MANATEE -- The biggest celebrities of the day, including Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, Perry Como, Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop, Vic Damone, Carol Burnett and Morey Amsterdam, all came to Bradenton in the 1970s to hang with Phil Galvano.
"Golf coach to the stars," they called him.
He was a celebrity himself -- one of them.
"My dad was the first celebrity golf pro -- in fact, he invented it," says state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. The elder Galvano lived in Manatee County from 1969 to 1981, when he owned and operated the executive golf course called Santa Rosa on Cortez Road.
Manatee County's two-day 18th annual Phil Galvano Classic Golf Tournament begins Thursday with a private outing at Long Boat Key Club followed by a huge tournament Friday with 36 teams competing at Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch.
Hundreds will play in Phil Galvano's honor, all of them contributing registration fees toward a cause he would have relished: the Manatee Education Foundation.
Few of those golfers know who Phil Galvano really was, why he was named by Golf Digest as one of 18 people who had the greatest influence on the game, how he became friends with so many well-known figures or why last year's $289,000 raised for teacher grants and programs would have delighted him, Bill Galvano said.
Years have passed since Phil Galvano died from cancer in 1996.
But his family's memories are still vivid as they recall his life.
"It's nice to remind everyone once every few years who he was," Bill Galvano said. "He was really an incredible story." Read more...