The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance honored state golf legend Ted May, Putnam High boys basketball coach Tony Falzarano and Ralph King of Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk with coveted Gold Key Awards at the 67th Annual Gold Key Dinner on April 27 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
The Gold Key Award is the highest sports honor in Connecticut with the Alliance recognizing those who have made significant contributions to athletics in our state. Past award recipients include baseball great Connie Mack, boxing legend Willie Pep and former President George H. W. Bush.
About the recipients:
Ralph King (Brien McMahon, Norwalk/boys basketball, boys soccer)
Ralph King won more than 700 games coaching two sports at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk during parts of four decades, a feat which earned him a spot in the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1989. Although King played football and baseball at the University of Bridgeport, he made a name for himself on the high school level coaching boys soccer and basketball.
He started the soccer program at McMahon in 1961 and by the time he retired following the 1994 season, King had racked up nine FCIAC titles, two state championships and three state runner-up finishes. In 33 seasons, King compiled a record of 317-151-45 for a .677 winning percentage and was third on the all-time list for victories among state soccer coaches. He was named the Connecticut High School Coach of the Year in 1975, and in 1983 received the sport's highest honor when he was selected as the National High School Soccer Coach of the Year. In 2006, he was inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame.
King also made an impact on the hardwood as the McMahon basketball coach from 1964-87. In 23 consecutive winning seasons, he compiled a 396-130 ledger for a .753 winning percentage, won five FCIAC championships, a pair of state crowns and finished runner-up in the state on two other occasions. In 1977 he became the first coach from Fairfield County to win a Class LL state title. In addition to coaching, King worked as athletic director at McMahon for 27 years before retiring in 1996.
He has been actively involved as an administrator in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and has worked with numerous other state and national organizations including the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Connecticut High School Coaches Association.
Tony Falzarano (Putnam High boys basketball)
When Tony Falzarano arrived in small-town Putnam in 1968 after graduating from St. Leo College in Florida, all he wanted to do was teach and coach. For almost four decades, that's exactly what he did. But the Bridgeport native never could have guessed where it would lead him. He was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005. A year later he was inducted as a coach into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. The only boys basketball coach a generation of Putnam High students knew is adding to his honors as Falzarano received a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance.
Falzarano, who retired from teaching and coaching in October, took over as Putnam High's coach in December 1973 from Jack Hession and compiled a 535-255 record. In his 34 seasons, the Clippers won the 1986 Class S state tournament title, reached two more state tourney finals, won a record seven Quinebaug Valley Conference tournament crowns, 13 QVC divisional championships, and two Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional titles. He faced off against 67 different schools in his career. The only team he faced more than three times and could not beat was perennial power New London (0-8). Falzarano's final game on the Clippers' bench was a 71-66 win over East Lyme last Feb. 20. He was animated on the sidelines and always honest with the media, even if his statements weren't always politically correct. Falzarano and his wife Carolyn have two daughters -- Caren and Crista -- and two grandsons, Peyton and Dominic.
The PGA Tour's annual stop in Connecticut has had dozens of leadership and management types through some tumultuous times the past three decades. One of the few constants for the state's largest sporting event has been Ted May, who has followed in the footsteps of his father, Ed, a co-founder of the Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club in 1952.
May began volunteering in the mid-1970s with what was the Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford, was chairman of The Last Blast at Wethersfield in 1983 and helped oversee a move to the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell and then a bridge plan and solicitation of Buick and Travelers as title sponsors to keep the tournament alive since Canon pulled out in 2003.
May, 59, was born in Hartford and grew up in Wethersfield alongside the second hole at Wethersfield CC, where he played and caddied. He also played at Goodwin Golf Course in Hartford and attended Williams College, where he was co-captain his senior year and helped the team win the New England Championship to qualify for the NCAA championship.
After graduating from Williams, May entered a sales management training program with Phoenix Mutual Insurance Co. In 1985, he formed May, Bonee & Walsh, an independent insurance and financial services company in Berlin.
May has been chairman of several tournament committees and been a member of the management committee since 1982. After being tournament chairman, he has been the liaison between the tour and tournament, with major duties being player recruitment and serving on the long-range planning committee. May also has been active in the American Golf Sponsors, the group of sponsors that works with the tour. He was president in the early 1980s and is finishing an unprecedented third three-year term on the 10-person board of directors that creates policy and positioning for tournaments with the tour and players.
May's latest major project is the First Tee of Connecticut, an offshoot of the Mayor Mike's Golf Club of Kids project that he started with Kent Scully in Hartford in 1996. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem thought so much of what May, Scully and others were doing that they suggested Hartford become part of the First Tee, a creation of the World Golf Foundation that included every major golf organization in the world. The First Tee not only teaches golf, it teaches life skills, including nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. The First Tee of Hartford merged with the Connecticut Golf Foundation to become the First Tee of Connecticut and expanded into New Haven, Waterbury, Bridgeport and Fairfield County, in conjunction with the Metropolitan New York group.
Five years ago, Northeast Utilities leased 104 acres north of the TPC River Highlands to the Jaycees that are being used for parking and the new practice and First Tee projects. Last year, more than 50,000 youngsters participated in the state program, and First Tee CEO Bruce Wilson and director of programs Ian Baxter are trying to raise $500,000 to complete the first 16-acre phase of the TPC project. To contribute, call 860-882-1660 or visit www.thefirstteeconnecticut.org.