I was perhaps the luckiest kid in the world, for one very good reason… my Father, William J. “Bill” Kargetta, was always my best friend.

‘Pop’ was a pretty good athlete, a very good high-school baseball pitcher & college amateur golfer, and he enjoyed all sports in Michigan… Red Wings Hockey, Tiger Baseball, Lions & Wolverines Football… but Golf was the sport & game that he most enjoyed. Best of all, for a kid like me that not only loved his Dad but really loved sports, Pop took a very subtle approach to my own sporting development… he gave me opportunity, then let me do it my way. Of course he taught me how to throw a curve ball, properly drop a football for a punt, or grip a 5-iron… but it was always with a light hand on my shoulder, more like a constant pat on the back with a big smile… and I appreciated all of it.

Anxiously waiting each day for his blue Ford to return from a long day’s work, so he could watch me hit 5-irons in the twilight, and listen to my 12 year old mind tell how I’d learned the eternal secrets that had eluded all but maybe Hogan, were among my daily reasons for living. Pop was the reason I wanted to succeed at athletics… I wanted to make him proud.

Putting was the thing Pop did better than anyone I ever met. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone putt better than he did. I’d put him up head to head with any Putter in the World, and I’ve seen a lot of good ones. He and I used to play a game, Putting for Dimes. We’d each place as many dimes in our pockets as we wanted to risk, and then we’d putt back & forth at two holes on the practice green, or at two hockey pucks on the carpet in our family room. Each make took a dime from the other. I almost never won… Pop made so many thirty footers that it was near impossible to beat him. I remember one time, he was close to 70 years old, maybe the last time we putted, and I made three straight 30 footers… but he made each putt coming back, so I didn’t earn a dime!

Bill’s putting skill (as well as his extreme gentleman’s manner) was well known by the members at Indianwood Golf & Country Club, where I caddied and worked in the golf shop. When caddying for a member for the first time, and when asked (usually on the 2nd tee while waiting for the next group to hit their approach irons) who I was, and where I lived, I’d point across Indianwood Road at the orange brick ranch house, and the member’s response would be… “Are you Bill Kargetta’s boy?”. Then, the stories would begin. The theme was always the same… and always a surprise, as I never heard (as a kid) from Pop his history in golf. Stories of him rolling in putt after putt to win matches were told to me by multiple members though, who knew him well in his sixteen years serving as Club Secretary.

When a bit older, I started asking Pop about those stories. He related to me how his putting skill, always good, got a lot better as a teenager when Willie Turnesa came to Meadowbrook CC (where Pop caddied) for some tournament and took an interest in young Bill (his caddy). Turnesa was the US Amateur Champion then, and gave Bill putting lessons. Pop had a very wristy and hands dominated putting stroke, and though I imitated that when young, I never seemed to be able to do anything but putt in streaks… good for 9 holes maybe… but never for long.

Years later, as a junior, school, and then amateur golfer, having Pop watch me play made the experience memorable. I remember the ’81 State Amateur, where the weather in Charlevoix, Michigan in June was typically cold & wet, and Pop had been sick, so I told my family to keep him home, at least until I got deep into the match play. The tourney site was like 300 miles from home, and I really didn’t want him driving alone so far. So here I am, in a cold drizzle teeing it up on my first Qualifying hole (#12 at Belvedere CC), and there is Pop, standing about 200 yards away trying to hide behind a lone tree. Upset and worried about him, I bogey 12 & 13, and make a shaky par on 14. I try to get near enough to speak with him, but he keeps about 100 yards away at the closest. Finally, my worry is turning to anger, and I promptly eagle 15 with a Driver-Seven Iron combo to 3 feet. As I walk off the green, he comes up behind me and says… “I was just thinking… if you didn’t do something special soon, I was going to drive the 300 miles home right now!”. I laughed the rest of the tournament, and had several wonderful days with him in the process. He even got to witness my back-to-back sudden death matches (39 holes total) in one day. He watched me miss consecutive 3-footers on the 36th, 37th, and 38th holes I played that day.

I used to tease Pop that he used up most all the “one-putts” allocated to the Kargetta name, and didn’t leave enough for me.

As the years went by, and I had transitioned into putting like my various role models (Pate, Crenshaw, Nicklaus…), and uniformly failed to putt well enough, I asked Pop what he thought of when standing over a putt. “Make it!” was the reply, but my mind at the time didn’t appreciate the purity of the answer. Surely there must be some secret he was keeping from me, though that made no sense at all. Turns out, he was absolutely right. Simply thinking “make” let his subconscious take over… and the results were stunning.

The huge treasure chest of knowledge, humor and wisdom that he imparted to me over a 41 year period… on the various subjects ranging from engineering & design down to the simplest little bits of advice on dealing with various situations, have been refreshed in my mind over and over through the years as my own search for wisdom has uncovered cases where his truths were revealed… usually as I became wise enough to recognize them.

Pop had one story for me that was particularly tough… he was stopped from being able to play golf with Ben Hogan in the military in WWII (inter-service base champions were going to have a match), because he was awaiting orders to ship out to the Pacific on a C-47, and his Major wouldn’t let him off base. Then, about a decade later, when Pop was playing in George S May’s World Amateur in Chicago, he and Hogan got to briefly meet. Hogan of course won the World Championship at Tam O’Shanter that year. Hogan was Pop’s favorite player… he followed him in the two US Opens at Oakland Hills, and the Carling & Motor City Opens that Hogan entered. Hogan was my favorite player too… because of Pop.

Pop’s physical feature that stood out were his “Hawk’s Eyes”. For years now, whenever I see a Hawk on a Golf Course, my heart skips a beat. “Black Hawk” was a natural name for the Putter I designed right after I finished the Black Swan. I think of how Pop would have had joy using it… and maybe even have given up on that old Tommy Armour Ironmaster Putter.

I think about Pop everyday. I thank God for having the best gift he could give me… and of course, Pop’s grandchildren will learn all about him, from me. So they’ll be blessed by his life as well. Pop always cared about others first… it was his defining spiritual characteristic. He sacrificed his entire life for others… me perhaps most of all.

He was a humble man, while in reality he was really heroic. When he was a 12 year old child, he saved his friend’s life by pushing the boy to safety from an onrushing automobile, and was hit by and dragged by that big Packard instead. Young Bill (Pop) suffered horrible injuries, including multiple bone & skull fractures, and internal injuries. That other boy grew up to be a doctor, and was Pop’s friend for life.

Pop is 12 again today… in Eternal years. Twelve years ago today, my Hero went to Heaven. April 6, 2001, was the toughest day of my life. But he’s been holing out long breaking putts with St. Peter, Ben Hogan, & Willie Turnesa for a dozen years now, even if there are no dimes in Heaven.

Love You the Hugest Pop. See You soon. Get your dimes ready… I’ve got a new Putter to show You.

8 responses »

  1. Guy Decker says:

    what a great story…i envy you for the great father you had…and all the time you spent together…i never had that…yu are one lucky son…..hope you pass not only stories to your kids, but give them your time…it passes so quickly…

  2. oriongolf says:

    Hello Guy,

    Thanks for the wonderful comment… and you are dead on… I am trying to spend as much time with my children as possible, but I started late in life, so I’m already up against a hard wall of time.

    The reason this project is a company, and not me playing Tour Golf with my Putters (at least not yet) is because of my love of my Children, as well as my Pop. Call me sometime, I’ll fill you in on the rest… but we’re tackling a horrible curse, childhood Osteosarcoma. I want to leave my Children with a legacy of doing the right thing, even when it’s not the best for yourself. Too bad the world isn’t that way already, but I can only do what God gives me the means to… so I’m 22 hours a day doing it.

    God Bless You, and your family.

    David

    407-844-7885

  3. Stephen Goddard says:

    i lost my son at age 20 to osteosarcoma . he presented at age 18 with lung mets and underwent limb salvage surgery and two lung surgeries to no avail . i am willing to join your fight to conquer this disease . let me know how i can help

  4. Dick Badgero says:

    Just happened to find your story of Bill and figured you had to be the person I had been wondering. I was aware of a lot of what you mentioned in the story, the parts I wasn’t, was very interesting. The admiration you had of your father is understandable, he was a terrific guy. I had the opportunity to play quite a bit with him in a league, toward the end of his playing days and he was always a great competitor, fine gentleman, that had a true love for the game. Happy to see that you’re involved in golf. When I first heard your name mentioned back when one of the Tour events was won using a Kargetta creation, I figured it had to be you. I certainly enjoyed reading your story.

    • oriongolf says:

      Hello Dick,

      So incredibly happy that you contacted me this way… I sure do think about you and Joe Schnurr (your old partner in the League) more often than you would imagine. I remember caddying for Pop when You and Joe were the match… back nine at Oxford Hills, like 1975 or so. If I remember right, you and Joe let me hit a few iron shots on 17. We talked a lot about Hogan back then…

      Contact me at 407-844-7885, and we’ll get caught up. Never forget the night you knocked on my door in Florida in 1986 to give me a well deserved scolding for not playing full time (I was busting my butt as an engineer, of course, and only played a tiny bit). Still think of that night, the surprise of your going out of your way to see me, and your encouragement.

      Best,

      David

  5. Brian says:

    I was glad to also know Uncle Will both on the course and off. His patience gave me the drive to be an Engineer like him and mimicing his smooth swing gave me joy to learn golf at an early age. As a young caddy when the golf bags were bigger than me, I could see my Uncle Will in the players I caddied for in the early 70’s. I enjoyed visiting him on his later years, always a great role model. I will always remember him with great memories.

  6. vneedham says:

    Hi Dave, you don’t know me from Adam, but I just got a call from an old flying buddy of mine at Walnut Creek CC after he spent a short time with him on the putting green there. Duane and I met in 1973 flying B52’s together, and Clarence Rose, the head pro there, was a 16 year old kid. Anyway, Duane was excited to tell what you told him about putting and gave me your name so I “googled” you up and read the story about your dad. I really enjoyed it and am sure he is the person who gave you the character to do what you do now for St Jude’s. You are a good man and apparently a great putter.

    • oriongolf says:

      Hello Mr. Needham,

      I enjoyed the time on the green with your friend… I’m glad he shared his fun with you… he made a frightful amount of tough putts.

      Thank you for the kind words… my Father was the best person I’ve ever met, and I’m one of perhaps hundreds who feel the same way about him.

      Anything good done by me in this world, I owe to him 100%. By the way, you’d do the same if in my shoes… I’m nothing special.

      All the best,

      David

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