At the age of 97, Michael Amorelli, the PGA’s oldest and longest-serving member, still finds himself deeply immersed in the game of golf and very active at his club, Copper Hill Country Club in Ringoes, New Jersey, for six decades.
Although he gave up playing golf about five years ago due to health issues, Amorelli, Head Professional at Copper Hill for 33 years and its current Director of Golf Emeritus, still visits the club every day and continues to promote the game through teaching.
Amorelli currently has two pupils who he spends a great deal of time with on a weekly and daily basis. Fran Gacos, winner of this year’s NJSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship on July 29, has been Amorelli’s student for 15 years and still works with him every few weeks. In the case of his second student, Dylan Stein, 18, Amorelli has been instructing him almost every day for the past two and a half years.
“I’m doing the best I can to make him do the best he can do,” Amorelli said of Stein, who signed his National Letter of Intent last year to play golf at Towson. “That’s my love at this point in the game of golf, just teaching these two people.”
But teaching is only one of the many roles Amorelli has embraced during his 65 years of service at Copper Hill. Shortly after arriving at the club, he was named its Head Professional in 1951 after his predecessor John Sparanzio became very ill. From there, Amorelli inherited an upward battle toward building a regulation-sized course.
Amorelli was heavily involved in the subsequent renovations and expansion of the course that has led to Copper Hill’s growth as one of today’s exceptional private, member-owned clubs in New Jersey.
“Over the years, we rebuilt it to where it is now. It was a slow process because we had to do it in pieces year-by-year,” Amorelli said. “We had a number of members who offered their services – electricians, things like that – and they would help us out.”
“In 1970, we got pretty good. We installed a water system and everything. We became one of the good clubs in New Jersey.”
The results have shown as Copper Hill now stands at 6,500 yards, is one of New Jersey’s best-conditioned courses and has been chosen as a tournament site for multiple regional and state competitions over the years.
Prior to arriving at Copper Hill, Amorelli served in the U.S. Army during World War II from 1942-1945. He stayed in Little Rock, Arkansas for three years following the war where he played in local tournaments and exhibitions. In 1948, he moved back to New Jersey.
Amorelli first got started in the game at around 16 years old as a caddie at a Sunnyfield Golf Club in Linden. Living in a seven-person household during the time of the Great Depression, the job presented a better opportunity than his previous work selling newspapers.
“One day a guy told me I could make more money caddying and I went up to the golf course up the road,” he said. “I was making 50-75 cents a day so that was better than 5-10 cents selling newspapers.”
Still working at Sunnyfield in 1936, and at that point a more experienced golfer, Amorelli participated in a Pro Am tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club where he was teamed up with 1928 U.S. Open champion Johnny Farrell. His ensuing discussions with the Professional then “changed his life.”
“In the midst of the round we were playing, he said he was impressed with me,” Amorelli stated. “He said maybe I should think of going into the (golf) business.”
Three years later in 1939, Amorelli earned his PGA membership.
Fast forwarding 76 years, Amorelli said golf continues to “keep him going.” In particular, he said he’s grateful for the treatment he’s received from Copper Hill since he retired as its Head Professional in 1983.
“They’ve been very good to me,” Amorelli said. “I’m very close to the entire membership. It keeps me going today.”