BY MICKEY SMITH
If you ask Perry Lancianese how he is doing, don’t expect to receive a perfunctory response. A simple “OK,” “good,” or even “great” just does not fly with him. Instead, expect a big smile and his robust, trademark reply, “I’ve never had it so good!”
Lancianese, director of golf operations and manager of club services at the Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club in Wellington, wholeheartedly means it.
The origin of the phrase dates back to Lancianese’s days playing college baseball. A routine play turned bad when Lancianese’s left foot went into a hidden divot on the field.
The freak accident resulted in a bad spiral fracture of his femur. To make matters worse, osteomyelitis — an infection of the bone — set in. Several surgeries and a lengthy stay in the Cleveland Clinic followed.
“The doctors thought for sure that I would lose my leg. It was a scary time,” Lancianese recalled. “Thankfully, I beat the odds. The doctors were utterly amazed I walked out of there.”
The resulting scar is the only physical reminder of the episode today. Mentally, Lancianese said the experience reinforced a positive outlook on life. “I was so darn fortunate the way it turned out, I vowed to always be upbeat and positive about life,” he explained. “When I say I’ve never had it so good, I really mean it.”
Originally hailing from a working-class Pittsburgh neighborhood, Lancianese was born to first generation Italian-American parents. “I learned hard work from them,” Lancianese said.
The family was in the restaurant and bar business and the hours were long. “My father worked amazingly long hours, but he never once complained,” Lancianese said. “He was just so thrilled to be in this country. His attitude has always stuck with me. It simply intensified after my accident.”
Lancianese moved to Palm Beach County in 1987 and has been at Palm Beach Polo since 1996. His duties also include overseeing a sister club in St. Lucie County, the Tesoro Club.
In season, the hours can be brutal. A recent week included the filming of an Acura commercial at the Polo Club, one of about a dozen commercials Lancianese has been involved with filming there.
“That week, I probably worked more than 100 hours. In season, 60 to 80 hours is routine,” Lancianese said.
About half of that time is spent on the food and beverage side of the business, and the other half is spent with golf operations.
Does he ever resent the long hours? “No way. I have the best job in the world,” he said. “I get to spend a lot of time outdoors, and I am around the sport I love. People travel from all over the world to spend time here. Resent it? Are you kidding? I’ve never had it so good!”
Since Palm Beach County is frequently cited as the “Golf Capital of the World,” Lancianese, who has been a golf professional for over 30 years, was happy to sit down and offer some advice.
Question: Let’s start with a basic question. Is there a difference between a golf professional and a professional golfer?
Answer: I am a golf professional; I work as a professional at a golf club. A professional golfer is a playing professional, like the folks we watch on the PGA tour. The amazing thing about our area for the golf lover is we live at ground zero for the sport. There are more courses here than anywhere, and the area has become a top location for the touring pros to live.
Question: What is the best way for a beginner to get involved in golf?
Answer: You probably thought I would say this, but it is true — take lessons. You need to find a golf pro you click with. Start with an interview before committing to anything. You have to learn the fundamentals, and most people should start with the short game. Getting “tips” from your buddy who can barely break 100 is definitely not the way to go.
Question: Speaking of tips, do you have any hot tips for shaving a few strokes off the weekend golfer’s score?
Answer: Get the ball in the hole by learning how to make putts — 50 percent of a good golfer’s score comes from putting. If you have limited practice time, devote most of it to putting and short game. Playing with golfers better than you is always helpful.
Question: Is it helpful to watch the touring professionals play on television?
Answer: Yes, but it is far better to watch the ladies. The swing is slower, and it is easier to see how they get the club on the ball solidly. Also, course management is more important on the ladies’ tour. The men’s tour today largely involves overpowering the course. Most people simply cannot do that.
Question: Does the brand of golf ball a weekend player uses really matter?
Answer: The type of ball does. It is very helpful for a player to be placed on a launch monitor and have the swing speed calculated. Titleist, Bridgestone and other companies offer balls that can be matched to the player’s swing speed. Another factor is the amount of spin imparted to the ball. Weekend players often impart a lot of spin. Lower-spin balls can help.
Question: Does the brand of golf club a weekend player uses really matter?
Answer: Generally, all of the top brands are good. The technology keeps improving, making it easier for the amateur to strike the ball and, therefore, have more fun playing. A fitting by a qualified professional is important. I feel strongly that a fitting should be done outside, on the range, where the true flight of the ball can be observed. Hitting into a net is simply not the same.
Question: Is betting on the golf course common? Is it legal?
Answer: I take the fifth!
ABOVE: Perry Lancianese, director of golf operations and manager of club services at the Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club in Wellington, takes a swing on the course.