Editor's Note: This is the first of a series which will profile a NJSGA member. If you know someone who has a unique story, please email email@example.com.
Kathy Villaggio of Galloping Hill Golf Course, a frequent participant in NJSGA championships and Member Golf Days, has a story to tell.
For a variety of reasons, including the improvement of her golf game, she decided to embark on a strict diet: From January to December 2019, she lost an amazing 90 pounds, and she couldn’t be happier.
“I became inspired because, as the mother of the bride, I wanted to look good at our daughter Lisa’s wedding that was planned for August of 2020. Just as important, I also had to do it for health reasons as I was a heavy smoker, and I was able to quit that as well.
“Now, my blood pressure and my blood sugar are good. If I’m not playing golf, I’m walking five miles a day. Because of COVID-19, I have gained back 20 pounds, but this is where I want to stay. People said I was too skinny. But I feel better now and look healthier."
Losing weight even helped her improve her golf game.
“After the weight loss, I have a much better swing now. I can turn much easier. With the extra weight, I was messing up my swing just trying to get the weight out of the way. It’s funny. After I lost the weight, I had to learn my swing all over again.
“By the end of this year (2020), I was very encouraged by the way I was playing and am really looking forward to next season.”
Villaggio, a native of Cranford who now lives in Garwood, came late to the sport of golf, having never played until the age of 30.
“A good friend of ours, Jerry Foglia, got me into it and I always liked sports. When I was in high school (Mother Seton Regional), I played softball and I could hit the ball, so I thought I would give golf a try.
“The one advantage I thought I had was that I am a natural lefty, but the strange thing is, I play golf righty. I love playing golf. I am not a great golfer. I have a 16 handicap, but I am always looking to improve.”
People are most likely to catch her at Galloping Hill Golf Course. For 20 years, she has been a member of the women’s 18-holers on Saturday mornings and became good friends with participants Ellie Yum, Lori Bove and Kate Carlson.
“When I joined the Galloping Hill Women’s Golf Association, it seemed like fun. I wanted to become a better golfer, I figured if I played with better golfers who could teach me to play in competition, then I could become a better golfer.”
At age 62 she is now retired two years from her employ with Union County. After heading the county’s information technology area, she transferred to the County’s Parks and Recreation Department, and worked on finances for the department from 2010-2018.
During that time, she worked closely in budgeting and other financial aspects with Armando Sanchez, Union County’s Director of Golf Operations.
“Kathy and I play a lot of golf together,” Sanchez. said. “She is very by-the-book. Her being a golfer helped us a lot. She knew about taking care of a golf course. She was there when KemperSports took over the management of our courses. She was a big part of the transformation where we went from a laughingstock to having great county courses like Galloping Hill and Ash Brook.
“She was supportive of the change, understood it and was very involved in it,” Sanchez noted. “I am so happy to see her get her health in order. I’ve seen a personality change. She is happy all the time. I’m so glad that things have lined up well for her.”
Villaggio figures to continue to brush up on her game in Florida this winter. Kathy and her husband, Anthony, hope to close on a condo in Venice Fla., in the next few weeks. She wants to continue to work on her handicap to allow her to better compete in formal NJSGA and Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association events.
Over the past decade, she has played in numerous NJSGA championships, including Women’s Four-Ball, Public Links and Senior Amateur as well as Mixed Pinehurst. The highlight came in 2015 when she and partner Jane McGee of Galloping Hill won the net division of the Four-Ball Championship played at Copper Hill Country Club in Ringoes.
“I’m passionate about golf. I want to get better. It’s unique. It’s me against the golf course and I like challenges,” said Villaggio, who is continually challenged to overcome stuttering also. “If I mess up, it’s only myself to blame, nobody else. That’s the reason why I want to get better.”