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Maria Bonzagni from Marshfield Country Club is trying to play competitive golf again. Mary Hunt from Gannon Municipal Golf Course loves the camaraderie. And the collective team from Dennis Pines and Dennis Highlands appreciates the opportunity to travel and experience new courses.
What unites them all is golf — more specifically the over 700 Bay State women from every corner of the state who participate in the highly-popular Mass Golf Women’s Spring Team Cup Matches. On Thursday mornings from April 29-May 27, several host courses statewide belong to the ladies of Mass Golf. For this five-week period every spring, over 100 clubs (some with up to 3 teams), both public and private, are divided into divisions (or Cups) of six, and each week, they square off against one team in their Cup.
Similar to a team tennis match, all five players compete head-to-head with a player from another club in a match-play format using 100% handicaps, with 1 point given to a player for winning a hole and 0.5 given for a draw. The head-to-head matchups are key but ultimately cumulative points matter most, as the team that earns the most in their Cup over the course of five weeks is the winner. Even if a match isn’t close, every point earned can help the team.
After the event was canceled last year due to COVID-19, the 2021 Spring Teams has come back strongly with 144 teams split up into 24 different groups, totaling 720 golfers (without including substitute players, which are allowed).
“Mass Golf is extremely happy to have Spring Teams return this year,” said Naomi Nessenoff, Mass Golf’s Manager of Women’s Events and Player Development. “Players and captains alike have reached out over the past few months letting us know how much they are looking forward to Spring Teams this year. Golf has been a haven for many, and Spring Teams, with its team pride and camaraderie, makes for a fun and enriching experience for all involved.”
“I think most of us would agree that having no competition last year really hurt our game,” said Deb Anese, the captain of the Marshfield Country Club #1 team. (Marshfield also has a second Spring Teams group.) Anese has played in Spring Team matches for over 30 years, first at Scituate Country Club and at Marshfield for the past 21 years. “I know I personally play better in competition. At this particular club, we have a lot of strong women who love to compete.”
In addition to the competition, part of the appeal is the rotation of the host clubs. Five of six teams will host these matches with the sixth being designated as a travel team. This has given public course players the opportunity to play at nationally recognized private courses in the Bay State.
“You’re not just to be able to play private courses, you go places you never would have gone otherwise,” said Kathryn Flett, captain of the Dennis Pines and Dennis Highlands Team. “It exposes you to different levels of golf. It’s not always easy, but you definitely test yourself when you go to another place.”
Bonzagni grew up in Lynnfield and was a standout junior golf out of Thomson Country Club in North Reading. She went on to win the 1982 Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur, but competitive golf soon fell by the wayside as Bonzagni began a prosperous career with the Acushnet Company, which operates golf brands Titleist and FootJoy. Bonzagni eventually rose to the position of senior director for golf gloves at FootJoy, a title she held for more than two decades.
“I played golf in pretty much every country, but I really was more committed to work and family, and I just put my own personal game aside, and that was fine,” Bonzagni said.
After 30-plus years in the industry, Bonzagni now has more time to play golf. She started the process last year by taking lessons and building her skills again, starting with putting and working her way back to hitting the big clubs. To her, playing in Spring Team Matches is the “best of both worlds.”
“I’m still working on some different things, I’m still on some boards, but at the same time, my commitment to golf is back on track,” Bonzagni said.
Marshfield’s #1 squad, along with teams from Blue Hill Country Club, Wellesley Country Club, and Nabnasset Lake Country Club are also private clubs within the same Cup this year, but they’re mixed in with public courses, Gannon Municipal Golf Course in Lynn and the combined team from Dennis Highlands and Dennis Pines on Cape Cod.
Not every player has played in the Spring Team Matches religiously. Mary Hunt, a member of the Gannon squad, is a retired public school teacher and in years past has filled in as a substitute player when she was able to get around teaching commitments. However, now she’s able to commit more time to playing in Mass Golf Women’s Tournaments as well as Spring Team Matches for Gannon.
“It’s great to get away from your home course and play different venues … and meet a lot of new people,” said Hunt, who added that’s she’s a big fan of match play.
While winning remains important to the women, what’s most important is that this opportunity to experience organized competitive golf at so many different places statewide continues into the future.
“Twenty-four different cups for women’s golf I think shows the spirit of women wanting to play and play competitively and have fun at the same time,” Bonzagni said.
Added Marshfield teammate Barbara Chandler: “It’s a wonderful tradition that should go on & on.”
Golf courses, golf tournaments, and golfers themselves have come and gone but since the turn of the 20th century, Mass Golf’s Spring Team matches have marked the time as generations have kept the tradition of organized women’s competitive golf in Massachusetts alive and well.
Their origin dates back to 1900 with the organization of the Women’s Golf Association of Boston, which in 1929 became known as the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and in 2018 merged with the Massachusetts Golf Association to form Mass Golf.
These early matches were contested among its four founding clubs: The Country Club (Brookline), Concord Country Club, Oakley Country Club (Watertown), and Brae Burn Country Club (Newton). At the end of the season, there was the association championship, which is known as the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship.
The matches slowly expanded as the WGAM grew, but a major breakthrough came in the 1930s that made the Spring Teams what it is today. Public courses were allowed to join the WGAM, making Massachusetts one of the first states to allow public club golfers to play alongside private club golfers in away matches.
Following the completion of the Spring Team Matches, many of the women from the Spring Team Matches play in various summer leagues or full-season leagues such as the Cape Cod Women’s Golf League.
But many also play in Mass Golf’s Fall Cup Matches, a similar statewide tournament that takes place over the course of three weeks in September, with the top teams moving on to the Fall Cup Championship, which will be played this year on October 19 at Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton.
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport. Made up of 90,000 golfers statewide, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. 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. Mass Golf offers its member’s services including handicapping, event access, youth programming and exciting golf content.