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Galvano Classic hauls in $200K for area schools

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The late Phil Galvano was known as the pro to the stars.

He gave golf lessons to President Dwight Eisenhower, late night TV host Johnny Carson, singer Tony Bennett and comedienne Carol Burnett, among others.

Now it seems that the tournament that bears his name, the Phil Galvano Golf Classic, is growing in star power, too.

His son, State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said Friday’s 14th annual tournament raised $200,000. That comes on top of another milestone, last year’s event, which pushed funds raised for education past the $1 million mark.

Mary Glass, executive director of the Manatee County Education Foundation, said the funds raised from the Galvano tournament go to teacher and student grant requests.

“The need is great,” Glass said, given the tough economy.

“We saw a 46 percent increase in grant requests last year. We funded about $100,000 worth of grant requests, averaging about $500 each,” she said.

Betty Galvano, Phil Galvano’s wife, and the mother of six children and grandmother of eight, came up from Fort Myers to attend Friday’s event.

Betty Galvano said her husband had the first widely broadcast television golf show, wrote a syndicated column on golf, and wrote best-selling golf books.

His love of golf was passed on to the entire Galvano clan, and made it a natural to have a tournament in his name to raise money for schools, she said. Phil Galvano passed away in 1993.

“We were all grieving,” she remembers of his passing. “The important thing is to love people and to love each other.”

Bill Galvano seemed relaxed and happy to be back in Bradenton, after spending most of the last year in Tallahassee, serving on the House ethics and rules committees and playing a leading role in negotiating a gaming compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Indian Tribe.

He reflected back on the very first Galvano Classic, when a portion of play was interrupted by rain, and the event raised $21,000.

“The Legacy was a brand-new golf course then,” Galvano said.

Tony Jacklin, a World Hall of Fame golfer and long-time Galvano family friend, was among those taking part in play Friday.

“On my best day I can’t come close to him,” Galvano said. “He plays me like I’m Jack Nicklaus.”

Jacklin said when he was looking at moving to Bradenton years ago, he stayed several months in Bill Galvano’s home.

“Bill’s home was my home,” Jacklin said. “This is my giving back.”

From the Legacy on Friday, Jacklin said he’ll be at the historic St. Andrews Course in Scotland on Monday. “I’m still flitting around the globe a bit,” Jacklin said.

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, and the general counsel for Keiser University, was Bill Galvano’s guest at the tournament.

“This is the best guy in the House,” Waldman said of Galvano. “I have to hand it to him: 14 years, that’s a lot of work.”

For more information about Manatee County Education Foundation, call 708-8770, ext. 2161, or visit www.manateeeducation