By CAROLINE MURRAY
A sign that read “Re-Hire Joe The Pro” hung outside the Muni Clubhouse at Amserdam’s Municipal Golf Course on Saturday afternoon.
Inside the venue, members, colleagues, city officials and and friends of Joe Merendo, gathered at the fundraiser in support of the former golf professional.
“I thank everyone for their support and I hope things go in favor of the golf course,” said Merendo.
More than 100 people showed up to donate their time, money and share stories about Merendo’s contribution throughout the years including newly elected 1st Ward alderman Edward W. Russo and 3rd Ward alderman Ron Barone.
Recently, the city’s golf commissioners issued a proposal to replace the professional, concessionaire and maintenance positions at the course.
The goal of Saturday’s event was to raise money to help pay for attorney fees now that “Joe the Pro” supporters have issued a petition seeking an injunction against the city of Amsterdam, Mayor Ann Thane and the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course Commission.
Thomas DiMezza, Amsterdam town supervisor, ran the event with other Merendo supporters. He gave a speech to the packed room, shaming the commissioners and the mayor for declining to renew Merendo’s contract, which expired at the end of October.
“Joe not only served this country, but served this community for years,” said DiMezza.
He also praised Merendo for his commitment to the course and blamed the city with “a big heart,” for not having much of a heart at all.
Donations were made by the door and there was a raffle with prizes from local vendors. DiMezza believed they raised close to $3,000.
“He’s (Merendo) a legend in his own time,” said Skip Potter, a Scotia resident and member of the course.
For Potter, it is unbelievable the city would put Merendo out of a job after all he has done for the community, specifically the youth programs at the course. Others spoke of his generosity toward the local ASPCA.
According to DiMezza and Christopher Sapia, another supporter of Merendo, two of the golf commissioners are not from the city of Amsterdam, but the town. The petition filed seeks an injunction focusing on Article 78 of the city's Civil Practice Law and Rules. The “Joe the Pro” supporters do not believe that permanent replacements should be decided until the matter is resolved in court.
An emotional Merendo spoke to his audience toward the end of the fundraiser. He was overwhelmed by the support and thanked everyone for coming out in his favor.
“It’s not just for me, it’s for the golf course,” said Merendo. “They’ll lose members and their green rights.”