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HISTORY OF THE SOUTH PARK GOLF CLUB


The South Park Golf Club was founded in the Spring of 1931 and originally known as the Lackawanna Golf Club. Within a couple of years it was the premier club open to the public south of downtown Buffalo. During the 1930s the Club went through a tremendous growth period and was the home to some of the better players in Western New York. Players such as Pat McGee, Stan Merrick and Joe May dominated play during the pre-war years. According to old Courier-Express news accounts of the time, it was not uncommon for 1,000 spectators to watch the final match of the Club Championship. The Club became so popular that in 1935 the present clubhouse was constructed as a W.P.A. project of the Roosevelt presidency.

During the war years the Club continued, but many of its members left to fight fascism. Unfortunately some did not return. After the War the Club once again became a popular recreation alternative for the returning veterans. These years were dominated by John Chmiel who won back to back Club Championships in 1946 & 1947, and in 1948 won the prestigious Courier-Express Hole-in-One Tournament. Additionally, Chmiel set the original 9 and 18 hole course records of 27 and 58, respectively, albeit on a shorter version of the course than exists today. At this time the club championship was changed to a stroke play format from match play.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a number of quality players compete for the designation of champion of South Park. Dr. Joseph Pantera won 3 championships (1952, 1957 & 1959), as well as being the only member to win the prestigious Buffalo District Golf Association Individual title in 1966. John Chmiel won back-to-back WNY Publinks titles in 1960 and 61. Optician Ted Tomasik was a force at this time winning 4 club championships (1956, 1960, 1962, and 1964) and numerous other tournaments. While Ed "Tokie" Tokarz ran the pro shop, his son Ed Tokarz, Jr. became the first person to set the former modern 9 hole course record by recording a 29 during a round of 62 to win the 1965 Club Championship. Another notable player was Brownie "Slidy" Patronik. Slidy won his only club championship in 1973, but he also garnered the 1966 WNY Publinks Golf Championship.

The late 1960s saw the emergence of the all-time South Park Club Champion: Tom Kozaczka. Kozaczka has won 11 club championships spanning 5 decades: his first in 1968 and his last in 2001. Kozaczka, along with George Lesso, dominated play during 1977-1987. Kozaczka won the club championship in 1977-1981, Lesso from 1982-1985, and Kozaczka again in 1986 and 1987. John Kuryak finally ended their reign in 1988 and became the first son to follow his father's footsteps. John's father Joe was the 1950 Club Champion. Additionaly, in the late 1970s Ed Krypel and Jim Schaefer created the extremely popular Polish v. Irish Challenge Match, an annual match pitting the best of Polonia against the Emerald Isle's finest in each class.

The last 20 years have seen numerous solid players on the links at South Park. Sean McNamara won the Club Championships in 1989-1992, 2002 and in 2003 became the first person to win the "South Buffalo Slam:" the South Park and Cazenovia championships in the same year. McNamara also ran away from the field in 2004 by setting the club record in the Club Championship when he shot a 63-67-130 (10 under par) to win by 10 shots. McNamara tied the former 9 hole course record in that round of 63 when he recorded a 6 under par 29. McNamara also won in 2007 with an even par score of 140 over 36 holes played during windy, hard and fast conditions, and came from behind to capture the 2014 Championship.

Dan Fitzgibbons won in 1993, 1994 and 1998, and finished second in the WNYPLGA championship in 1994. Mark Poloncarz won the Club Championship in 1995 after many near misses, and followed it up with victories in 1996 and 1999. Poloncarz also won 6 Scratch-Match Play Championships in a 7 year period (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006), tied the former 9 hole course record of 6 under 29 in 2007 with a round of 62, and he became the first member since Joe May in 1938 to win the Cazenovia Golf Club championship when he won that crown in 2000.

In 2006 Liam Friedman won his first championship with a great 36 hole score of 7 under par 133 and followed it up the next day as the low medalist at the Buffalo District Golf Association's Individual Championship Qualifier at the Crag Burn Club. In 2007 Friedman shot the modern day 18 hole course record of 61 with nines of 30 and 31 and finished 2nd in the Philadelphia Public Links Golf Association's Open Championship. In 2008 Friedman had a banner year as he became the first member to qualify for the Porter Cup, the nation's most prestigious amateur stroke play championship, finished 2nd in the Buffalo District Golf Association's championship, and then topped that off by qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst C.C.

Friedman, a former participant in the Golf Channel's Big Break is the winner of the 2011 WNY PGA Championship, and holds both the 9 and 18 hole records as South Park. His 2012 9 hole record of 27 was a 9 hole round for the ages when he recorded 9 straight "3s" when he birdied every par 4 and parred the par 3 4th hole. In 2016 Liam was named the head professional at Fox Valley Country Club in Lancaster. He returns to South Park for many rounds and we are very proud of his achievements.

Gary Masocco has turned into the player to beat at South Park during the past few years. Masocco was the 2012, 2013 and 2015 Club Champion and won the 2013 Player of the Year Award. In 2015, Masocco was part of the 12 man South Park GC Challenge Cup team that crushed the team from the Buffalo GC by a score of 13 points to 5 points to retake the coveted Challenge Cup.

As the Club enters its 85th year its future looks bright with many dedicated members and a course that has aged with time, is in the best shape in decades, and everyone looks forward to a great year in 2016.

Course Records:

Pre-1950s Shorter Course:
9 Hole: 27: John Chmiel
18 Hole: 58: John Chmiel

New, 2005 Longer Course:
9 Hole: 27: Liam Friedman, 2012
18 Hole: 61: Liam Friedman, 2007

Last Revised: April 2, 2016