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WELLESLEY, Massachusetts – In a night filled with laughter, camaraderie and even some tears, Mass Golf celebrated its second competitive season by honoring its champions of the past year at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night at Wellesley Country Club.
Mike Dowling, a Mass Golf board member and former sports reporter at WCVB Channel 5, was once again the Master of Ceremonies. After opening words from Mass Golf Executive Director Jesse Menachem, Dowling introduced winners of the Mass Open, Mass Amateur and Mass Women’s Amateur, plus Mass Golf’s Player of the year recipients: Matt Parziale, Pam Kuong, Frank Vana, Jr. and James Imai. Not all signature-event winners and Player of the Year winners were present, but those who weren’t shared some words via recorded videos.
Dowling also led a pair of roundtable discussions. The first highlighted the accomplishments of a select group of young women — Angela Garvin and sisters Molly and Morgan Smith — and the other featured the two Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award winners — Mike Birtwistle and Phil O’Sullivan.
The names of winners from Mass Golf’s 11 Championships, 9 Women’s Championships, 7 Women’s Tournaments, 4 Parent/Child Tournaments and 2 Mixed Team Tournaments were also on display before the ceremony and during a portion of the presentation.
“We take great pride in honoring our champions and seeing them enjoy an evening with family and friends who support them throughout the year,” said Menachem. “Mike Dowling, as always, did a phenomenal job introducing our champions, and he helped make our roundtable discussions with some of our players and volunteers both entertaining and informative.
“We also have to thank Wellesley Country Club for their outstanding hospitality and for continuing to have us back for this wonderful event.”
The following are highlights from the speeches, videos and roundtables throughout the evening. All photos shown below were taken by Brian Smith.
Matt Parziale (Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year)
On Tuesday, Parziale, a six-time POY, thanked the support of the Mass Golf community over the past two-plus years, which included two appearances at the U.S. Open, one in The Masters and perhaps his biggest win: The 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Quoting: “I did what I thought I had to do in these two years and had a blast doing it. Everyone in the room, the support you’ve shown me in the last two years is incredible. I’ve felt it everywhere that I’ve been.”
“I’m really looking forward to playing Mass Golf again.”
Kuong, now a two-time Women’s Player of the Year, talked about how two members of Charles River Country Club encouraged her to play her first tournament, which happened to be at The Country Club.
Quoting: “That certainly changed my life. My ask to everybody here: think of one person you can ask at your club or somebody that you know who plays golf and help them to sign up for a Mass Golf tournament in 2020. Perhaps that invitation, that too could change a person’s life like it did for me.”
Vana, now a 9-time POY and 3-time Senior POY, had several top-five finishes and one appearance in a USGA Championship Proper. But he teared up when mentioning his victory with Peter McCracken, in the 2019 McCracken Cup, a four-ball event held at Charles River Country Club. The tournament is named after the now-deceased Harry McCracken, a longtime volunteer and a widely revered figure in the Mass Golf, New England and USGA communities.
Quoting: “That’s what golf’s all about for me — good friends, great people. Harry’s been solid for me my whole life. This was a special night, but it was a special year for me.”
Imai, a freshman at Northwestern, tied PGA Tour player Jon Curran with his third Junior POY honor. Though he was the only Player of the Year recipient who could not attend Tuesday night, he recorded a short video from inside the Mass Golf Hall of Fame located inside the William F. Connell Golf House & Museum in Norton.
Quoting: “Competing in these events really helped me become the player I am, become the competitor I am and gave me the confidence I needed to play at the collegiate level, and hopefully at the amateur level and eventually the professional level.”
Garvin, now a freshman at the University of Maryland, won her first Mass Women’s Amateur title, one week after winning the Girls’ Junior Amateur. Before speaking at the roundtable, she gave a short speech thanking her parents and coaches who have helped her along the way.
Quoting: “I’ve honestly made lifelong friends through Mass Golf and their tournaments. They’ve given us a great community. I’m really lucky for the entire support that I have that I know will continue with me through college.”
DiLisio, a senior at Duke University, earned his first Mass Golf championship by winning the Mass Amateur title played at The Country Club in July. Though he could not attend Tuesday evening, he also shared some words via video, thanking his family, his caddy and Mass Golf in the process.
Quoting: “Everywhere I go, I’m just reminded of how great I got it back at home with Mass Golf.”
On playing in the Mass Am: “It was a cool week that week. I was overwhelmed by the support that I got. It meant a lot to me that my grandparents were able to come out and watch me play.”
Martel, of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, recorded his first professional win at the 2019 Mass Open, knocking off three-time defending champ Jason Thresher in the process. He also recorded a video ahead of time, in lieu of a speech.
Quoting: “To be listed with some of the great names who have won this tournament in the past is truly an honor.”
Following, Angela Garvin’s speech, she joined teenage sisters Morgan Smith, 15, & Molly Smith, 14, who entertained the crowd with some back-and-forth banter with each other. Each sister got to introduce the other, say what they accomplished and talk about competition, both as a team and individuals.
“When I got her into the game, it made my life easier and a lot more fun because I always had somebody to play with,” Molly said of Morgan. “We definitely don’t want to lose on the golf course, at home, no matter where we’re playing.”
Last year, Morgan won the Lowell Women’s City Championship, one year after Molly won it, but she got a round of applause when Molly told the crowd that Morgan became the first female to play in the Lowell City Championship, with the top men in the region.
The sisters attend Westford Academy, and last fall qualified for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball together. Each has won two Mass Golf Father & Daughter Championship titles with their dad, Phil Smith, a former Mass Mid-Amateur champion.
Garvin, who became the fourth person to win the Girls’ Junior Amateur and Mass Women’s Amateur in the same year, talked about heading off to college shortly after winning both titles.
“The first week or two was definitely a transition for me because nobody at my high school goes to Maryland,” she said. “I didn’t know anybody on my team, but it quickly became home for me. My team, we’re all really close, and it definitely made the transition easier.”
She was also asked to give some advice to the sisters as they progress through high school as highly-touted players.
“When you’re playing in a tournament, and you realize maybe you’re getting older and there’s younger girls, don’t ever let that make you feel like you have to start playing a different way. Just keep playing how you’ve been playing because you’ve obviously both been very successful.”
The Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award started in 2012, but 2019 was the first time two individuals were selected in the same year. Mike Birtwistle, a course rater, and Phil O’Sullivan, a rules official, took the stage with Mike Dowling, the 2018 VOY winner, for a quick discussion on their experiences with Mass Golf.
O’Sullivan talked a little about recent rule changes, but he also thanked Richard Osborn, the 2013 Volunteer of the Year, for recruiting him to be a rules official from the putting green at Cohasset Golf Club over a decade ago.
Birtwistle, who has served as course rating captain in the Springfield and Worcester regions, concluded the roundtable saying he was appreciative to receive an award named after the late Andrew J. Blau.
“Andrew was the first person I worked with as a course rater out of Pittsfield, and I learned a lot from him. To get an award named after him, that means a lot to me. And I think about him a lot when I’m course rating because he knew his stuff.”
This year will be the 30th volume of MassGolfer Magazine, a quarterly publication that is distributed throughout the Mass Golf community. Since 1990, the magazine has highlighted the accomplishments of amateur and professional golf in the state while also recognizing the men and women behind the scenes who work as club pros, course managers, golf course superintendents and volunteers.
For more than a decade, David Colt has given his time to chronicle Mass Golf events through his photography. He captures the competitors in action as well as the scenic beauty of the courses where each event is contested. He provides access to his photos online.
This year, the Mass Golf community was saddened that this was the first Champions Dinner since Harry McCracken passed away in October 2019.
Following the conclusion of the volunteer roundtable, Dowling introduced the final feature presentation of the evening. After taking a few moments to recognize McCracken, a video played of him accepting the 2007 USGA Joe Dey Award, which “recognizes an individual’s meritorious service to the game as a volunteer.”
Last evening at the @PlayMassGolf Champions Dinner, this video was shared of Harry McCracken’s 2007 @USGA Joseph C. Dey Award acceptance speech. Harry’s humor, selflessness, and appreciation for all are highlighted here, and are some of the things we miss most. pic.twitter.com/NoshaetBgV
— NEGA (@NEGA_Golf) January 15, 2020
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by promoting its competitive spirit and camaraderie.
Presently, more than two-thirds of the 360 member clubs are public-access facilities, while nearly one-half of member golfers are enrolled at public facilities.
As the seventh largest state golf association in the country, Mass Golf has been at the forefront of industry advances such as the creation of a computerized handicap system, online registration and real-time Championship scoring.