Best Of Tucson®

Swing It

Armen Dirtadian, golfer-singer-teacher

It took the Irish-American Rosemary Clooney to popularize an Armenian folk song, "Come on-a My House," but we're not in any one of Armen Dirtadian's houses--Randolph, El Rio, The Raven or The Gallery. We're not at the Gaslight Theatre. We're not at Mickey Greco's. Rather than any one of those stages for Armen Dirtadian's talent, we are at lunch. At Gus & Andy's.

Sam Borozan, retired now from teaching teachers, coaches, athletes and athletic officials at Northern Arizona University, is in the kitchen and has loaded up Dirtadian's table so heavily that it is listing.

The blessing of Dirtadian reveals itself when our wonderful waitress, Shirlene, realizes he teaches at Secrist Middle School. She tells Dirtadian and that her granddaughter went there. Before she can finish her granddaughter's name, Dirtadian delivers it to an audience that grows in admiration when he praises the girl's work in one of his drama classes' productions.

Dirtadian, in spite of bumbling, money-hoarding central administration, has provided his gifts to the students of TUSD for 27 years, including eight years at the desolate and downtrodden Catalina High before moving to Secrist.

On a clear day when he was 12, Dirtadian came upon Sam Borozan's youngest brother, George, the television newsman, at Randolph Golf Course. George was solo that day. Mike Borozan, the other half of the legendary Swindle Bros., was absent.

Stentorian and in his usual manner mixing Ward Cleaver and Ted Baxter, George Borozan took young Dirtadian under his wing, showing him how his new 1-iron would leave the ball exactly five feet short of a shot from his driver. Somehow it did, and young Dirtadian responded: "Yes, Mr. Borozan."

Dirtadian was thrilled to report to his dad that he had played that day with Mr. Borozan, and the Montenegrin-Armenian alliance, in Tucson, was forged.

Dirtadian went on to play many rounds with the Borozans and also racked up nine Pima County Amateur championship titles, the Arizona Amateur title in 1976 and the titles in the Northern Arizona, Southern Arizona and Western Arizona Amateur championships. He is, as Mike Borozan would say, the defending "chump," having regained the City Amateur title last year, his first since the second of back-to-back titles in 1985. He did it again, successfully defending his title this month.

A 1970 Palo Verde High graduate, Dirtadian swung for the University of Arizona Wildcats through 1974 and completed his degree in education in 1976.

His saddest days came with the premature deaths of his golfing and teaching Borozan mentors, George (cancer, 1999) and Mike (complications from a liver transplant, 1993). He sang for and eulogized both.

Dirtadian remembers them every day, while hitting balls at The Raven or while teaching in the same system Mike Borozan taught in.

"I like doing all the things I do in Tucson," Dirtadian says. "I learned all the things here. I don't think I could do them elsewhere. Every time I leave for performances in Austin, in Nashville or some other city, when I come back, it seems so much better."