Time is measured in seconds, minutes and hours or days, weeks and years. But it can also be measured in inches and feet. A 36-inch stick, three feet of wood known as a yardstick, connects John Wiener’s memory of Joe Moresco over the 50-plus years that the men were acquainted.
“Joe’s passion for teaching was second to none; Joe impacted my life when I was a young boy,” Wiener said at the plaque dedication ceremony in memory of the Woodmere Club’s longtime golf professional — 1961 to 2001 — at the club on May 6. The plaque will be installed at the driving range.
Moresco, who taught many, many club members and his own children to play the game he loved, took a yardstick and fashioned a handle labeled front and back at the top so Wiener could learn to properly grip a golf club. “I regret that Joe is not here for this,” said Wiener, the club’s president. Moresco died last year of cancer. He was 85. Moresco’s working hat and MacGregor shag bag were also on display.
A native Staten Islander, Moresco graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in English and captured the Staten Island Amateur championship, both in 1953. After serving in the army at Camp Chaffee in Arkansas, he took his first job at River Oaks Country Club in Houston. Getting his foot in the door helped Moresco secure his second job as he came back east and worked at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck with the renowned instructor Claude Harmon in 1960.
“He was always so dedicated to his craft and he was a family man who had time for his kids and grandkids,” said daughter Mary Uterano, a pretty fair golfer and past assistant golf pro. “He wanted to become the best and was always working on his game.”
His work ethic bolstered a career that included qualifying for a number of national championships, including four U.S. Opens. He won the Long Island Professional Golfers’ Association in 1961, and was named Long Island’s PGA Player of the Year. He was president of the Met PGA in 1969 and 1970, and was the section’s Professional of the Year in 1971, the Horton Smith Award winner in 1976, Teacher of the Year in 1992 and the Sam Snead Award recipient in 1999. The Horton Smith Award honors a PGA professional for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education. The Snead Award recognizes contributions to golf.
His education just didn’t extend to the golf course, but how to behave as well. “I was taking lessons with my dad and Joe, I was upset and heaved my club in the air toward the clubhouse, the way Joe looked at me, it was the last time I threw a club,” Wiener said.
Moresco was a PGA of America vice president in 1981 to 1984, and inducted into the Metropolitan Section PGA Hall of Fame in 1988. The Met PGA supports golf across the New York metropolitan area, sponsors tournaments and acts as the sport’s ambassador to younger golfers. Moresco served in nearly every office of the section. He was director of golf instruction at the Clubs of Kingwood in Humble, Texas until he died.
Golf, like fishing, creates its share of tall tales. “Playing in a club tournament, I hit a ball into the swimming pool,” recalled Alan Finkelstein, a club member when Moresco came to Woodmere, about his attention to detail. “Joe was reffing and there was no out of bounds markers [there]. After 45 minutes Joe determined that the club meant for the pool to be out of bounds.”
Several years ago on the 18th hole of the famed St. Andrews course in Scotland, Moresco remained upset about missing a shot on the prior hole. “You could tell he was steamed and that temper, I said, you have to calm down, and Joe melted. He was the greatest guy and he’ll be missed,” said Bobby Jenkins, a former assistant Woodmere pro who just retired as the pro at the Westhampton Country Club.