Elmsford, N.Y. – The Metropolitan Golf Association is pleased to announce that David C. Catalano, the longtime Director at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y.,will receive the 2011 MGA Distinguished Service Award. Catalano, 64, is being recognized for more than 40 years of service to the game’s public sector and for helping to bring the benefits of public golf to a worldwide audience through his administration of two U.S. Opens at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. His commitment and dedication helped make the 2002 U.S. Open one of the most successful in USGA history. It changed the way the game’s leadership viewed the nation’s public facilities and opened the door for future U.S. Opens and other top-ranked national events to look beyond the private sector to offer a world-class golf challenge to the game’s best players.
The MGA Distinguished Service Award was created in 1973 and is presented annually to a candidate who has contributed “distinguished service to golf and its related activities, consistent with the valued standards and honorable traditions of the game.” Some of its past winners include past USGA executive directors Joe Dey, David Fay and P.J. Boatwright, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Dave Anderson and Rees Jones.
Catalano’s connection to the facility he helped to make famous runs deep. A Long Islander through and through, Catalano grew up near Bethpage State Park, and took his first job at the park in 1967 as a summer seasonal employee, which consisted of picking up trash in the picnic areas. In 1973 he became a permanent, full-time employee of the maintenance staff, where he learned all aspects of course maintenance, and in 1976 was named superintendent of the Green Course. He left Bethpage in 1978 to become the Park Manager of Caleb Smith State Park and then Sunken Meadow, both on Long Island, and was then transferred to Park Administration headquarters in 1982 as the Assistant Superintendent for Long Island State Parks. Following a series of promotions that saw him rise to Director of Operations of the Long Island region in 1991, Catalano made his return to Bethpage as Director in October 1995, less than a year before the announcement in 1996 that Bethpage would be awarded the 2002 U.S. Open.
In 1997, Catalano made one of the best strategic decisions of his career when he hired Craig Currier as head golf course superintendent. Currier, then 26, engineered the long-neglected Black Course’s transformation from a diamond in the rough to the crown jewel of public golf. Catalano worked closely with Currier at every stage of this project while overseeing the myriad of logistical and business details involved in the transformation of the entire Bethpage facility into a world-class venue. The result was “The People’s Open” in 2002, which exceeded all expectations. So impressive was Bethpage’s debut as the first truly public facility to ever host the U.S. Open that the USGA almost immediately awarded Bethpage a second Open in 2009.
“He was the backbone of the entire operation [at Bethpage]” Currier says of his mentor and former boss. “If you could dream up the perfect 13-year working relationship, that was it. I can’t think of a more deserving person for this award than Dave. What he has done for public golf may never be repeated.”
Catalano’s devotion to bringing the rewards of public golf into the spotlight were not just focused on national events. He has been an avid supporter of local golf, reaching out to organizations like the MGA, Met PGA, and Long Island Golf Association to make use of Bethpage’s facilities to host numerous events. Among the many tournaments hosted by one of Bethpage’s courses have been two Met Opens; two MGA/MetLife Public Links Championships; the Ike Championship, six WMGA/MGA Women’s Public Links Championships, and the Carey Cup Matches. Since 1996, the Black Course has also been the home of the New York State Open. But the effects of two successful U.S. Opens keep Bethpage on the national radar screen, evidenced by the PGA Tour’s announcement that it will hold The Barclays FedEx Cup event on the Black Course in August 2012.
Catalano has also worked to help pass along the great story of Bethpage to a new generation, frequently acting as guest speaker at junior events and clinics and always taking time to talk to young people about its history as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression, and its true recreational importance to the local community. He was known to surprise youngsters by bringing out the U.S. Open trophy at the end of a clinic and allow them to touch and pose with one of the most coveted prizes in golf, making the Bethpage experience all the more meaningful.
Outside of his duties at Bethpage, Catalano has a strong philanthropic side. He was instrumental in setting up the Michael Lawton Environmental Scholarship, and recently established the Dave Catalano/Craig Currier Scholarship, set to be awarded for the first time in the summer of 2012 to a college student majoring in turf grass management or another golf course-related field for an internship at Bethpage. Catalano also works closely with the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, and helped bring their Regional and National championships to Bethpage. He also donates his time with local groups, such as the Girl Scouts, Rotary Club and historical societies, to name a few, teaching them about the history of Bethpage, as well as the preparation it takes to put on two U.S. Opens.
Catalano is a past recipient of the Sidney Shapiro Administrative Award, the Maple Leaf Award and the Huttleston Award, all for his outstanding service in the parks department. The Met PGA honored him with their prestigious Sam Snead Award in 2008. He officially retired in April of 2011, but his love of Bethpage and the people he works with keeps him involved on a seasonal basis.
In an age when golf is working hard to become a more accessible game, David Catalano has done more to elevate the image of the public side of golf than any other individual. For his more than 40 years of service, the MGA is proud to present him the Association’s highest honor.
The award will be presented at the 114th MGA Annual Meeting and Dinner on Wednesday, December 7 at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.