George Cangero’s impact lasted far beyond the 18th green. It left the clubhouse, dashed through the parking lot, and settled right into the hearts and minds of his golfers, who carried it with them long after leaving college.
He was a constant companion — akin to a trusty putter, guiding his athletes even after they graduated.
Cangero, who coached men’s golf at Farmingdale State College for six seasons after previously serving in the same position at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue and Sachem North High School in Lake Ronkonkoma, was a father figure to many.
"I spoke to him almost every week," said Chris Manzello, 33, of Farmingville, who played for Cangero at Sachem North and St. Joseph’s. "He was like my best friend. We had an amazing relationship. When I graduated high school, he was there. When I graduated college, he was there. When I graduated the police academy, he was there. Everything that I've done in my life, he's been there for me. He's been like my father."
Cangero, a father of three daughters who lived in East Northport for over 50 years and taught math at Sachem North for 31 years before retiring in 2002, died Nov. 20 after suffering a heart attack at his home, his family said. He was 72.
"When you talked to him, he had a way of making you feel like you had his attention and you were the only one in the room," said daughter Vicki Kapfer, 33, of East Northport. "I think he gave that personal attention to each of his golfers and students, and treated them as individuals. He was always able to form that personal connection and I think that’s why people loved him so much."
While at Farmingdale State, Cangero’s teams won five Skyline Conference championships, earning berths into the NCAA Division III championships each time. He was named Skyline Conference Coach of the Year three times, including this fall.
At St. Joseph’s, his teams won three Skyline Conference championships and earned their first berth to the Division III national championships in 2008.
"He just put a lot of things into perspective for you," Manzello said. "He kind of dumbed it down, made it a lot easier for us to understand. He always told us, play for par and protect bogey. He taught us course management."
Manzello, who made the finals of a U.S. Open qualifier in June, is still using the lessons he learned from Cangero.
"To this day, I'm super successful out there on the course because of him," he said.
Cangero was as beloved in the classroom as he was on the golf course.
"Everybody loved my husband," said Katherine Cangero, his wife of 34 years. "The students all loved him. Everyone wanted to be in his class. He made things exciting, not boring. He wasn't just a math teacher to many of them. He was someone that kids always wanted to talk to. We've gone to weddings of many of his students over the years. They still keep in touch."
Born Dec. 3, 1948, at Mineola Hospital, Cangero grew up in Greenvale. Although he didn’t start playing golf regularly until his 20s, he caddied around the North Shore, including at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, as a teenager. He graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset in 1966 and C.W. Post with a bachelor’s degree in math education in 1971 and a master’s degree in elementary education and math in 1974.
"He's just a special man, so much more than a golf coach," said Mike Keaveny, 35, of Coram, who played for Cangero at both Sachem North and St. Joseph’s. "I mean, he was the greatest golf coach ever, but he was so much more than that to me and to a lot of people. I thought we were so special to him because he treated us like sons, and then being at his wake and his funeral this past week, I realized that he treated everybody like that. He just treated everybody like they were family and just knew how to make you feel special."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Cangero is survived by daughters Alexandra Sackman and Jacqueline Hillenbrand, both of Manhattan, brothers Robert of South Huntington and Gregory of Florida, sister Dina Annunziata of East Northport, and four grandchildren. Cangero was buried at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, his family said.