Cover Story

Tee Off For Kids

While the name Italian Open might signify the annual tennis tournament in Rome for some, for St. Louisans, it has a much different but equally distinguished connotation. For 45 years, the St. Louis Italian Open Golf Tournament for Children’s Charities has brought people together to support area kids in need. To date, the organization has raised and distributed more than $4 million to local nonprofits.

The first Italian Open golf fundraiser in St. Louis was held in 1974. It was organized by a group of Italian-American businessmen who had attended a similar event in Milwaukee that benefited Boys Town of Italy. Inspired by the experience, they decided to use the format to raise money for local organizations that serve and support children. The tournament has come a long way since raising $4,000 its first year. Board president Dr. Carmen Castellano says the event usually brings in around $200,000, and in 2018, more than 200 golfers participated. “The event really has grown and evolved, but the dedication to supporting local kids has remained at its heart,” says Castellano, whose father participated in the inaugural tournament. “It’s always a really fun time and supports terrific causes.”

The golf tournament benefits around 40 local charities. “There are some that we have partnered with for a long time, but our board members also regularly recommend new organizations to support,” Castellano says, adding that a charitable giving committee reviews each suggestion. “We want to ensure our donations make a significant impact.” Some of the groups that have benefited from the Italian Open include The Little Bit Foundation, Epworth Children and Family Services, Boys Hope Girls Hope, and the service dog nonprofit Duo. This past year, Castellano says the Italian Open also supported the development of a new Italian-inspired piazza on The Hill. Located across the street from St. Ambrose Church and School, the open-air gathering place will include chess tables, benches and a central fountain when it opens.

Along with raising funds, the event recognizes individuals who have made an impact in the community. This year’s honorees are Dan Harbaugh, president of The Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis, and Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission. “They both mean a lot to St. Louis and have done important work to make the city a better place to live,” Castellano notes. The organization also supports local students with annual scholarships. The Tangaro Scholarship Award is presented to high school seniors who have distinguished themselves through achievements in athletics, academics and community service. The award is named after Joe Tangaro Sr., one of the Italian Open’s founders.

The annual tournament kicks off Aug. 3 with cocktails and dinner at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel. The evening also includes a program and silent and live auctions, including a fund-aneed campaign. “It’s a wonderful event,” Castellano says. “Dinner is an Italian feast, and everyone has a great time.” Golfers tee off Monday, Aug. 5, at The Legends Country Club in Eureka. The day concludes with a dinner banquet and awards ceremony.

Since 1974, the St. Louis Italian Open Children’s Charity Golf Tournament has supported local children’s charities. This year, the event begins Aug. 3 at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel with dinner auctions, and the tournament is Aug. 5 at The Legends Country Club. Pictured on the cover: Dan Harbaugh of  Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis, Dr. Carmen Castellano of the St. Louis Italian Open, Frank Viverito of the St. Louis Sports Commission. For more information about attending, contact Shannon Duffin at  314.308.6243 or visit at
Cover design by Julie Steiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: Tom Tangaro, Recipients of last year’s Tangaro Scholarship Award, Dr. Carmen Castellano
Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Italian Open