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Mt. Lebanon celebrates 100-year history of oldest Municipal Golf Course

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, July 12, 2007
By Laura Pace,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Amid the lush green fairways dotted with golf carts, 150 people Saturday evening toasted the 100th anniversary of the Mt. Lebanon Public Golf Course on Pine Avenue during a daylong fete that culminated in the unveiling of the Historic Landmark plaque honoring the oldest municipal course in the state.

Hackers and duffers basked in the setting sun, still clad in their saddle shoes, resplendent in plaid pants, shorts and polos. With a birds-eye view of the nine-hole course and the surrounding homes of Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon, they regrouped under a huge white tent, swaying to the music of Uptown Rhythm and Brass band, as they tilted back cups of wine, beer and soda and munched on local fare from a line of chafing dishes.

The most saluted couple of the evening was George C. Smith, and his wife, Margaret, who met in physics class at Mt. Lebanon High School in 1944. Mr. Smith’s forefathers bought the 197 acres that later became the golf course.

“I think they made a good investment,” he said.

Also basking in the family connection was Templeton Smith Jr., whose great-grandfather, Richard L. Smith, was George Smith’s father’s brother, on Templeton’s mother’s side, no less. And yes, they had a cheat sheet on all of this to keep it straight.

Templeton Smith Jr. recalled his childhood when Mt. Lebanon staffers used to ice the hill just off the No. 7 tee and rent toboggans in winter. His wife, Lea Anderson, clad in a striking black and white halter and with red peep-toe shoes, also beamed at the memories.

Tickets to the morning tournament were $200 for a foursome and $400 for a foursome for the afternoon tourney. All players were invited to the evening gala, but tickets to just the gala were $50. While the total amount raised and the final cost was not yet available, officials said proceeds probably more than covered the bill, as many of the items and services were given free or at cost.

The goal of the event was to raise the profile of the course and spark awareness.

“I can tell you that we did it on a total shoestring,” said public information officer Susan Fleming Morgans.

Buckets of golf balls anchored Mylar balloons floating along the cart paths and tables wore breezy linens in a honeydew and cantaloupe plaid.

Celebrating the event were commissioners Keith Mulvihill, Barbara Logan, John Daley and Dale Colby, along with Castle Shannon Mayor Don Baumgarten, who was thrilled to live so close to the facility.

“To have a course like this in the middle of a residential area is great,” he said. He also played the links earlier that day, as did 148 other golfers in two sold-out tourneys.

He wouldn’t cough up his score.

Other Lebo notables included Municipal Manager Stephen Feller and Assistant Manager Marcia Taylor, municipal engineer Dan Deiseroth and Fire Chief Nick Sohyda, Public Information Officer and Mt. Lebanon Magazine Editor Susan Fleming Morgans, Recreation Director David Donnellan and Golf Pro Matt Kluck, who gave clinics earlier in the day and wore an ear-to-ear grin throughout the event.

Also lauded were golf committee members Tom Butcher, Chris Kemerer, Sandy Loughren, Michael Meerhoff, Anne Noland, Paul Prisco and Johann Smit.

Helping to run the show were community chairpersons Steve and Amelia Dean and honorary chairs Rocky and Jan Bleier, along with host Alby Oxenreiter.

“I took a seven on No. 7 today, just to celebrate,” Mr. Oxenreiter said, noting Saturday’s date of 7/7/07.

Mr. Bleier, a Mt. Lebanon resident, toasted the quality of the course and the humor of golfing with Mr. Oxenreiter.

“It only took us 3-1/2 hours to play because after every hole, Alby would tell another story,” said the great former Steelers running back and Vietnam veteran.

“It’s wonderful,” he said of the course, which has seen more than a million rounds of golf since it began as a three-hole club in 1907. “It will be here for a lifetime.”

Its storied past included a stint as a zoological garden in the 1870s, reported Steve Dean. And when it finally became a golf course, it was only the second in the country to allow women to play — and join — years before women even earned the right to vote.

Mt. Lebanon purchased the George Ormiston-built course in 1948. It is currently in the midst of a five-year renovation plan, which has included more than $330,000 worth of improvements on the way to a major overhaul, which could include a new clubhouse and practice range.

The daylong celebration included two sold-out tournaments that led up to the evening gala. A silent auction of rare sports memorabilia featured such items as an Arnold Palmer-signed commemorative poster and autographed Tiger Woods photo. Looking thrilled with her auction score, Mt. Lebanon Public Library Director Cynthia Richey toted away a signed Hank Aaron photo and Lance Armstrong photo, both large and impressively framed.

No one won the coveted $10,000 putt-off, which would have required a 50-foot putt on the sixth green, nor did anyone take home the $20,000 for a hole-in one.

But the four-person Mt. Lebanon team of Frank Nappi, Mark Cuddy, Paul Lackner and Steve Magdsick reveled in their 155-point victory in the afternoon tournament, with Mr. Nappi saluting course superintendent David Ames for making everything so green and perfect.

“It was fun,” Mr. Nappi said. The foursome took home $25 each for their victory.

Louise Sturgess, executive director of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and a Mt. Lebanon resident, told the crowd the foundation has awarded 525 plaques since it began the program in 1968.

“I don’t know of any other group who deserves this more,” she said of the committee that nominated the course. She said it’s the first time the foundation received a nomination bound as a book and filled with color photos and documenting the course’s players, including members of the Mellon family.

The scorecard
Winners of the Mt. Lebanon 100th anniversary golf tournament on Saturday were:

Longest drive (women): Nicole Donellan.

Longest drive (men): Bob Zanone.

Closest to the pin (men): Ed Kuenzig.

Closest to the pin (women): Janet Kluck.

Longest putt: Mary Meerhoff.

Sponsors tournament (18 holes) winners:

First place, score of 155: Frank Nappi, Mark Cuddy. Paul Lackner, Steve Magdsick.

Second place, score of 158: Bill, Ken, Tom and William Zanone.

Third place, score of 161: Jim and Tyler Noland; John Nichols and Colin Gray.

Friends and Family Event (nine holes) winners, all scored 89, first-place team won with a seven on the second hole of a scorecard playoff:

First place: Ken Kierzkowski, Paul and Mary Ann Fitzgerald, Paul Ciaverella.

Second place: Ken Szefi, Erich Stabenow, Jim Simmons and Paul Cullen.

Third place: Randall Stewart, Joe Gioffre, Mike Lewarchik and Dennis Scarsella.

(Laura Pace can be reached at or 412-851-1867. )

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633