1950 U.S. Amateur Champion Urzetta Dies

By David Shefter
April 9, 2011

Sam Urzetta (left) defeated Frank Stranahan in 39 holes to win the 1950 U.S. Amateur. (USGA Museum)

Sam Urzetta, a Rochester, N.Y., native who won the 1950 U.S. Amateur, died April 8 from congestive heart failure at the age of 85.

Urzetta, then 24, needed 39 holes to defeat Frank Stranahan of Toledo, Ohio, in the championship match at Minneapolis Golf Club. At the time, it was the longest final in U.S. Amateur history, a mark that was matched in the 2000 final between winner Jeff Quinney and runner-up James Driscoll at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

A former basketball standout at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y., Urzetta was competing in his third Amateur at the time of his triumph. Stranahan was considered the favorite in the final, but he couldn’t match Urzetta’s tenacious play and stellar short game.

That Amateur title helped Urzetta get selected to USA Walker Cup Teams in 1951 and ’53, where he posted an overall record of 4-0.

While he didn’t have the desire to play tour golf, Urzetta became an assistant pro in 1954 before landing the head professional job at the Country Club of Rochester two years later. He served in that capacity at CCR for 37 years. He was a charter member of the Western New York PGA Section Hall of Fame in 1986.

In 1965, he was the section’s Professional of the Year and the 1971 Player of the Year. He also received the Horton Smith Award (for education) in 1977 and 1985, and he claimed the section’s tournament three times.

On the national level, he competed in four U.S. Opens, four Masters (tying for 12th in 1956) and four PGA Championships.

During his youth in the 1940s, Urzetta learned to play the game under the watchful eye of local pro Frank Commisso. He quickly rose in the ranks of Rochester-area players, winning three Rochester District Golf Association titles. In 1948, he claimed the New York State Amateur. He also won the prestigious Monroe Invitational Championship three times as well as the Country Club of Rochester’s Invitation.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be determined.

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