As the longtime course superintendent at the Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, Bill Amorim often crossed paths with the rich and famous.
So it was no surprise when one morning a club member introduced him to his playing partner, saying, "Bill, I’d like you to meet Joe."
This was the 1970s and Amorim took one look at Joe Namath, the quarterback who had led the New York Jets to improbable victory in Super Bowl III, and said: "I saw you on TV the other night."
"Great game, right?" Namath said.
As his son, Kevin Amorim, of East Northport, later told the story, Bill Amorim gave Broadway Joe a look and said: "What game? I saw you on that Brut commercial."
So, Charles William [Bill] Amorim wasn’t a sports fan. He wasn’t the kind of man to be star-struck, either. But he did believe in hard work, in tried-and-true, in earning an honest day’s pay and, it seemed, in the value of understatement — like noting Joe "Willie" Namath had been in a Faberge cologne commercial.
Amorim, of New Hyde Park, who spent more than 20 years at Deepdale and later worked as grounds supervisor for the Manhasset Union Free School District, died June 24 following a brief illness. He was 81.
One of 12 children, Amorim was born and raised in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Adeline and Romeo Amorim, an immigrant from the Azores who worked as a cobbler. He became a tree-climber and worked with a brother who was the town tree warden. After a stint in the Air National Guard, Bill Amorim earned his associate degree in turf management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. An internship brought him to Long Island as a groundskeeper at the Huntington Crescent Club. He later worked at the old Tall Tree Golf Course in Rocky Point and then, the Middle Island Country Club, before landing the job at Deepdale.
He met his future wife, then Catherine Wackenheim, who grew up in Stony Brook, on a blind date. She noted this week she was duly unimpressed. But he liked her and called and called and called.
“After he made enough calls, we started to date,” she said. That was April 1967. By February 1968 the two were married.
“He was a different person than I’d ever met,” she said. “He was honest, hardworking. He never promised anything he couldn’t deliver. That’s the way he was, even in his job. If he couldn’t do something, he would tell you. He wouldn’t make up a story.”
The family lived in the old carriage house on what was once the W.R. Grace estate at Deepdale, their home over an old stable area that housed maintenance equipment. Amorim not only taught his children the value of hard work, he taught them how to drive on the golf carts, how to water and maintain the grass, how to rake traps and even how to set out impromptu helicopter landing pads — for members swooping in to play.
“As a kid I thought my father owned the golf course,” said Kevin Amorim, an assistant news editor at Newsday, adding that it was fun growing up between fairways.
“He was like the Scottish guy in ‘Caddyshack’ telling Bill Murray to kill the gophers,” Amorim said of his father.
Actually, Bill Amorim did hold a stake in Deepdale, having paid $2,000 for 10 shares when the club was in deep financial trouble in the 1970s, an episode that later forced him and other former employees to sue the club — a story chronicled by The Wall Street Journal. The situation was later resolved out of court, Kevin Amorim said.
When Bill Amorim left Deepdale in1986 and found a home in New Hyde Park, though still between jobs, he got the sellers to accept $25 to hold the house.
At Deepdale, considered one of the top 100 courses in the United States, Amorim crossed paths with all sorts of stars. Members included Sidney Poitier, Bob Hope, Tom Brokaw, notable financial executives and politicians. Lucille Ball played the course. So did Telly Savalas, who at Bill Amorim’s behest, once signed an autograph for his daughter Nancy — giving her the old Kojak line, ‘Who loves ya baby? ’ Members of the Stanley Cup champion Islanders played Deepdale. Islander left wing John Tonelli once even borrowed the Amorim family station wagon to move.
“What a bunch of nice guys,” Catherine Amorim said of the Islanders. “Though they didn’t have much teeth.”
Bill Amorim was celebrated with a Mass Thursday at Notre Dame Parish in New Hyde Park, followed by interment at St. Philip Neri Cemetery in East Northport.
Along with his wife and two children, he is survived by daughter-in-law Carol Hernandez, three grandchildren and nine siblings.