It is a rare person who can be president at one of the most famous private golf clubs in the world and still manage to be liked by everybody. But Larry Wallisch was one of those people.
During his three-year term as president at Oakmont Country Club, which has staged major championships won by Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus during its 111-year history, Mr. Wallisch endeared himself to the membership with his quiet, easygoing style -- both on and off the golf course.
Finding someone who didn't like him was like finding a slow green at Oakmont.
"He was a good guy, very personable, kind of an Abe Lincoln type of guy," said Oakmont member Banks Smith, a former past president who served after Mr. Wallisch. "Everybody liked Larry."
"He inspired a lot of other people that followed him," said Bill Griffin, another former Oakmont president. "He's just a great gentleman, the kind of guy that everybody really respected and admired."
"You can't say enough nice things about Larry Wallisch," said another longtime Oakmont member and friend, Frank Fuhrer Jr.
Mr. Wallisch, an Oakmont member for more than 50 years who had a passion and talent for golf, died Tuesday. He was 90.
From 1989 to 1991, Mr. Wallisch served as the 19th president in the club's history, helping Oakmont as it transitioned from the 1983 U.S. Open won by Larry Nelson to prepare for the 1994 U.S. Open that was won by Ernie Els. He also served for nine years on the club's board of directors, advising the membership with his low-key demeanor and always keeping the club's best interests at heart.
But he also carried the same respect on the golf course, playing to a 5-handicap and often competing in the club's Senior SWAT events on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Mr. Fuhrer remembered Mr. Wallisch as a "good quality guy" who didn't say a lot.
"If you didn't like him, you didn't like anybody," Mr. Fuhrer said.
"He was a golf guy," said Oakmont's longtime golf professional, Bob Ford. "He was a great guy, No. 1, he truly was. And he was a very active player and a very active member."
An Upper St. Clair resident, Mr. Wallisch attended Westinghouse High School in Homewood and volunteered for military service after graduation in 1942. He trained as a navigator on B-25 aircraft, flying 18 combat missions against the German forces during World War II as a member of the 12th Air Force, 310th Group, 380th Squadron.
It wasn't until after the service that he attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from the School of Engineering in 1948. Mr. Wallisch went on to become co-owner of a number of different companies that specialized in plastics and die castings.
"He was a great leader, a great visionary who did a wonderful job of leading Oakmont through some difficult challenges," Mr. Griffin said. "He was one of those guys that everyone listened to."
And that is not always an easy task at a club filled with millionaires, corporate CEOs and plenty of single-digit handicaps who take their golf very seriously.
"He walked the tightrope pretty darn good," Mr. Fuhrer said.
Mr. Wallisch is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Jane Tracey; children L. Allan, Elizabeth Ann South, Tracey Ann Fallon and Kathleen Ann Hallisey; and 11 grandchildren.
Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. today in St. John Capistran Church, 1610 McMillan Road, Upper St. Clair. Entombment will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Little Sisters of the Poor, 1028 Benton Ave., Pittsburgh 15212.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.