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NORTON, Massachusetts – Having spent the majority of his life in the golf industry, including the last two decades at Great Barrington’s Wyantenuck Country Club as head golf professional, Tom Sullivan has racked up a number of accolades and honors. Last week, the 69-year old Sullivan received another recognition for his dedication to the game – one that might top all others – when he was officially inducted into the Northeast New York PGA Hall of Fame.
In a ceremony held at Saratoga National Golf Club in Saratoga Springs, New York on Monday, October 22, Sullivan became just the 44th member all-time to be inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame as he joins an exclusive list of New York area golfers who’ve been recognized for their commitment to the game.
Additionally, Sullivan becomes only the second inductee from Wyantenuck Country Club all-time as he joins the class of 1997’s Clem Rafferty, the only other member with direct ties to his Western Massachusetts club since the NENY PGA inducted its first class in 1978. Rafferty served as the Wyantenuck golf professional from 1934 until his retirement in 1975.
The Sheffield resident Sullivan, who was joined at last week’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony by his wife Kathy, and children Sarah (18) and Ryan (16), said this honor is not only the best thing he has received as a golf professional, but it’s one of the top things to happen to him in his life.
“I guess it kind of means that I’ve done the job that I am supposed to, I guess. I’m not one of those award type guys. They kind of caught me off guard with this one and it was a little overwhelming to me at first that I would be considered for a Hall of Fame,” said Sullivan. “It kind of tells me that I chose the right path and my decision to become a golf pro years ago has turned out to be fortunate. To be honored with a great group of guys who are in the Hall already is just special. Next to my marriage, it’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
While he says it is an honor in itself to be inducted, Sullivan says to share the Hall of Fame with the late Clem Rafferty, who he first met when he started at Wyantenuck in 1999, was particularly special.
Despite only meeting the former Wyantenuck professional in the last years of his life, Sullivan describes Rafferty as a “real gentleman and a wonderful teacher.”
He says the fact that there are two professionals from the same club in the NENY PGA Hall of Fame is a true testament to Wyantenuck as a whole.
“I think that was one of the coolest things about this induction was being there with Clem because we’re lucky enough to have two from Wyantenuck and to me, that is just a tribute to Wyantenuck and how they treat their professionals,” added Sullivan. “The people that work here have all been long term. We haven’t had any short term employees and I think that is indicative of how the club lets us do our job, backs us up, and really treats us well. It’s a place that you say, ‘why would you possibly want to leave?’”
While this honor may be the latest and greatest accomplishment of Sullivan’s long career, the Northeast New York PGA Hall of Fame nod was far from the only accolade he has received.
Earlier this year, Sullivan was also recognized by the NENY PGA as the section’s 2017 PGA Professional of the Year and has also garnered accolades that include the NENY section PGA’s Teacher of the Year Award and has twice won the Roland Stafford Award for integrity, honesty and sportsmanship.
For him, despite all the personal recognition he has received, Sullivan says it couldn’t be done without the people he has been fortunate enough to be around throughout his career.
“When you are voted on by your peers for anything, I think it is extra special because I look at guys and go, ‘I want to be like him and like him’ and sometimes you watch how they do things and you don’t realize that they’re actually watching you,” explained Sullivan. “All the jobs are different, but they strive to do the same thing. They strive to make their members happy, they strive to teach well, they strive to make the golf club a fun place to be and a place that people want to show up to. I like all my members to be my friends. They’re all good people. You help them with their golf game and you go out and play with them.”
He added, “Being the club professional here is just an amazing tribute not only to me, but to my staff and to my club. My staff has a lot to do with that because they’re good people and they do a great job and they make you look good. It’s a tribute to Wyantenuck Golf Club.”
Despite turning 70 before the start of the next golf season, Sullivan says he has no plans to change his routine, one that been nearly the same every day for more than five decades.
Sullivan says that he has time remaining on his contract with the club and regardless of what happens after that, he knows that he’ll always be involved with the game.
Sullivan said, “The whole aspect of it is that I’ve been doing it a long time and I’d love to do it another 30 years, but I don’t think that is going to happen. But I will stay involved in the game because you have to stay involved with something that has given you so much. It has given me everything I’ve got so you can never just walk away from it.”
Tom Sullivan has been an integral part of the Mass Golf mission to advance golf in Massachusetts by promoting its competitive spirit and camaraderie by allowing the organization to host various events at the course, including the 2018 Endicott Cup & Tri-State matches the 2017 Massachusetts Super Senior Amateur Championship.