The late Paul Samanchik, longtime volunteer who served on the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Tournament Committee and Caddie Scholarship Foundation, has posthumously been named the 2019 recipient of the Honey Gantner Award, presented annually to a NJSGA volunteer for exemplary volunteer service. He will be honored at the NJSGA’s 120th Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 17 at Montclair Golf Club.

A decorated golfer, colorful personality and gentleman, Paul’s entire life was spent around the game of golf. He was a member of North Jersey Country Club for more than 60 years, where he was one of the club’s most accomplished golfers. His work on behalf of the NJSGA began in the early 1980s and spanned nearly four decades until his passing on November 21, 2018, thus becoming the longest serving member of the NJSGA Tournament Committee. He also tirelessly led fundraising efforts on behalf of the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation, in his role as North Jersey’s foundation representative.

Paul was a highly accomplished golfer who claimed numerous championship titles and competed at a high level for more than half of a century. In 1964, he became the youngest club champion of the North Jersey Country Club at age 16, before going on to win 12 club championships. In 1964 (and again in 1968), he won the NJSGA Father and Son Championship with his father, William. Paul would later repeat this accomplishment, as he again won the NJSGA Father and Son Championship in consecutive years (1993 and 1994) with his late son, Scott. Paul was also the 1965 Metropolitan Golf Association Junior Champion, before playing collegiately at the University of Virginia.

Paul won the NJSGA Mixed Pinehurst Championship in both 1971 (with Carol Rhodes) and 2008; the victory in 2008 was alongside current LPGA Tour Professional, Marina Alex. Paul was also the 1988 NJSGA Four-Ball Champion (with Bob Sessa), runner-up in the 1972 NJSGA Amateur Championship, runner-up in the inaugural (1984) NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship, a four-time winner of the NJSGA Best-Ball-of-Four Championship, a nine-time member of the NJSGA’s Compher Cup team, and a player on seven victorious NJSGA Stoddard Trophy teams.

As a volunteer, he was often one of the first to arrive and last to leave an event. He had a genuinely warm and affable rapport with other volunteers, tournament players, host club members and staff. His longstanding presence on the New Jersey golf scene led to countless friendships and relationships; all of which were tremendous reflections on North Jersey Country Club, the NJSGA, and his family.

Paul follows in the footsteps of previous Honey Gantner Award winners Dr. Albert Kuchler (2018), John Rochford (2017), Phillips Babcock (2016), Bernie Samons (2015), Bob Krueger (2014), and Vic Bacile (2013). Honey herself was the first recipient in 2012.

As members of North Jersey Country Club, Paul and Honey shared a bond in their passion and enthusiasm for the game of golf. As volunteers, their endeavors were always undertaken with a smile.

“In addition to being an accomplished golfer, Paul gave back to the game of golf by being a very dedicated volunteer,” said former NJSGA executive director Steve Foehl. “I would venture to say he put more time into that role than anyone.

“The Honey Gantner Award for Paul is especially meaningful, as they were very close as members of North Jersey Country Club.”

Paul was introduced to the game of golf by his father, Bill.

“He must have started swinging a club at age 10, and he did the same thing with our son Scott,” said Paul’s widow, Carolyn. “Paul just loved being on the golf course. That was his happy place. It was in his blood.”

Besides volunteering with the NJSGA, he also served with the Metropolitan Golf Association as a Tournament Golf Official and volunteered his time for their Caddie Scholarship Program. He also volunteered at the Senior PGA (Chubb Classic) and the CME Ladies Tournament both in Naples, Fla., the U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Trump National G.C. in Bedminster, and the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

“Golf was his life. Everything he did revolved around golf,” said Bob Sessa, also a North Jersey member and frequent player partner of Paul’s. “He was immersed in golf. He tried to give back as much as he could to the game. Golf was great to him. He loved North Jersey, the NJSGA, and everyone there.

“Paul grew up with the game. We would play all winter as long as there was no snow cover. We would travel to the Jersey shore, to Staten Island, anywhere we could, every weekend.”

For many years, it seemed either Paul or Bob would win the club championship at North Jersey. Bob was runner-up 12 times, eight of those times to his buddy. But four of the six times that Bob won, he defeated Paul.

“Paul was fabulous. He was a pleasure to watch. No matter where we went, everybody knew Paul. It was a learning experience playing with him all those years. Literally, we played thousands of rounds together,” Sessa said.  

“Paul had a way about him, saying what was on his mind. He would state: ‘I say what everybody else is thinking.’ Honey and Paul were alike in that they couldn’t wait for the next event to get started and to volunteer for it. After he was done volunteering, Paul would talk for an hour about what happened on the course. That’s how much he loved it.”

As a young man, Paul had an opportunity to meet golf’s greatest legend, Bobby Jones. On July 14, 1966, at the age of 18, Paul and his father played golf at the Highlands Country Club in North Carolina where the Jones held the course record. That day, Paul carded a score of 61 to set a new course record. Bobby Jones just happened to be at the course and congratulated Paul on beating his course record. Bobby Jones gave Paul a highly cherished autographed copy of the book, The American Golfer, to commemorate the achievement.

“Paul had to be recognized for his achievements and the inspiration he gave to others,” said Gerri Scarpa, a dedicated volunteer herself, also out of North Jersey. “Paul had a lifelong commitment to continued progress of golf. And he loved peach Snapple iced tea, his favorite daytime drink.”

Paul worked in the Insurance and Financial industry his entire career.  He started with the Home Life Insurance Company.  Through the years the company changed names several times and is now known as Allied Wealth Partners in Parsippany. He worked in the industry for more than 40 years and was semi-retired, spending most of the winter playing golf in Naples, Fla.

Ms. Rhodes, a former NJSGA Executive Director who resides in Naples, had a lifelong friendship with Paul.

“All through the winter, we would play home and home matches. Paul filled me in on what was happening up in New Jersey. When we first met in the 1970s, we played and partied together, and we laughed all day when we won the NJSGA Mixed Pinehurst in 1971. We were both good golfers at the time.

“Paul found humor in everything. He had a huge hook shot, nothing I wanted to emulate, but he was a great golfer. He loved the game and he loved people. He definitely thought of volunteering as something fun to do. When his game came down a notch, he volunteered even more,” she said.

Paul’s father, Bill, was a volunteer and Paul followed his footsteps.

 “When I picture Paul, he has a smile on his face. He liked to laugh at himself and make people laugh. He even learned to laugh at his golf game,” Rhodes said. “I miss him dearly. I think it’s wonderful that he is remembered by receiving an award named for his close friend.”

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