Column: 'Keep Track Of Your History' - MASSGOLF

Author, Historian Gary Larrabee Encourages Clubs To Not Lose Sight Of Archiving The Past

I pray that you have enjoyed my contributions this past season in MassGolfer Magazine, a publication vital in celebrating the game and the people who, in a variety of ways, make it great in the Bay State.

I have written about my fond memories covering six Masters tournaments during my early days at The Salem News; Bill Flynn’s historic victory at the Massachusetts Open 60 years ago at Kernwood Country Club; the passing of Bob Menne, one of our state’s most accomplished players ever; and the anticipated return to competition in 2024, after a decade’s absence, of Marion Maney, former Massachusetts Amateur and USGA Mid-Amateur champion.

They all have a strong, historic flavor to their stories, no surprise coming from an avid historian who has authored 14 books chronicling the histories of prominent golf clubs, golf organizations and one noteworthy golf tournament, with one more project in the works.

The history of golf in our beloved Commonwealth has been well documented over the decades since the earliest clubs like Essex County Club, Myopia Hunt Club, Brae Burn Country, The Country Club, and Salem Country Club were founded in the late 1800s.

Mass Golf produced a marvelous volume in 2003 titled The Commonwealth of Golfers, covering the first century of organized golf in Massachusetts.

The great majority of Mass Golf member clubs that have marked their centennial in the past 30 years have produced memorable historical documents commemorating their milestones.

Sadly, a few clubs have not yet commemorated their special anniversary with a history of some form. Doubly sad, there are fewer and fewer journalists focusing on golf these days in their reporting endeavors and even fewer budding golf historians in their midst. The two fellow golf historians I know best, Kevin Mendik and Dr. Bill Healy, are part of a dying breed.

Mendik is a noted author best known as the historian for Brae Burn Country Club and co-author with the late Bob Labbance of The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles.

Healy, a recently retired orthopedic surgeon, has found a new career he labels ”a labor of love,” one which has led him to create three spectacular coffee table books, course histories of three fabled Massachusetts layouts, Eastward Ho!, Concord and Oakley. With more to come, if Dr. Bill has his way.

Neither Mendik, nor Healy, nor I are spring chickens. Two of us are in our 70s. Will there be golf historians to follow on the paths we have trod?

The response leads me to make these requests to every golf course – public, private and municipal – and every golf-related organization in Massachusetts: Keep track of your history.

Appoint a club/course/organization historian/archivist. For example, Salem, for whom I have created histories at the 100-year and 125-year marks, has a long-time archivist (and sensational archives room) in Tom Standring and a successor in place, with Tom approaching his 90th birthday, in Bill Finnerty, Jr.

History is a crucial part of golf’s heritage. Historical records keep the names alive regards every aspect of the game, from tournament champions to organizers to patrons.

We must never lose sight of the value of maintaining the incomparable history of golf in Massachusetts.

Gary Larrabee has written about golf since 1970 and has been a contributor to MassGolfer Magazine since 1991.