- Golfer Benefits
MARION, Massachusetts – There are plenty of past champions and highly accomplished golfers represented this week in the 67th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at The Kittansett Club. But the person with a golf resume unlike anybody else isn’t in the field.
Enter Sylvia “Muffy” Finger Marlio, a nearly 50-year member of Kittansett who is serving as honorary chairperson at this year’s Championship Proper.
Club members describe ‘Muffy’ as a “treasure”, and anybody taking on the windswept wonderland that is Kittansett would be wise to heed her advice (be below the hole, always). After all, Marlio is not only a 2-time Mass Women’s State Amateur champion, she has won 22 Ladies’ Club Championships at Kittansett, plus 9 Ladies’ Senior Club Championships. In total, it’s five decades of success spanning between 1973-2011.
And she knows a thing or two about USGA® Championships, having played the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur multiple times between 1983-2005. In 1986, she shot the lowest third round (70) in event history when it was contested as stroke play throughout. In 2005, she was the oldest player in the field at 72 years and 5 months.
Now 89, you can still find her out on the course multiple times per week, traversing the grounds of the place that’s won her heart the longest. She used to have more of an affinity for the signature 3rd hole (the island green surrounded by sand), but she is still one of the fortunate golfers to make a hole-in-one there.
As for her favorite part about the club, she said it’s a balanced equation between the course and the membership.
“One wouldn’t be without the other,” Marlio said. “This is a club atmosphere, and it’s a family. You see children coming up and now they’re in their senior years. We have a lot of tradition that goes with our membership.”
Marlio is not only fond of the radiant beauty that sweeps across the seaside course, but also the critical role members play in making it a welcoming spot, especially for those have never been here before. Marlio was present during registration all this week to greet the players and make a lasting first impression. After all, for nearly half the field, this is their first USGA Championship experience.
“I’m getting off easy,” Marlio said with a chuckle. “I just have to get up very early, put on my big smile and welcome everybody.”
While Marlio describes her role as more hospitable than anything, she has had plenty of input on organizing the U.S. Senior Amateur since the USGA announced the club was selected six years ago.
“One day at Uncle Jon’s, a local coffee place, we spent about an hour and a half, and I had three pages of notes from Muffy all oriented around the player experience,” said Newcomb Cole, the championship chairman of this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur.
Cole has known Marlio since he was a junior member and considers her a role model to this day. One story that has stood out after all these years was when Cole and his grandmother were paired with Marlio and her son Charles in an alternate shot parent-child event at Kittansett.
“I got to the 6th hole, took a mighty swing, and the ball rolled 6 inches,” Cole said. “I went to pick the ball up, and Muffy said, ‘Don’t pick that up, you might need it’. She started to sort of bring me into the championship/tournament mindset, and I’ll never forget that.”
-Mass Women’s Amateur Champion (1982, 1983)
-Mass Women’s Four-Ball Champion [with Mimi Henderson] (1999)
-Mass Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy (1980, 1985)
-3-time Mass Golf Griscom Cup selection
-22-time Kittansett Ladies’ Club Champion (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981,1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2007)
-9-time Kittansett Ladies’ Senior Club Champion (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011)
-10-time Kittansett Net Ladies’ Club Champion (1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1999, 2002, 2004)
-10-time winner of Mid Cape League Field Day (Silver Shell Bowl)
Marlio grew up close to a golf course in Connecticut, but as she says, “Golf wasn’t really the thing for girls.” She attended Smith College and went on to work in New York. Her true golf odyssey actual began as a newlywed with her husband Gerry, as the couple soon moved to Paris, France, where they lived for 14 years.
A former tennis player, Marlio had a competitive drive and ended up winning a club championship at Saint-Cloud Golf Club, located just outside of Paris and adjacent to Le Golf National, where the 2019 Ryder Cup took place. The couple also had a winter home in Sotogrande, Spain, and, naturally, Marlio won their too, taking home the Sherry Cup.
“I just wanted to either beat my husband or get better,” Marlio said. “We lived the first three months at the golf course. I wanted to get better, I was competitive. They were good teachers over there.”
During their time in France, a business friend of theirs Mike Owen from New Bedford told them about an extraordinary seaside club in Marion. The plan was eventually to move back to New York but also have a summer home, which of course, ended up being Kittansett.
“I can remember rounding the curve, and you see the full expanse of the causeway, oh yes, it was a thrill,” Marlio said of the first time she saw Kittansett.
Not long after becoming a member did she begin to make her presence felt throughout the club and statewide. She won every ladies’ club championship from 1973 to 1983 and appeared in three straight final matches of the Mass Women’s Amateur from 1982-1984, winning the first two out of three. In 1986, she was in an all-Kittansett final at Walpole Country Club, in which Loren Hilhench, then a 19-year-old Wake Forest sophomore, emerged victorious.
“I’ve never seen a golfer develop her game as rapidly as Loren has,” Marlio once said of Milhench.
Through it all, Marlio has always been humble, whether it’s reflecting on past successes or simply her role in the U.S. Senior Amateur going off successfully.
“I remember the 1983 Mass Women’s Amateur at Tedesco Country Club, I was staying with a friend, and every day I packed my suitcase and said, ‘Well, thanks very much, I’m heading home.'” Marlio said. “But then I’d win and come back.”
Marlio will still take the time to interact with all members, especially junior golfers. Years ago, the club named its annual Lady/Junior Tournament after Marlio.
“She’s encouraging of people that don’t play the game at all, and that’s why I call her an inspiration,” Cole said of Marlio. “If you’re playing elite golf, she can have that conversation and work with that person and encourage that person, as well as inspire someone who’s never played the game before.”
As for Marlio’s aspirations this week, “I hope to see good sportsmanship. I hope to see fantastic shots, low scores,” she said. “I hope to see them battling with the wind and maybe fighting some of our fescue, and I hope to see them respect our new bunkers. They’re strategic and deserve our respect.
“It’s good for the club. It’s good for golf.”
The same could be said of Muffy Marlio.