- Golfer Benefits
Joanne Gagnon is one of the most high-energy and affable individuals you can meet on the golf course. Her passion for golf is on full display, whether she’s doing jumping-jacks near the first tee at The Country Club during the U.S. Open or jogging the entire 100 Hole Hike to raise money for Youth on Course.
Now a member of Renaissance, located in Haverhill along the border with New Hampshire, Gagnon has had a front-row seat to high-level competitive events for Mass Golf championships and women’s championships, and of course, this year’s U.S. Open.
MASS GOLF: How did you get your start in golf?
JOANNE GAGNON: I had a boyfriend in college who was on the ice hockey team. As soon as the season ended, he and his best friend would spend their time at the golf course. After a round, I would hear how he went out in 37 or so, but make double-bogey on a few holes on the back for a 40 or so. I knew all the terms and could not understand why, if he loved the game so much, he was so agitated afterwards. I figured there was something to it, so I told myself I would try it when I could afford it. I played some in my mid-20s but didn’t work at it until I stopped running competitively. I love that you can play it for a lifetime, and never become bored. I love the relationships formed on the course, and the fact that the World Handicap System allows people of all skill levels to have a match.
MG: How did you get into volunteering for Mass Golf events?
JG: When I began to compete, I had three instances where more experienced and ‘better’ players gave me information regarding Rules to help me complete the play of a hole. All three instances of that information was incorrect. I learned the hard way that skill with a club does not translate to knowledge of the Rules of Golf. I attended my first USGA Rules workshop about 15 years ago and made it a goal to become an expert. I became active with what was then the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts, and subsequently with Mass Golf.
MG: Which golf course in Massachusetts is your favorite?
JG: The U.S. Open Composite Course at The Country Club. The course is classic and beautiful with a touch of cruelty. But it is more than just the course, it is the feel of the membership, and the professionalism of the golf staff. It is top notch all around.
MG: Which golf shot do you remember most?
JG: During the Renaissance Invitational in 2014, my partner Amy Dickison and I won our flight to make it to the shootout, which is alternate shot. The 14th hole, a par 5, was the second shootout hole. Amy is a scratch golfer, but I’m not. I could not take on the green with her drive (even though it was awesome) so I tried to put her in position for her perfect distance on approach shot. I ended up leaving her a side hill shot, not a great stance, and her shot ended in bunker behind green. She told me if I could get the ball anywhere on the green she would make the putt. Clearly, she wasn’t all that confident in my bunker game. The bunker was deep (and I am sufficiently short) that I couldn’t see the flagstick. Sally DeGan was one of the onlookers, wearing a bright orange vest, so she was my aiming point. The ball landed on the green, and I jumped up the stairs just to see it drop in the hole to make birdie and win the tournament. A timely miracle.
MG: What keeps you coming back as a Mass Golf volunteer? And why would you encourage someone to volunteer for Mass Golf events?
JG: Most people think of the Rules as the way you get penalized on the golf course. I think of them as the way you avoid getting penalized (through knowledge) on the golf course. I get to witness some incredible golf up close. My husband and a few friends recently played with Chris Francoeur; a Massachusetts golfer who recently turned professional. They were blown away by his skill. As I said to my husband, that is why I volunteer. Chris is just one of the many golfers from Massachusetts, where talent runs deep, for both men and women, junior and seniors. Volunteers witness it up close. It has also led to great friendships and mentoring opportunities, both of which are fulfilling aspects of what is often a frustrating sport.