by Dr. Mark Eger, Long-Time Member and Past Club President
The year was 1972, it was fall, and the golf season at the old Montour Heights Country Club was drawing to a close. Of course, just as today, there were a few die-hards who were still willing to play despite the elements at this time of year. Orlando Falcione and his friends were among those die-hards, and on a Saturday in early November they had assembled to get yet another round in before having to face the annual respite from the game due to the ice and snow of winter. It had been a bitterly cold day and at the conclusion of the round it seemed appropriate that a few adult beverages were in order in the Clubhouse. Prolonging the celebration also seemed in order; so the group left the warmth of the men’s grill room and kept the party going by moving it to Orlando’s home. Those of you who know Orlando know he is quite the chef and is well skilled in the Italian culinary arts. Given that fact, it came as no
surprise to his buddies that he whipped up a spur of the moment linguini dinner, which unbeknown to all
of them, would become the inaugural MHCC Linguini Open celebratory dinner.
The following year as winter approached Orlando was faced with the dilemma that many other MHCC members had heard about the previous year’s festivities and wanted to participate in his November outing. It became obvious that the group that year was going to be too big for Orlando to host the event at his home. At the conclusion of the round, adult beverages were once again served up in the grill room, but Orlando and his buddies took over the Club’s kitchen where they prepared and then served up a superb Italian feast to all of that year’s participants.
It was after that second year that the Club decided to adopt Orlando’s event and grow it into a full-fledged tournament. In subsequent years, area golf professionals were invited to play in a scramble as captains of five- and later six-man teams. In addition, serious golf wasn’t the top priority of the day as consuming adult beverages didn’t wait for the conclusion of the round. It also needs to be noted that the event was played regardless of weather conditions. Orlando will tell you he has played in well-below freezing temperatures, in snowfalls, and in torrential downpours. He might also add that the lack of sobriety may have been the reason that no one expressed much concern about the weather conditions.
When the Club moved to our current location, the Linguini Open came with it. It also began receiving enhanced publicity by WTAE’s meteorologist and long-time MHCC member, Joe DeNardo, who made mention of expected playing conditions for the event on his weather forecast the night before. The size of the field had become so large that the dinner had to be moved to the ballroom, and a new feature of the meal was the addition of Orlando’s uncles’ homemade wine made from the grapes harvested from the McCune vineyard located between hole number one and nine. One can still occasionally find a bottle of “Montour Velour,” which had become a staple found on every table at the banquet for many years. That tradition, unfortunately, has gone by the way side as have the unique prizes won for the skill events in the golf tournament. No longer do we award a cappicola, a prosciutto, or jars of Orlando’s sauce for closest to the pin or longest drive. What was added however, and continues to this day, is a yearly scholarship to a deserving MHCC employee.
The genesis of the Linguini Open has resulted in it becoming the most popular event held at the Club. The field continues to be filled every year and its reputation has grown with it. There are now other clubs in western Pennsylvania who have tried to emulate what Orlando started at Montour. The camaraderie that the event has created and the stories that continue to evolve is a tribute to the Club for continuing what has become a great tradition. I hope the tradition flourishes for many more years to come and that Orlando and I are around to enjoy them with you. We have made many memories participating in the event, and we hope all of you will continue to look forward to playing in November and making your own memories. Ciao and bon appetite!
Pictured are Orlando Falcione (left) with Dr. Mark Eger.