By MAX FILBY
Edward Kotlarczyk taught thousands of people how to golf, but that was not something golfers at his course would hear him talk about.
“I think he really just liked the people,” said his daughter, Lynne Kotlarczyk.
Kotlarczyk, a co-owner of Hillcrest Golf Course in Findlay, died Feb. 13 at 77. His family described him as a modest man who didn’t brag about his many golf-related achievements.
“He never talked about playing in the British Open, but he did,” said Lynne Kotlarczyk.
Kotlarczyk’s wife, Patricia, agreed. She said he was more focused on what he could do to make a difference now as opposed to what he had accomplished in the past.
“He didn’t brag about it,” she said. “He was living for what he was doing now.”
In 1956, Kotlarczyk joined the Air Force. For three months out of the year, he worked as an air traffic controller and for the other nine months, he played golf for the Air Force, his family said.
He played in North Africa, Saudi Arabia, parts of Europe and elsewhere.
Kotlarczyk was a member of the Professional Golfers Association since 1963 and was designated a Class A Club Professional.
Kotlarczyk set the course record at Dachau Golf Club, Germany, with a score of 62 and he played as an amateur in the 1958 British Open at Golf Club of St. Andrews.
After being honorably discharged from the Air Force, Kotlarczyk worked as an assistant professional at Chippewa Golf Club in Toledo.
Although Kotlarczyk was a good golfer, he had trouble finding a job as a club professional because he was so young, his family said.
“People would tell him he was too young to work at the country club,” said Patricia Kotlarczyk. “They wouldn’t even look at his experience.”
In 1962, though, Kotlarczyk got the opportunity he had been looking for. Mohawk Country Club, at the time a nine-hole course in Tiffin, offered him a job as its head professional.
Kotlarczyk worked there through 1968, when he and his brother, Joe Kotlarczyk, decided it was time for them to run their own course. They ran the semi-private Hillcrest Golf Course together for almost 40 years.
The brothers would encourage people to play whenever they could, even on the rare day in the dead of winter that reached 60 or 70 degrees.
“If the golf course is playable, and it’s open, then you can play,” Lynne Kotlarczyk said.
The brothers hosted golf outings that started coming back every year, his family said.
They were able to draw people from miles away, including Toledo.
“People could get a tee time in Findlay and play and drive back to Toledo before they could get a tee time there,” Lynne Kotlarczyk said.
Kotlarczyk retired from Hillcrest in 2006, the same year he was inducted into the Toledo Golf Hall of Fame.
His retirement came as more of a necessity than a desire, though. He had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia a few years earlier and it was beginning to take a toll.
As Kotlarczyk’s disease took over his body, he continued to golf, but it became harder for him and, eventually, he had to give it up. His family would see him struggle just to walk or climb stairs, but, despite his disease, his family said he “handled it beautifully.”
“He would just do the best he could to get out of the cart and hit the ball,” said Lynne Kotlarczyk. “He still liked doing it.”
While Kotlarczyk has been gone since February, his family is reminded of him in everyday things, such as a nice day to golf around or flipping through TV channels and coming across a golf tournament.
“This really reminds me of my dad,” his daughter said to herself after she happened to tune into the Masters Tournament in April.
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