HARTFORD, Conn. – The Ballo family has contributed to golf on many fronts for more than half a century.
Whether it was collecting wins and trophies or trying to help players of all levels improve their games, the four Ballos have continually upgraded the game on and off the course.
Such efforts have been rewarded with the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Golf Writers Association naming the clan from Stamford the recipient of the 2020 Family of the Year. The Ballos, all of whom are PGA of America members, will receive the award at the National Golf Awards Dinner on June 22 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, N.Y.
The MGWA honors “a family for its contributions to the game and for representing the virtues and ideals of golf and family.” Past winners include the family of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Sergio Garcia, Dave Stockton, Ray Floyd, Robert Trent Jones, Claude Harmon and, most recently, Justin Thomas.
Mike Ballo Sr. is the head of the award-winning family and has been a major reason for his two sons, Mike Jr. and Peter, becoming among leading players in the Metropolitan Section PGA. And wife/mother Page Ballo is a retired PGA of America Life Member who was one of the first 10 women to become a full-time member of the organization.
“Mike Sr. and I are overwhelmed, honored and humbled by being chosen for the Family of the Year Award,” Page said. “When Michael told me this was happening, I took some time to go to the website to see which other families had received this award in the past. I was stunned to find out it was a Who’s Who of American golf, from nationally recognizable names like Gary Player, George Bush, Claude Harmon, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus to names of local Met PGA superstars like Mal Galletta, the Joyce family, Tom Nieporte and the Turnesa family.
“The list is made up of families who definitely have given a lifetime of support to growing the game of golf, and the thought of adding the Ballo name to this list is staggering to us. Mike Sr. and I truly believe golf is the best game in the world, and it serves to promote the virtues, ideals and character that helps lead to the development of fine members of society. Mike Sr. and I are very grateful for this opportunity, and we will continue to try to live up to the standards set by all of the past recipients.”
Mike Jr. said his father “is the reason we are all in the business and has always been the biggest supporter of all of us.”
“The award to the family means we have obviously been doing the right thing,” Mike Jr. said. “Given the health issues that my dad had early in the year – he’s totally fine now – to me and my brother winning the two biggest Met PGA events, it has been a really special year. For a golf professional to earn the respect of the industry is really all we can do. My dad has spent 40 years doing that, and now me and Peter carry on his legacy and the fact that now the family earns this honor means we are all doing the right thing. Never mind how my mother is the reason we all keep it together.
“My father dedicated his life to Woodway Country Club (in Darien) and golf in Connecticut and the Met PGA, and he was so passionate and good at it that the whole family has followed his lead and is now doing the same exact thing. The work and years my dad dedicated, my mother also, and now me and my brother follow in his footsteps just hoping to fill his shoes, it’s such an honor to have all of that recognized.”
Mike Sr. began his golf career in 1948 at the age of 7 caddying at Woodway Country Club, where he became head pro two-plus decades later. Since then, the only years Ballo spent away from golf in Connecticut was the four that he served in the Navy in the Persian Gulf.
In 1964, Ballo became the assistant pro at Woodway CC to Danny Galgano and was named head pro in 1971, a position that he held until he retired in 2003. In those 40 years, Ballo accumulated an outstanding playing career, becoming among the best club pros in the area with four course records and numerous championship victories.
One of Ballo’s most successful events was the Connecticut Open in which he had 10 Top-5 finishes, including wins in 1969 and 1978, two seconds and three thirds. His impressive victory list started with the 1957 CIAC Individual Championship while at Stamford High School and also included the 1970, 1974 and 1980 PGA Westchester Classic. He also played in three U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, the 1988 PGA Tour’s Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic and the 1995 U.S. Senior Open. He set course records at Awali Golf Club on Bahrain Island (66), Hartford Golf Club (67), New Haven CC (66) and Woodway CC (61).
Ballo also has been committed to mentoring his assistants and serving the game. He helped place nine assistants into head jobs: Mike Crawford, Woodway CC; Bob Broska: Silver Spring CC-Ridgefield; Walt Bogues, Tashua Knolls GC-Trumbull; Bob Longo, The Seawane Club-Hewlett Harbor, N.Y.; Nick Minolis, Mt. Kisco (N.Y.) CC; Peter Procops, Lawrence (N.Y.) CC; Stuart Waack, Silvermine GC-Norwalk; Dave Henion, Apawamis CC, Rye, N.Y.; and Jim Lusk: Paramount CC-New York.
Since Ballo retired 15 years ago, he has continued to serve the game as a starter at Silvermine GC and, most importantly, helping his sons in their pro journeys. Both are top players in the Metropolitan PGA Section, where they are assistants at famed Winged Foot GC in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and Silvermine GC. Winged Foot will host the 2020 U.S. Open on June 18-21, the week before the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.
Mike Jr., 31, played and captained the golf and hockey teams at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, was named to the All-Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and All-State golf teams and won the 2005-06 Connecticut High School Golf Championship, 2006 CSGA Junior Amateur Championship and 2009 IKE Championship and Westchester Amateur Championship.
After graduating from St. John’s University in 2010, Mike Jr. won a second consecutive IKE Championship and 2012 Westchester Open, was runner-up in the 2014 Connecticut Open, finished fifth in the 2016 Met Open, played on the Korn Ferry Tour, edged his younger brother by a shot in the 2018 Met PGA Section Championship and won the New York State Open in July in a playoff with former Central Connecticut State University standout Rob Labritz. He also played in his first PGA Tour event, the Corales Championship, in April and then teamed with his brother to capture a second consecutive Met Section Assistant-Assistant Championship, a year-long, match-play event that ended at Shinnecock Hills GC on Long Island in October.
Peter, 28, played and captained the golf and hockey teams at Trinity Catholic High School, won the 2008-09 CIAC State Championships and was All-State and All-FCIAC in both sports in 2007-08 and 2008-09. He then played golf with his brother at St. John’s University before transferring to Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport after winning the 2006 CSGA Amateur Championship. He captured the Northeast Conference Championship and was NEC Player of the Year in 2014, then after graduating, he was second in the Connecticut Open that year. He also was third in the 2016 Met Open and won the Met PGA Section Championship and finished fourth in the New York State Open this summer.
And golf hasn’t been part of the family’s success only on the male side. Page Ballo went to Darien High School and was an All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference selection at the University of North Carolina after playing two years at Furman University with LPGA Hall of Famers Beth Daniel and Betsy King. After Page graduated, she joined the PGA of America and served as an assistant pro for renown golf instructor Jim McLean and then her husband.
“The award really shows how my parents’ efforts of raising two kids through the years of golf has paid off,” Peter Ballo said. “They gave us the opportunity to play all sports growing up, and the fact that after all of that, my brother and I chose to continue our family name in golf.
“The award also shows that even after my parents’ retirement from golf years ago, they can be acknowledged for efforts to grow the game. As for my personal feeling, it goes to show that hard work pays off, and I have the greatest parents in the world and a support cast that can’t be topped.”