The Bridgestone Invitational kicked off today with some of the world’s top golfers on the Firestone course. And among the big names on the course, a volunteer who has spent decades working behind the scenes.
“I’ve been here 52 years,” said Bernie Antonino.
Antonino, a former teacher with the Copley-Fairlawn School District, has spent more than five decades as a volunteer. No doubt she has witnessed a lot on and off the course. In the early years spent as a volunteer, Antonino took on a leadership role as chairwoman of transportation.
“[Golfers] actually had to come to me to say ‘Bernie I need to go, wherever.”
The would mean spending time with golfers, face-to-face. Antonino said she became friendly with Jack Nicklaus and his wife Barbara.
“In fact Barbara sends me a Christmas card every year.”
One of Antonino’s favorite golfers is the late Arnold Palmer. His legacy was honored in a dedication ceremony at Firestone Wednesday afternoon. Officials named the iconic bridge on the 16th hole after Palmer who famously dubbed it the “Monster.”
“If a child wanted an autograph or something, I would just see him walk up to the ropes and acknowledge a child.”
Bernie’s thoughtfulness doesn’t go unnoticed either. She’s been given one of the David Franklin awards, honoring the top volunteers on the course. For Antonino, it’s about doing something that gives back to the community.
“It’s a service for not only the tournament, but for the community. It’s for charity and that’s the biggest thing in my eyes.”
Antonino is also known for her years of service in the classroom. She was WKYC Meteorologist Betsy Kilng’s former 5th grade teacher.