- Golfer Benefits
NORTON, Massachusetts – In the past year, two leaders in the Mass Golf Community have been on the forefront of increasing golf opportunities for traditionally underrepresented individuals and fostering a more welcoming environment for them to play.
For their efforts to advance these initiatives on behalf of Mass Golf and First Tee — Massachusetts, Boston’s Chelsea Curtis and South Dartmouth’s Sarah Forbes are this year’s recipients of Mass Golf’s Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award. Curtis and Forbes now join Christine Veator (2020) and Caroline O’Donnell (2016) as women who have earned the award since it was introduced in 2012.
Curtis, a longstanding Mass Golf member who won the 2005 Mass Women’s Amateur Championship, currently serves on the Mass Golf Board of Directors. She has taken a leading role as chair of the recently-formed Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which advises board members, staff and the golf community at large on ways to help Mass Golf become a DEI leader both locally and nationally.
Forbes, the chair of the First Tee — Massachusetts Committee, has seen tremendous growth in the affordable youth golf program, which blends the rules of the game with life and leadership skills. The program expanded to more green grass locations this year and provided a handful of memorable experiences, especially during the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.
“I’m thrilled we’re able to honor and showcase the work of two board members who are committed to the continued growth and evolution of the game of golf,” said Jesse Menachem, Executive Director/CEO of Mass Golf. “It feels really good that we have two volunteer leaders who were equally contributing in two really important ways and to highlight them together, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Curtis, who has been involved in organized women’s golf for most of her life, said she was honored to receive this award from her peers.
“I was pretty shocked and surprised at first, but I feel incredibly humbled to receive this award alongside Sarah,” Curtis said. “Caroline O’Donnell was a volunteer at my first WGAM event, and Christine Veator has been a volunteer for as long as I can remember. To see those names and to be listed with those who have received this award, I’m speechless.”
This year, Curtis is being recognized for her extraordinary efforts in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within Mass Golf. The bulk of those efforts are through the DEI Committee, which was formed from scratch beginning last year. Curtis led the way in establishing a task force of fellow board members and sports industry representatives, and the group began a benchmarking and information gathering process for Mass Golf events and policies and collaborating with Mass Golf’s internal Equity Change Team.
In addition to its commitment to on-going training and education, the DEI Committee has established a structure for organizing roles and responsibilities, as well as forming a charter and planning future action items.
“Chelsea is a natural leader with a personal passion for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Mary Lou Bohn, a member of the DEI Committee. “Chelsea brings energy, strategic vision and an action-oriented mindset to the DEI Committee and Mass Golf Board of Directors. She appreciates what the game has given her and selflessly gives back with a genuine desire to make golf a more inviting and a better experience for others. Chelsea is humble and all about the “we” vs. “me”, but for those who know her, she is a well-deserving recipient of the Andrew J. Blau Volunteer of the Year Award.”
Curtis’ recognition is many decades in the making. She first played the game at age 7 and four years later became a regular competitor in events organized by what was then the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM). Curtis won her first championship in 2003 when she took home the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy, and two years later she won the Mass Women’s Amateur. After earning countless high school accolades, Curtis was a four-year standout and Georgetown and played two years of professional golf after that.
Since stepping away from pro golf, she has served as a board member, first for the WGAM and now for Mass Golf. On top of running her own business, Seaport Consulting, Curtis still competes in Mass Golf and USGA amateur events, and now is a leading figure in ensuring Massachusetts is a place where all feel welcome to play golf.
“We have a good group that has different prospectives, and when we get together, we have good conversations about what we should be thinking about next,” Curtis said. “I’m looking forward to continuing on with our committee. It’s going to take time, but it’s something we’re going to keep pushing forward.”
(Watch the video below to learn more about Curtis’ additional efforts as a volunteer for Mass Golf and co-captain of the Griscom Cup team.)
Since joining the Mass Golf Board of Directors in 2020, Sarah Forbes has been fully invested in the youth golf experience, particularly through First Tee — Massachusetts. This year, Forbes helped implement an updated curriculum that was added to First Tee programs and establish its newest green grass program location at The Ranch in Southwick.
“I am both stunned and honored to be a recipient of this distinguished award and to be sharing it with Chelsea who is doing an amazing job to help the organization build a thoughtful and meaningful DEI program,” Forbes said. “By recognizing the two of us, Mass Golf is also shining a light on the importance of the programs we both have worked hard to support; programs that are focused on creating inclusive environments and providing opportunities for a more diverse group to be exposed to the game and the lessons it can teach.”
As chair of the First Tee Committee, Forbes took on a role as mentor, particularly for girls in the program. For the second straight year, she played alongside a First Tee participant in Mass Golf’s Mother Daughter/Member Junior Modified Scotch Tournament, and she won the Division 1 (age 14-18) title with Olivia Jatzcak. This past weekend, Forbes took the opportunity to mentor and play golf alongside a group of teenage girls all from diverse backgrounds as part of the inaugural First Tee Teen Game Changers Conference at The Links at Mass Golf in Norton.
First Tee also had a large presence at this year’s U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Amateur, both of which took place in Massachusetts. During these championships, First Tee members were inside the ropes as standard bearers, on-course junior reporters, and practice area attendants.
During the U.S. Open at The Country Club, where Forbes is a member, she was tasked with getting First Tee members out to the course as standard bearers, and she said all of them demonstrated the highest level of respect for those around them on the sport’s biggest stage, a testament to what they’ve learned through First Tee.
“Not only was I impressed and proud of the way they carried themselves and represented the program, but seeing them return after their shift with huge smiles and stories about how they had connected with some of the pros was magical,” Forbes said. “It’s a big seed of confidence that will help them as they grow and navigate through life.”
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Forbes’ involvement will be especially important as First Tee’s influence continues to expand to more places in the state, and as the chapter celebrates its 20th anniversary next year.
“Sarah’s commitment to Mass Golf, and especially to First Tee – Massachusetts, has been incredible and I’m so happy that she was recognized with this award,” added Kyle Harris, Director of Operations for First Tee — Massachusetts. “Sarah’s support and involvement as the Chair of our First Tee – Massachusetts Committee has gone far beyond expectations. Her passion for our success can be felt every time she attends an event, hosts a meeting, or visits a First Tee class. Sarah’s leadership, encouragement and spirit have helped to drive our success, and we are very grateful for all that she brings to our chapter.”
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport.
With a community made up of over 110,000 golf enthusiasts and over 340 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.