth and they want to help you. They left little impressions with me. They all leave a little mark and makes you part of the person you are.”
In 1934, Andreone became an assistant golf professional before becoming a member of the PGA in 1939. He continued working at St. Clair before he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Andreone served three years during World War II, serving under Gen. George S. Patton, before getting out of the service in 1945. He had many close calls overseas. Andreone recalled one instance when he was upstairs in a building three or four stories up. The Germans saw Andreone going upstairs and they had their gun in place. He knew it and he was going up to see if he could see it. They would watch Andreone go upstairs and every time he came around the corner he was facing gun placement. Before long, Andreone heard an explosion, as four tanks were knocked out with the gun.
“My ears were ringing for two weeks,” Andreone said. “The reason I’m here now is all because of the man upstairs. I was able to come back home. When I left the shores of this country and came back to New York and saw the Statue of Liberty, you don’t realize how great this country is until you’re away from it.”
Upon leaving the Army, Andreone returned home to St. Clair and went back to caddying before a job opened up for a head golf professional at Edgewood in 1947. Andreone held the post for 30 years.
Later this year, St. Clair will hold its 100th anniversary celebration and has asked Andreone to be in attendance. Edgewood also plans to hold a golf tournament in honor of its former golf professional.
“It’s an honor for them to have done that for us,” Andreone said. “I wish I could be there.”
Andreone has seen the game grown in more ways than one over the last 80 years. Everything from the attire, formerly knickers to now a more PGA professional style of dress, to the way clubs are made to the level of competition is different than when Andreone began playing.
“It blows your mind,” Andreone said. “The competition today is tremendous and it’s worldwide.”
While his health and age have slowly caught up with him, his passion for the game of golf hasn’t diminished.
Andreone still plays golf three times a week. The only difference now being the distance, nine holes as opposed to 18, and the color of the tees, which are now green.
He often plays five or six holes in the evening with his wife. The couple usually attempts five or six shots before moving on to the next hole. It’s a change from the stroke a hole games the Andreones used to play years ago.
“She used to go all the way to the bank,” Gus Andreone said of his wife.
Once able to shoot in the mid 60s, Andreone’s par now hovers at 90, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t post a memorable accomplishment every now and then.
On Dec. 17, 2014, Andreone hit his eighth hole-in-one on the No. 14 hole of Palm Aire’s Lakes Course. Andreone still holds the course records at St. Clair and Edgewood with 66s.
“Time takes its toll, but I’m playing golf,” Andreone said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is. That’s the name of the game as you get older. At the end of the day, don’t let a bad game spoil your day. There are people who wish they could be playing on the golf course outside. What could be better? So enjoy it.”
Andreone credits his longevity with his daily routine. He wakes up every morning and completes a series of stretches, starting with his feet and working his way all the way up to his back and arms.
From there, Andreone will hop on his exercise bike for 30 minutes. He also swims for 30 minutes if the weather permits. In the evenings, the Andreones can be found walking hand in hand through the neighborhood.
“You have to do what your body will let you do at the time,” Andreone said.