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The Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award award was established to honor Andy Blau, a Mass Golf volunteer for nearly 30 years who passed away in January 2010. Through the years, Andy served as a volunteer for nearly every department of the organization including championships, course rating, handicapping, junior golf and communications.
Andy was instrumental in creating the Mass Golf Rules Official manual and even has a starter’s box – The Blau Box – named in his honor. Andy’s dedication, enthusiasm, attention to detail and unmatched spirit and commitment to Mass Golf is celebrated with this award. It is meant to honor volunteers from Mass Golf who demonstrate outstanding service and who help guide, lead and develop other volunteers.
Here is a list of the Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Awards as well as brief write-ups (scroll down) that accompanied their announcements.
2019 – Michael Birtwistle
2019 – Phil O’Sullivan
2018 – Mike Dowling
2017 – Henry St. Cyr
2016 – Carolyn O’Donnell
2015 – Arthur Phillips
2014 – Richard Osborn
2013 – Tom Bernier
2012 – Peter Costello
Michael Birtwistle (The Ledges GC) has been a Volunteer Course Rater since 2000 and has served Mass Golf as a Volunteer Ratings Captain and Educator at course rating seminars. He has provided a steady hand in the Springfield Region, but in 2017, he also became captain of the Worcester Region, helping improve the quality and frequency of ratings throughout the area. He’s also willing to help ratings teams all across the state.
Birtwistle takes a scholarly approach to rating each course, even creating spreadsheets of past ratings and scheduled ones that are mapped out for a decade. He said he loves traveling to new courses and is insistent on being involved in the rating process from start to finish.
Birtwistle said he started rating courses with Andy Blau, who used to rate courses in the Berkshire Region, and therefore was honored to receive an award with Blau’s namesake attached to it.
A retired Professor of Dramatic Arts (Theater and Dance), Emeritus at Amherst College, Birtwistle still lives in Amherst year-round stays involved in the community and is a member at The Ledges GC.
Phil O’Sullivan, an active and longtime member of the Championship Committee, was a Rules Official for over 20 different events in 2019, including the Official-In-Charge for the Mass Senior Amateur Championship, two Mass Amateur Qualifiers and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Qualifier. He has either been a Rules Official or Official-In-Charge at roughly 200 different events since 2010, including Mass Golf Championships and USGA Qualifiers.
O’Sullivan said he’s always been interested in the Rules of Golf and said former Mass Golf president Richard Osborn, the 2013 Volunteer of the Year, was an important mentor and helped him launch a decade-long tenure as a Rules Official.
O’Sullivan, a member at Cohasset GC, continues to assist each year with the Rules education at Mass Golf’s Rules Official & Tournament Volunteer Seminar. As a member of the USGA Junior Championship Committee, he has staffed events throughout the region.
Originally joining the organization as the master of ceremonies for the 1997 Salute to Champions Dinner at Wellesley, a post he has held for nearly 20 years despite juggling a full-time and demanding job as sports reporter during an extremely busy time for the professional sports teams he covered, Mike Dowling has also served as the voice of two Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies, helped organize and produce materials that were used to help golfers navigate the many Mass Golf platforms and served as an advisor to many of the communications initiatives that were implemented during the past several years.
Additionally, during Mike’s time with the organization, his behind the scene leadership could be seen in his committee level positions, serving on the former Massachusetts Golf Association Executive Committee from 2015-2017. He currently serves on the Member Services Committee and most recently, as one of six individuals on the Marketing Communications Committee – an integral position that helped oversee the historic merger between the former Massachusetts Golf Association and Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and the ensuing rebranding efforts that led to the creation of Mass Golf in January 2018.
During his tenure, Dowling also provided voiceover talent for the Massachusetts Golf History video which was used as part of the Massachusetts Golf Museum exhibit and has served as a consultant to the popular MassGolfer magazine that members receive as part of their benefit package for holding a GHIN Handicap Index with a Mass Golf member club.
Henry St. Cyr, of Oak Hill Country Club, has been involved in several capacities with the Massachusetts Golf community for the past decade and officiated nearly a dozen events during the 2017 competitive season, including service as the Official In Charge (OIC) for the 21st annual Massachusetts Senior Amateur Four Ball, held at Red Tail Golf Club and Shaker Hills Country Club in mid-May, as well as local qualifiers for both the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship and the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
St. Cyr, a native of Leominster and now resident of nearby Sterling, becomes one of only a select few to serve as OIC for six different Mass Golf Championships Proper, including most notably the 2015 Massachusetts Amateur Championship that was contested at his home club, Oak Hill Country Club. Other championships for which he has served as OIC include the 2011 Massachusetts Open, 2015 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship, 2015 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship and the 2016 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship.
In addition to his service on site across respective Massachusetts Championships, for the past three years, St. Cyr has served on the Mass Golf Championship Committee, which helps organize every Championship Proper and qualifier throughout a given year with the oversight of all Championship policies, conditions and regulations. Additionally, he has twice been a member of the Massachusetts Golf Association’s nominating committee.
Carolyn O’Donnell, a longtime member at The Country Club, assisted in the operation of more than 60 events across Mass Golf, USGA and MIAA platforms during the 2016 season.
In addition to her work with Mass Golf, which started in 2009, O’Donnell has been a volunteer in the golf community for more than 20 years, beginning with her service at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, held at The Country Club, for which she oversaw the work of volunteers.
In that time, O’Donnell has served as a volunteer for what was the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM) and the MIAA Girl’s Championship and also twice served on the WGAM Board, in addition to her two years of service as Chairman of Rules for the WGAM from 2007-08.
In just the last few years, she has volunteered as a guest official at the U.S. Amateur Championship, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and both the men’s and women’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships.
Arthur Phillips, a longtime resident of Needham, has served as a Mass Golf course rater for more than 20 years and for the past 17 years has been captain of the Greater Boston team. He took over that leadership post in 1999.
Course rating is a critical part of Mass Golf’s mission as all Member Clubs are required by the United States Golf Association (USGA) to be rated in accordance with the USGA Handicap System. Phillips manages a Greater Boston contingent that is part of a state-wide course rating team that rates and marks more than 50 courses per year.
A 1960 graduate of Tufts University, Phillips enjoyed a successful 31-year career at Boston Edison (were he retired as the vice president of information services) and has since dedicated his time and efforts to giving back to the community.
In addition to his work with Mass Golf, Phillips has been a member of Needham Golf Club for more than 40 years where he has served – over the years – as greens chairman, vice president and president. He currently sits on the club’s green committee. A current board member for the New England Senior Golfers Association, Phillips is also an accomplished player who has competed in numerous Mass Golf and New England Golf Association events over the years.
Richard Osborn has served in nearly every capacity when it comes to amateur golf in New England. He is a past president of both the Massachusetts Golf Association (MGA) and the New England Golf Association (NEGA). He has been a longtime rules official for Mass Golf, NEGA and USGA and currently serves on the USGA Regional Affairs Committee.
What many do not know about Osborn, however, has been his passion and dedication to Mass Golf Member Day program. Since the program’s introduction in 2010, Osborn has served as “official in charge” at nearly every event. Oftentimes the only rules official overseeing fields that number nearly 100 competitors, Osborn has traveled the state to promote and support this important program which aims to bring the unique Mass Golf Championship experience to golfers of all age and skill level.
During his acceptance speech, Osborn noted that the program has impacted nearly 1,000 golfers and the number of Mass Golf Member Days will reach an all-time high of 15 in 2015.
“If you have not participated in a Member Day, you need to check it out,” said Osborn. “It is a special program, and I have been honored to be a part of it.”
It is estimated that Osborn has traveled more than 4,500 miles to Mass Golf Member Days over the four-year period.
Tom Bernier, a longtime fireman in Taunton, has been volunteering for The First Tee of Massachusetts for the past seven years. While he travels the state to work with underprivileged youth, Bernier spends most of his time at the The First Tee of Massachusetts’ home site of The Links at Mass Golf in Norton.
During his acceptance speech, Bernier spoke about a day when he worked with a 14-year-old participant who after hours of practicing how to chip a ball onto the green leaned over to his mother and said “Mom, that man really understands people with Down’s Syndrome”.
“There is no one more deserving than Tom Bernier for this award,” said Joe McCabe, former executive director of The First Tee of Massachusetts. “Tom epitomizes what it means to give back to the game and we are privileged to have him work with our program.”
The feeling was mutual for Bernier, who noted that both of his children participated in and progressed through The First Tee of Massachusetts program.
“I always tell people that I have three families,” said Bernier, who also volunteers his time with the Taunton Golf Commission and serves as a mentor for the Taunton Area School to Career. “I have my fire department family, my core family and my Mass Golf family.”
For more than 10 years, Peter Costello has volunteered in nearly all of the Mass Golf Departments. A member of the Mass Golf Championship Committee, Costello serves as a rules official and helps to secure championship and qualifying sites on the South Shore.
He is also a dedicated volunteer for The First Tee of Massachusetts, which brings the game of golf and its inherent values to more than 18,000 children in the Bay State through its year-long programming at golf facilities and as part of The First Tee National School Program.
One of Costello’s most recent accomplishments has been the creation of the New England Green Section Seminar, an educational seminar which brings together more than 200 green chairs, club officials and club personnel from across New England.
Costello came up with the idea years prior and has since partnered with the USGA Green Section, Mass Golf and Golf Course Superintendents of New England (GCSANE) to make the New England Green Section Seminar a reality.