Friday, January 31, 2014

Championship sneak peek: Weston Golf Club

It may be hard for this year's Massachusetts Open Championship to top last year's (historic venue, beautiful course, playoff in the rain, Evan Harmeling's grand gesture...) but at least we got the historic venue and beautiful course parts down! And I'm sure there will be some exciting rounds again, given the talented professionals and amateurs that we always draw! This year's Open Championship will be held at Weston Golf Club - remember last week when I said we were spoiled with all these amazing Championship venues?

The original Weston Golf Club. Photo courtesy of the Weston Historical Society

Weston was founded 120 YEARS AGO. Think about that for a second. Over a century. Only four golf courses had been built in Massachusetts before Weston. The original Weston Golf Club was a 9-hole track in the Kendal Green section of town, and the annual membership assessment was $5.00.

Fun fact: one of the duties of caddies was to "drive the cows that were pastured on the 4th fairway out of the golfers' way." Think about that one the next time you ask one of your buddies to carry your bag for you! 

In 1916 the land leases expired, and the owner of the land on the 8th hole decided to sell to a homeowner rather than renew his lease. So they moved across town to a parcel of donated land, and got Donald Ross to design the 9-hole course. The back 9 was completed by 1923.

Before the new clubhouse was opened the members voted that “No intoxicating liquors be used, and no gambling permitted on the premises of the Club.”  Golf and tennis were permitted on Sundays after church, but caddies could not be employed on Sundays. This was the general practice at most clubs; thus the introduc­tion of the light canvas bag known as a “Sunday bag.”

The clubhouse today. It has a bowling alley inside!
The area on Meadowbrook Road surrounding the club is one of the first examples in the country of residential development around a golf course. There is so much interesting historical stuff about this golf course. We hope to see you there on June 10-12! Learn more about the Massachusetts Open Championship.

Sources: Wicked Local Weston
Wicked Local: The Weston Chronicles
Weston Golf Club History

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Brookline native doesn't forget where he came from

The phrase 'don't forget where you came from' is kind of cliche, but PGA Tour player James Driscoll embodies it. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, he formed Birdies for Boston, donating $1,000 to The One Fund for every birdie he made at various PGA Tour events in 2013. When he was in town over the holidays, James recorded a special video message to be played at our Salute to Champions Dinner, and we were lucky enough to have his parents, Dick and Rose Mary, in attendance at the dinner. Here is James Driscoll's special message:

James is a three-time MGA Champion (1993 Junior Amateur and 1996 & 1998 Amateur) and currently sits 56th in the FedEx Cup point standings. We are proud to have him in our corner!

Check out James Driscoll's PGA Tour Player Profile

Friday, January 24, 2014

Championship Sneak Peek: The Mass Amateur

Over the coming months, we will try and highlight some of our 2014 Championship host clubs. We begin with Kernwood Country Club in Salem, site of the 2014 Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
Left: 1973 Mass Open at Kernwood - shown: Bob Crowley, the eventual Champion
Right: future MGA President William Blaney competing at Kernwood

While we are so rich in golf history in Massachusetts that it may seem like there is a Donald Ross in every corner of the state, Kernwood stands out as one of the most history-rich clubs in Eastern Mass. Located in Salem, the club, which was established in 1914, sits on the Danvers River. Kernwood was founded by a group of Boston business leaders led by Louis Kirstein, who "located their club in the North Shore seaside community of Salem, where they had purchased a peninsula estate owned since the mid-1800s by members of the prominent Peabody family." 

The founders hired aspiring architect Donald Ross, who had recently completed a tenure as golf professional and greenskeeper at nearby Essex County Club in Manchester, to build their course.  The membership was playing the first nine by the end of August, 1915, the second nine by late August 1918. (

Isn't it funny to think of Donald Ross as an 'aspiring architect?' 

Kernwood has hosted the Amateur Championship twice - in 1922 and 1932. (Some guy named Francis Ouimet was the Amateur Champion in the 1922 contest.) The club has hosted the Mass Open four times - 1924, 1963, 1973, and 2007- and hosted the Junior Amateur Championship twice - in 1985 and 1993 (when our friend James Driscoll was crowned the champion).

Kernwood's got it all: a beautiful riverfront location in an interesting city, classic Donald Ross layout, and so much history. I hope you're all as excited as we are to take the huge undertaking that is the Mass Amateur up to the North Shore this summer!

The Massachusetts Amateur Championship will take place from July 14 - 18. The Championship will begin with 36 holes of stroke play qualifying, leading into match play for the final three days. Click for more information

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Holy's almost Championship Season!

When I first entered the golf industry as a working professional, I assumed that the summers would be crazy and the winters would be slow and relaxing. I was half right.

Although it is January and nobody is really thinking about golf (the Patriots may have something to do with that), we are putting in some serious hours here at Golf House doing all the necessary prep work to get Championship registration live. Oh, did I mention that registration goes live in exactly THREE WEEKS! What? Where did the winter go? Now if only we can get some hot weather and sunshine...I am looking a bit pasty lately...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This year's Championship schedule features some pretty great sites. The Mass Open is at Weston Golf Club, a Donald Ross design that is one of the oldest clubs in the state. Plus there is a bowling alley in the clubhouse, which is pretty cool. We're all wondering if Evan Harmeling will come back to defend his title and join the likes of Alex Ross, Paul Harney, and Geoff Sisk, champions who went back-to-back. This has only been done six times in the Open, which dates back to 1905.

The Amateur this year is at Kernwood, which just happens to be celebrating its centennial this year! Another Donald Ross on the docket...we really are spoiled here in Massachusetts!

And the seniors will be clamoring to qualify for this year's championship, which is at the amazing and gorgeous Oyster Harbors Club. The picture says it all - what a neat place!

We have a new Championship to look forward to this season as well - the Super Senior Amateur Championship at the picturesque Cohasset GC. Check out some of the photos from last fall's Member Day at Cohasset - what a beautiful setting!
Tranquility at Winchester CC
We haven't even gotten to the New England Golf Association Championships yet - this year's New England Amateur is at Winchester Country Club. Ahh. Winchester. Talk about a neat place! I had the privilege of going there for the first time last season and pretty much fell in love.

We have also secured some great qualifying sites for our Championships. From Stockbridge GC, to Woods Hole, to Marlborough to The Ridge Club, we will be busy criss-crossing the state this season.

One of our Junior Amateur qualifiers will be at Southers Marsh - which of course means that I have to share the commercial they recorded:

Southers Marsh Golf Course from Yoularoid on Vimeo.

As always, we cannot thank all of our Member Clubs enough for hosting us throughout the season.

We'll have everything ready to go for you on Thursday, February 6th! Can't wait for what is sure to be another great season with a wonderful community of golfers!

Friday, January 10, 2014

This is awesome. Nothing more we can say about that!

Watch Tom Bernier's inspiring and heartfelt Blau Award acceptance speech last night:

A Salute to Champions!

Clockwise from top left: 1. The ballroom set and ready for our guests! 2. Trophy display 3. The Bo Winiker Band, our entertainment for the evening 4. Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Doug Clapp 5. The ballroom packed to the gills with supporters of the MGA 6. Team Massachusetts with captain Scott Whitcomb
Wow. What a night!

Last night we hosted our annual Salute to Champions Dinner at Wellesley Country Club. I don't even know where to start, it was such a great night all around!

We had a very special guest in the audience. If you had a chance to read the cover story of the latest issue of MassGolfer, you know that the Mass Open was kind of a big deal this year. We were lucky enough to have the Harmeling family in attendance last night. Thank you Evan, Mark, Amanda, and Ashley for sharing this special night with us! We also had an unexpected treat - a video message from PGA Tour player James Driscoll. Driscoll has been a great supporter of the MGA and Junior Golf, and if you'll recall, his Birdies for Boston program was the inspiration for Evan Harmeling's grand gesture after the Mass Open.

The Wellesley Country Club event staff absolutely busted their butts last night to help us put on a successful event. We could not be more grateful to work with such a hardworking group of people!

Ryan Clancy - the Amateur Public Links champion - showed us what amateur golf is all about during his acceptance speech. If you'll recall back in August, Clancy tied the course record at Glen Ellen Country Club en route to his first MGA Championship. He finished at a ridiculous 10-under par! But during his speech he pointed out his co-competitors in that electric final round - Herbie Aikens and Kevin Carey. He said that playing that round with them was the most enjoyable 18 holes he's played, and it's the first time he can remember that he could look behind him and see his competitors cheering for him and giving him high fives. Amateur golf is great.

Jake Shuman - the Christopher Cutler Rich MGA Junior Player of the Year - brought the room to tears during his speech when he talked about winning the New England Junior Championship for team captain Scott Whitcomb, who had a death in the family during the tournament. Listening to kids like this who are humble, appreciative, and compassionate, gives us all hope for the future. It also shows that golf and its inherent values of courtesy, sportsmanship, and integrity helps mold great kids, which segues perfectly into...

The absolute highlight of the night: the presentation of the Andrew J. Blau MGA Volunteer of the Year Award. This year's recipient is Tom Bernier, a Taunton firefighter who has been working with young golfers through The First Tee of Mass and MGA Links for many years. Tom has dedicated his life to volunteer service and we are so lucky to have him on our team. The story he told of working with a young golfer with down syndrome brought tears to everyone's eyes, and I can't imagine a more deserving individual for this award.

We could not be happier to work with such a wondeful community of golfers across the state, and are looking forward to another great Championship season. Registration goes live on Thursday, February 6th!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

From past to present

It's pretty incredible to think of how far the golf industry has come technologically. I doubt Fred Corcoran (pretty much the godfather of golf administration - google him, he's pretty interesting!) or even Dick Haskell, who served as MGA's executive director from 1969-1997, would be able to imagine the technological landscape of the golf industry today. Just the fact that I am writing this blog is representative of the way we are reaching our member golfers these days.

You can count on real-time scoring during our championships, done on tablets. You can post scores online, and through your PHONE (download the MGA app if you haven't yet!). We are reaching more people through web-based outlets than ever before, and actively working on defining our web presence and continually finding the most effective ways to serve our golfers.

So when we stumble across pieces of the past, it is especially interesting. While cleaning out a closet recently, we stumbled upon a media guide for the 1989 New England Amateur Championship. 8 pages, carefully crafted on a typewriter, containing tee times, course information, and championship history. Now, we have the luxury of doing our pairings online. If someone withdraws, it is an easy click of the mouse. As recently as 20-30 years ago, things were a bit more time-consuming. I imagine the MGA went through a lot of white-out!

 It is so great to stumble upon these pieces of days gone by - not only does it make us reflect on how much the industry has changed, it also gives us an appreciation for the guys (and gals) who made the golf industry tick before we had iPhones and laptops and tablets.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Resolve to play more golf in 2014

I don't know about any of you, but my new year's resolutions have already failed. Some Italian cookies tested my will yesterday, and they won. But how about making an enjoyable resolution this year - like resolving to play in an MGA Member Day?

I know I'm biased, but Member Days are pretty great. You get an MGA Championship experience and a round on some fantastic courses that you probably wouldn't get to normally play. We have some real gems on the docket for this coming season. Here are two:

Whitinsville GC: widely considered one of the best 9-hole courses in the country - Golf Digest called it "classic Donald Ross architecture." It hasn't really been changed since the great Donald Ross designed it. "The 446-yard ninth, with its tee shot across the corner of a river basin to a roller-coaster fairway and approach over another valley to a hilltop green, is still considered one of the greatest par 4s in the land." Read the Golf Digest article here

Scituate CC
Scituate CC: Can you really argue with beautiful ocean views and a clubhouse that was built in 1779? Quiet, off the beaten path, and a perfect way to spend the day.

Registration for MGA Member Days goes live next month and we'll unveil the entire site lineup then. Sign up quickly, as these events often sell out! Something to look forward to as your face freezes in this single-digit weather today...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A little inspiration for a snowy day

In today's Boston Globe, there is an obituary for Joseph Lazaro, who passed away at the age of 95. Lazaro was one of the world's best blind golfers. The son of Sicilian immigrants, Joe Lazaro got into golf as a caddie at Weston Golf Club, the site of this year's Massachusetts Open Championship. The obituary tells his interesting story a lot better than I could, so here it is:

Each time Joe Lazaro readied a shot on a golf course, everyone nearby paused in curiosity and awe.

“Whenever I’m playing, other people may be at a parallel hole or the hole behind me, they’ll all stop to watch,” he told the Globe in 2008. “And my coach will say, ‘They’re all shaking their heads Joe; you hit a good shot.’ It just amazes people to know that a blind person could hit a ball so good.”

A mine blast in Italy during World War II took away the sight of Mr. Lazaro, who was 95 when he died of cancer Christmas Day in his Waltham home. While convalescing from his war injuries, a sports counselor suggested he play golf, a sport he had first tried while caddying as a boy.

During the next six decades, Mr. Lazaro became one of the world’s best blind golfers. He competed in more than 50 US Blind Golf Association championship tournaments, winning seven national championships and a pair of international championships. His celebrity tournaments helped raise hundreds of thousands for charity and in 2007 he was in the first class inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame.

“When I started in blind golf, I did it for the enjoyment of competition,” Mr. Lazaro said in 1970 when the Golf Writers Association of America presented him the Ben Hogan Award, and he shared the stage with Arnold Palmer and Bob Hope. “I never thought it would lead to such wonderful things as this.”

He added that when he worked “with blind youngsters, I try to get across the idea that sight is a luxury that God gives us, but we have other faculties to be fully used when it is taken away.”

That was also true for him away from the golf course. For years Mr. Lazaro worked as a salvage technician at Raytheon, and “at home, he was like any other father,” said his daughter Joan Cavanaugh of Milton. “He would take care of the garden and cut the grass.”

Many who met Mr. Lazaro didn’t immediately realize he couldn’t see.

“I’d bring people home and introduce them, and he’d walk right up, look them in the eye, and stick out his hand,” his daughter said. “I used to bring dates home and they wouldn’t even know he was blind.”

Neighbors grew accustomed to the sight of Mr. Lazaro mowing his lawn after nightfall, and his children knew he wouldn’t shy from duties that seemed to require eyesight.

“He taught me how to drive,” his daughter said. “He was in the driver’s seat, showing me how to use the clutch, and I’d be in the passenger seat steering, and we’d go around the block.”

The second of six siblings, Joseph C. Lazaro Jr. was born in Waltham to Joseph Lazaro and the former Josephine Ferrara, Sicilian immigrants who started a trucking company in Waltham.

Caddying at the Weston Golf Club as a boy, Mr. Lazaro made 60 cents for each 18 holes. “Caddies could play on Mondays and I started when I was 13,” he told the Globe in 1979.

After graduating from Waltham High School, he was a driver for his family’s trucking business until joining the Army during World War II. 

He served with the 109th Combat Engineers and was in England when he first encountered Edna Basnett, who was from the Whiston part of Lancashire. 

“They met in a fish and chips shop and he just fell in love with her at first sight,” their daughter Joan said.
Mr. Lazaro had to learn to golf again after losing his sight in a mine blast in Italy during World War II.
Globe photo/File 1951
In the little time they had together, they fell in love and planned to marry after the war. Then he was shipped to Tunisia before heading into battle in Italy. On Sept. 8, 1944, a mine blast near Florence blinded Mr. Lazaro.

When doctors said he would never regain his sight, “it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he told the Globe in 1979. “My mind went around in circles for two or three days.”

From the hospital, he sent word to Edna and offered to break off the engagement. “But you’re still the same person, you’ve just lost your sight,” she replied.

“I told her that love must be blind, too,” Mr. Lazaro told the Globe in 1962. “I’m glad it was.”
They married in Waltham on April 30, 1946. Early on, Mr. Lazaro told his wife that “we’re going to be traveling together, and I can’t navigate, so you be the skipper,” and Skip became her nickname.

Apprehensive at first about playing golf, he relented and went out on a course with a coach, who helped lead the way.

“I tell you it was wicked,” Mr. Lazaro said in 2008 as he recalled his first day back on a golf course. “You lose your equilibrium, and when you swing, you fall off your feet. You’ve got to develop equilibrium.”

He quickly became comfortable, even though a few things remained beyond reach. “One thing missing is the wiggle waggle, as I call it,” he told the Globe in 1946, because blind golfers hold their clubs stationary before taking a swing.

As for putting, “We have a special method,” he said. “On the long ones, the caddie rattles the pin loudly in the cup. It’s a little like radar. It’s amazing how your ear, bent low in crouch over the putter, picks up the noise to guide you in your stroke.”

He added that “it’s easy to gauge the roll. You walk along the line of putt and sense the roll with your feet, which get a sensitivity of their own. And then from three feet or so you feel the way with your hands.”

In 1954, Mr. Lazaro was the first North American blind golf champion, winning a tournament in Toronto. It was the first time he defeated Charles Boswell, a legendary blind golfer from Birmingham, Ala. In 1962, Mr. Lazaro won his first national championship, slipping past Boswell after seven consecutive years of finishing second.

Among his many honors, Mr. Lazaro was named the 1980 New England PGA Man of the Year, and his fame was such that when he met Tiger Woods in 2006, “He said, ‘Joe, I know all about you,’ ” Mr. Lazaro recalled afterward.

Services are private for Mr. Lazaro, who in addition to his wife and daughter leaves another daughter, Lynne of Weston; a son, Joseph III of Waltham; a brother, Bernard of Marlborough; and four grandchildren.

The first blind golfer to break 80, Mr. Lazaro’s best score was 77 at the Wayland Country Club.

At a 1987 fund-raising tournament, sponsors offered two free cars to anyone who hit a hole-in-one on the 163-yard sixth hole. Mr. Lazaro came close. His drive rolled over, around, and 31 inches past the cup.

“So instead of a car, I got a TV set,” Mr. Lazaro said at the time, adding: “Oh well, I told people that I didn’t like the color of the cars, anyway.”

Obituary written by Globe staff writer Bryan Marquard
Original found here