Carry The Torch

Carry The Torch

In this exclusive issue "sneak peek," GCI's Pat Jones announces in July's Teeing Off the recipient of the first Stan Zontek Scholarship Award.

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July 3, 2013

“He would have loved this more than anybody.”

That’s what Dr. Kimberly Erusha, national director of the Green Section, told me when I asked her what Stanley Zontek would think about the way things turned out at the U.S. Open at Merion.

Stan was there in spirit, all right. The week began with Matt Shaffer dedicating the turf team’s work to his memory. The week ended with the American golfing public being reminded of the traditional values of the USGA that Stan loved so much.

As I looked around Merion’s maintenance compound, I realized how many folks there had been close to Stan. His successor, Darrin Brevard, obviously, and the rest of the Green Section folks like Chris Hartwiger and Kim who were there. Penn State faculty like John Kaminski, Andy McNitt and Tom Watschke. Trailblazers like Latshaw, Zimmers, Roney and Jennings. Penn State alumni too numerous to name. And dozens of other supers and assistants who’d gained wisdom – both about turf and about life – from him. It was a celebration of Stan even though there was no shrine or no big deal made other than Matt’s comments early in the week.

I showed up at Merion on Tuesday with a plan to somehow announce the winner of GCI’s first Stanley Zontek Scholarship Award during the event. I had been carrying the entries around with me in my backpack for weeks, agonizing about who to choose and, on the plane out to Philly, I had finally made my decision.

Frankly, the entrants were all great. I mean great. Outstanding grades, amazing recommendations and essays about Stan and what he meant to our community that brought tears to my eyes. (Several of them ended with Stan’s trademark “Go Golf!”) I narrowed the list of finalists for the $2,500 scholarship down to three and just couldn’t decide. They all deserved the award.

Finally, sitting on the plane on the way to the Open, it occurred to me to ask, “Who would Stan pick?” Then I realized, all other factors being equal, he’d pick the Nittany Lion.

So, it is with great pleasure that I announce that Collin Harley, a second-year student in the Penn State two-year program, is the first recipient of the Stanley Zontek Scholarship. Collin is #1 in his class with a 3.89 GPA, a leader in the school’s turf club and is currently interning at Aronimink GC. Prior to that, he worked for several years at Linfield National GC.

Mostly, what caught my attention in reviewing his essay that he really went out a learned about Stan. He talked to alums and folks around the school to capture the essence of the man: humor, common sense and a passion for the pure joy of golf.

I look forward to meeting Collin in person soon. I plan to tell him that the quid pro quo for accepting the scholarship is to do this one important thing:

Carry the torch.