- Golfer Benefits
NORTON, Massachusetts – For the first time since its introduction in 2012, two individuals will receive the Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award in the same year. Phil O’Sullivan and Michael Birtwistle will be the 2019 recipients for their dedicated service to amateur golf initiatives both with Mass Golf and the United States Golf Association (USGA). They are the eighth and ninth individuals to receive the award.
Both men will be recognized during the Mass Golf Champions Dinner, which is scheduled for January 14, 2020, at Wellesley Country Club. O’Sullivan, a Rules Official, and Birtwistle, a Course Rater, will be honored along with Mass Golf’s Player of the Year recipients from the past year.
O’Sullivan (Cohasset GC), 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 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.
“I’m humbled by it,” O’Sullivan said of receiving the award. “Everybody is really great, and I enjoy the camaraderie. It’s fun, and that’s what makes it rewarding.”
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 two years ago, 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.
“I appreciate it a great deal,” Birtwistle said of receiving the award. “I have a wonderful team of 35 raters here in Western Mass. They’re all so ready to work, and they’re good at what they’re doing.”
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.
“I learned a tremendous amount from him,” Birtwistle said of Blau.
A retired Professor of Dramatic Arts (Theater and Dance), Emeritus at Amherst College, Birtwistle still lives in Amherst year-round and stays involved in the community.