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NORTON, Massachusetts – In the most recent issue of Global Golf Post New England, Mass Golf and the historic merger between the Massachusetts Golf Association and Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts was featured in a column by Mike Whitmer.
Whitmer, formerly of the Boston Globe who now works for Travelers and provides monthly content for Global Golf Post, took time to speak with Mass Golf’s Executive Director/CEO Jesse Menachem and Mass Golf Board of Directors member Sue Curtin.
See below for a link to the story and the full text.
By Mike Whitmer
Global Golf Post New England
Buried under yet another nor’easter – mind you, the first day of spring is tomorrow – Massachusetts likely can’t give Bay State residents an exact date of when the 2018 golf season will start.
When it does, though, things might look a whole lot different.
For 115 years, the Massachusetts Golf Association has served as the state’s most visible governing body for the game, overseeing championships and working with member clubs and courses. The MGA is made up of roughly 360 member facilities, including some 87,000 golfers, and conducts tournaments ranging from the Father-Daughter to the Massachusetts Open and Massachusetts Amateur.
The Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts dates back even longer. Established in 1900, it is the oldest women’s state golf organization in the United States, putting on tournaments and catering to the needs and requests of female golfers throughout Massachusetts. Its reach doesn’t extend quite as far as the MGA’s; the WGAM has approximately 170 member clubs, with 1,700 women paying a separate membership fee, making them eligible for WGAM events.
As of Jan. 1 neither group officially exists, at least in the acronyms we’ve come to know. The two organizations have merged, offering a whole bunch of newness. Mass Golf is the new name, and it brings a new logo, new website (www.massgolf.org) and a new hope that together the groups that had a combined 233 years of experience will have a greater impact on golf’s future in the state, and on those who choose to play it.
“We have this exciting new organization, we’ve rebranded, and we’ve tried to strike a balance between being transformative and embracing our history and tradition,” said Jesse Menachem, the executive director of Mass Golf, who held the same title with the MGA. “We have an opportunity to branch out, become more relatable to the public, to golfers. We want to understand what’s driving them to the golf course, and what more we can do to keep them engaged with the game.”
Every so often – with both the MGA and WGAM going back more than a century – the groups had discussed joining forces, but nothing ever came of it. When a small group (Menachem; then-MGA president Clarence Bennett; Tom Bagley, the incoming MGA president; then-WGAM president Megan Bearce; and Cathleen Beach, the WGAM executive director) met for lunch in the summer of 2015, talks quickly turned serious, with everyone committed to a journey that ultimately led to the merger. A letter from the MGA indicating a desire to pursue the consolidation process was sent to the WGAM.
Other states (Florida, Rhode Island and Texas, to name a few) have followed a similar path of combining organizations, and Menachem said the move has the full support of the USGA, which has a new partnership with Mass Golf starting this year.
So why merge now?
“Simply put, it took the right combination of people and timing,” Menachem said. “Both organizations were healthy and successful. But at the same time, we had experienced the same trends and struggles. Trying to get more women to play, trying to get a younger guard to grasp the game and be our future. There were some common themes.”
History also has been a common theme. Both the MGA and WGAM had well-earned identities and an impressive list of championships and winners that need to be
preserved. Under the new Mass Golf flag, none of the tournaments will go away. All of the MGA and WGAM events are reflected in the 2018 schedule, and now more women will be eligible to play in them. The 14,000 women who have been part of the MGA’s 360 member clubs are immediately eligible to play in WGAM tournaments, which include a number of events for higher-handicap golfers who might not qualify for championships and fall under the member services grow-the-game strategy from the new organization.
Growth, after all, is a big part of the Mass Golf goal. Susan Curtin has a long history in Bay State golf. She has played in (and won) numerous WGAM tournaments. She worked for the MGA back in the late 1990s, and is one of five women among Mass Golf’s 12 board members.
“I’m really proud of the fact that the leadership allowed us to be a little risk-taking, and be really intentional about what we’re trying to accomplish,” Curtin said. “I’m super
excited for, five to 10 years out, to look back and see how this merger has garnered a lot more participation in the game of golf in Massachusetts.
“If we get it right, our end goals are going to be that we’ve touched more people, got more people involved with the game, from juniors to seniors to middle-aged women and men who have never touched a club before. Ultimately, I think that is our goal.”
For an online version of the article below, click here.