Urzetta, 85, remembered as ‘humble’ champion

Sam Urzetta, who won the 1950 U.S. Amateur championship, died Friday morning of congestive heart failure, according to The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle, which cited the family. He was 85.

Urzetta, the Amateur champion at age 24 with a 39-hole victory against Frank Stranahan, played on two Walker Cup teams, going undefeated in two foursomes and two singles matches. He competed on the PGA Tour in the early 1950s before returning to his hometown to become a club pro and raise a family. From 1956 until 1993, Urzetta was the head professional at the Country Club of Rochester, where his son, Mike, is now the head pro.

Urzetta played in 12 major championships - four U.S. Opens, four Masters and four PGAs - finishing as high as a tie for 12th in the 1956 Masters.

He was a member of the Hall of Fame at St. Bonaventure University, where he starred in basketball.

Jim Mrva, the head professional at Monroe (N.Y.) Golf Club, recalled Urzetta as “humble” in an interview with the Democrat & Chronicle.

“When you were in his presence, you knew you were around someone special,” Mrva said. “For anyone who knew him, you felt like he was your best friend.”

Though Urzetta had been retired for nearly 20 years, he still gave occasional lessons at the Country Club of Rochester until his health had begun to fail.

“He meant so much to so many people in so many different ways,” Mike Urzetta told the Democrat & Chronicle. “It was joyful for me to have him here when I was here. The members loved having him around, for lessons or a story.

“I may have never been the player he was, but I always thought if I could be half the person he was, I would be successful. I’ve never met a more humble person in my entire life. For someone who did so many great things, nothing was ever about him.”

Urzetta is survived by his wife of 58 years, Mary Ellen, and four children - Helen, Joseph, Peter and Mike - and eight grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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