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The Reign of Larry Laoretti

Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
cigar case, Summer 93

(continued from page 2)

And he doesn't smoke around Lonnie, at least not very often.

Lonnie is his three-year-old son. Lonnie provides a focus for his life, as much as his third wife, Susan, provides a steady grip on the matters of family life. It is a family life that Laoretti seeks in the Kampgrounds of America. It is a family life that keeps him out of the glitzy hotels and away from the dandy parties. Well, most of them.

"We just think the motor home is the best thing for Lonnie," says Laoretti. "We have room to bring his toys along with us, he's got room outside to play and other kids to play with. It's not fair to keep a little kid locked up in a hotel room. You're always afraid he going to make noise and make somebody mad in the next room. This is the best way to go. The people in the campgrounds are real nice, down to earth type people. We're comfortable in the camper."

There isn't a shred of pretense to Laoretti. He isn't overwhelmed by fame or addicted to it. He doesn't shy from it, he doesn't seek it out. And while he's comfortable playing with corporate moguls who ante up thousands for the privilege of mis-hitting shots in the same foursome as a champion, he's comfortable with the help. He throws a party for Senior Tour caddies at the end of the year. When he's on Long Island, where he spent most of his career as a club pro, he throws a party for golf course superintendents, or greenskeepers as they once were called. Plenty of lobsters and Carlo Rossi Pisano Light Chianti.

You'll find Carlo Rossi Pisano Light Chianti at his home in Stuart, Florida, in a golf course development called Cobblestone, owned by a man with whom he served in the Navy. Laoretti is the touring professional and director of golf for Cobblestone, and his Senior Open trophy is prominent in the new clubhouse. So is Carlo Rossi Pisano Light Chianti. Not surprisingly, the red wine of his house is also the house red wine. Thank you very much.

Laoretti's home is on the tenth fairway of Cobblestone. The course and its environs are on the fringes of development, set several miles to the west of the Atlantic and only several yards off I-95. Right now, it's an isolated little enclave. "We have to drive five miles just to get a quart of milk," says Laoretti, "and that's why we love it."

Because he lives by the old bromide "a stranger is just a friend I've never met," his circle of friends has been expanding at about the speed of light, certainly faster than he can expand his house and put up new guest quarters. The original guest room also serves as the family office and trophy room. And despite the fact that his Senior Open trophy sits 400 yards away in the clubhouse, there is a decent collection of trophies on the high shelves. Must be 30 or so. Not bad for a mediocre club pro's career, until you realize that most of them are Susan's.

There are Susan's volleyball trophies, softball trophies, sailing trophies, basketball trophies, bowling trophies and three Junior Olympics medals. Her collection would be even larger if several hadn't broken while moving.

One of those moves was to Florida from New Jersey in 1985. Wanting to tune up a discordant golf game, Susan Krulkaski sought the help of the head professional at Indian Creek, a local public course in Jupiter. It was a scruffy little place where the driving range was a pond and golf balls floated. The pro she took lessons from was Larry Laoretti. Susan's heart was the biggest thing Laoretti ever won at the game of golf, the Senior Open notwithstanding.

To Susan's mind, the best thing about Laoretti's success besides solvency is that it allows him to touch so many people. "I knew when I met him that he was an exceptional person," she says. "I knew it, his friends knew it. He's friendly and sincere, he's charismatic. Everywhere we go he's recognized. He's made a hero out of himself to the common man. The best thing about all his success is that everybody knows what an exceptional person he is."

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