Brother's memory inspires Jeannette native Nic Milito on golf course
Sometimes golf is more than just a game.
Jeannette native Nic Milito has been an avid golfer for as long as he can remember. Nic's brother, Anthony, always supported his brother's passion for the sport, but never got into the game himself.
These days, though, Anthony is with Nic every time he golfs. Every single round.
In fact, earlier this month, Anthony helped his brother win the Westmoreland County Amateur golf tournament.
Anthony died in a motorcycle accident last September at the age of 21. Nic, 25, dedicated the tournament win to his brother's memory.
“It's always nice when you put a lot of hard work into something, and you see results come from it,” said Nic. “It was tough, after everything that happened to my family, but it gives me a little more comfort knowing that my brother is with me all the time. That makes we want to play better and continue to succeed for him.”
Pride, excitement and remnants of pain were obvious in Nic's voice as he described the victory. The circumstances of the championship tournament made the event extra-special — and that much more emotional. In a touching twist of fate, Nic was paired his first cousins, twin brothers Ronald and David DeNunizo, on the final day of the tournament.
The trio finished Saturday's round within one stroke of each other atop the leader board before Nic pulled ahead on Sunday and won with a three-under-par 137.
It was his third title in the past four years at the event.
The last time Nic won the title was in 2011 when he edged out his cousin David for the victory in what was also an emotional tournament during which they played in memory of Denise DeNunzio — Nic's aunt and David's mother — who had died of cancer just two months before.
Nic, David and Ronald have played golf together for years, but this competition marked the first time they've been paired together in the final round of a major tournament.
Emotions were pumping for the entire family, those on the course, those watching from the sidelines and those there in spirit.
“It was special,” Nic said of playing with his cousins. “We spend a lot of time together, trying to make ourselves as good as possible. Losing my aunt, their mother, two years ago and then Anthony, those are experiences we never thought we'd be a part of. But we keep moving forward . . . we have to do everything in our power to live our lives in their honor, and that's what we've been trying to do.”
Nic, who played collegiately at IUP, practices virtually every day and plays in tournaments nearly every week during golf season. This summer, he has been has been at or atop the leader board more often.
“It's gotten me to the point where I want to continue to succeed for him, and do it in his honor,” said Nic. “This summer, especially, I've been playing pretty well. I credit (Anthony) for a lot of that.”
Nic's next goal is to win the Pennsylvania Amateur Golf Championship, which will be held July 29-31 at Saucon Valley Country Club, near Allentown.
“This year has been kind of a breakthrough year for me,” he said. “If I play really well, and with a little bit of luck, this could be the year (I win the Pennsylvania amateur).”
Ultimately, Nic hopes to turn pro.
“That's the goal right now,” he said. “When you're playing well, you want to keep the momentum going.”
Nic knows that's something Anthony would have loved to see.
“It's tough not having him here,” he said. “I really want to do something that would make him proud.”
It seems Nic already has.
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.