Golf loses a class act with the death of longtime Winged Foot head pro Tom Nieporte
The golf world lost a gentlemen with the Dec. 21 death of Tom Nieporte, the longtime head pro at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., who forged a reputation as one of the great club professionals in the game.
Faced with the unenviable task of succeeding Claude Harmon at Winged Foot in 1978, Nieporte carved out his own legend over the next 28 years. He was a great player who won three times on the PGA Tour. His final victory, at the 1967 Bob Hope Classic, came when he was the full-time head professional at Piping Rock Club on Long Island, making him the last true club pro to win on the tour. He was a valued mentor to dozens of pros who went on to decorated teaching careers of their own. But most impressively is that Nieporte, a father of nine, was on many people's short list as one of the classiest guys in golf.
In a profile I wrote on Nieporte when he won the 2005 Bill Stausbaugh Award from the PGA of America, the superlatives from other pros rolled out in such rapid succession. "The nicest guy I ever met" was one I heard repeatedly. That sentiment was echoed this week when news of Nieporte's passing at age 86 in Boca Raton, Fla., spread.
"Tom never had a negative thing to say, even after the worst shot imaginable," Winged Foot president John Schneider told The Journal News' Mike Dougherty. "If you played a round of golf with Tom, you checked your own values and walked away saying, 'I need to be more like that."