“Sensation at Salem:” The Legendary Babe Zaharias’s Historic 1954 U.S. Open Victory at Salem Country Club

New from Gary Larrabee……….

“Sensation at Salem:” The Legendary Babe Zaharias’s Historic 1954 U.S. Open Victory at Salem Country Club…

…is considered the greatest single tournament achievement by a woman professional golfer to this day.
The story of the week when Babe staged an amazing performance on a suburban Boston golf course while battling cancer and carrying a colostomy bag, defeating the field by 12 strokes, is chronicled like never before!

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Clifford, Merry, DHS Falcons Fly High in Season Opener at Winthrop

For those waking up this morning looking for the Danvers High boys basketball team’s opening night score Tuesday from its road game at Winthrop in the Boston Globe, they were in for a jolt. “Winthrop 59, Danvers 37,” the line said under Northeastern Conference scores. Of course, nobody in their right mind would have believed the score accurate, based on the powerhouse group Coach John Walsh has on board for the new season. The Globe either got duped or someone mixed up numbers and teams in the sports department’s nerve center last night.

The actual score was Danvers 62, Winthrop 28, in as impressive a first night effort as one could expect from a squad that some believe is capable of running the table; i.e going 25-0 and capturing its third state championship (Division 2 this time) in four years. Sorry about that, Coach Walsh and team, but it’s where expectation lie among the Falcon faithful. The question now is whether the Falcons and the New England Patriots might both go undefeated between now and mid-March.

For all the delightful individual performances Walsh got from his players — and I’m talking players one through 10 — last night, the most significant performance came of a team nature — the Falcons allowed two — that’s TWO — Winthrop field goals in 32 minutes. That’s got to be a Northeastern Conference boys basketball record dating back, 70, 80 years, when the NEC cage league was first formed.

It was 9-2, right after Vinnie Clifford hit his first three-pointer of the year (he made 5 of 11 total) in what was an encouraging first game after missing all of last year following knee surgery, when Winthrop registered its first field goal on a baseline drive. More than 24 minutes later the Vikings, once a basketball power in its own right, notched their only other field goal on a similar baseline drive, making it 60-25.

In all my years of covering or watching high school boys basketball in these parts, spanning 50 years-plus, I have never ever ever seen a high school varsity hold an opponent to two field goals. Astounding, amazing, unimaginable. Yet another testament to the magnificent defensive coaching and playing efforts continually being put forth by Walsh and his staff and his players.

The Falcons are now 52-8 in their last 60 games, primarily because of the extraordinary level of man-to-man and pressing defense they have played game in and game out against NEC, non-league and tournament foes. I can only presume Walsh will be giving his players at practice the next two days a goal of holding Swampscott to one field goal in Danvers’ home opener Friday night at 7. Just kidding. But anything seems possible with this group.

A hundred and one positives came out of last night’s showing in my estimation. Here are a few:

  • No. 1, of course, was the return of Clifford, who looked sharp as ever on his feet and in the air, defending and shooting and in his overall movement at both ends of the floor. He didn’t appear to work up a sweat after playing all of the first 16 minutes, and his three-point range appears to have been deepened by several feet. The senior captain made five of his first eight attempts, by which time it was 27-6 — game time. His three-point shooting will force opponents to extend their zone defense (no one’s going to play man-to-man against this front court trio) and open up passing lanes for the seemingly unstoppable inside games of towering Peter Merry and wide body Devan Harris.
  • Senior center Merry has sharpened his game in all ways but one. He has a wonderful soft shooting touch. He’ll be cleaning the boards at both ends when teammate Harris isn’t doing the honors, and his presence at the defense end will be frightening to all opponents. At 6-foot, 9 and three-quarters inches, he”ll be nicknamed the human shot-swatter before long. The one part of his game he hopefully will be brushing up on immediately is his tendency to leave his feet on defense. He needs to pick his spots when to jump on defense in a bidf to block a rival’s shot. He had 13 rebounds and 12 blocks last night. Based on last night’s showing, he and Clifford are headed for All-State seasons.
  • The same can be said for 2014 NEC MVP Harris, who is the perfect compliment to Clifford and Merry in what looms as arguably the best front court in the state. Only time will tell if that’s an accurate assessment, but I’ll stand by that statement until proven wrong. Harris, the Charles Barkley of the North Shore, had a routine smooth 18 points and 8 rebounds, scoring on his assortment of inside moves and his improved outside jump shot. Harris could be playing into another MVP campaign.
  • The backcourt looks solid too, with sophomore Devonn Allen at the point and brothers Rashad Francois and Tahg Coakley, along with Tre Crittendon, giving the club depth, especially for defensive purposes, though all four can make the outside shot and penetrate effectively. Allen, with his size and reach, looms as the key defensive player for shutting down the opposing team’s big scorer, be he guard or forward.
  • If last night is any indicator, Walsh will be able to go deep in his bench this season for reliable play at both ends, featuring Mike Nestor, Andrew Dunn and Tom Gillespie and maybe others. Nestor and Dunn looked good last night, Nestor blocking two shots within a minute, recovering the ball on both occasions and taking one of those blocks coast to coast before getting fouled on the way to the basket.
  •   All in all an encouraging Game 1 in what will be a season in which every game will by “The Game of the Year” for Danvers’ opponent.



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2014-15 Danvers High Boys Cagers Have High Expectations

The 2014-2015 Danvers High boys basketball team knows where it’s been and where it should be going as they began pre-season workouts Monday night in the DHS field house. Their fans’ expectations — and their own — are through the roof, as they should be.

The Falcons, enjoying the greatest run of success of any varsity team in DHS athletic history (2012, 2013 Division 3 state titles, 2014 Division 2 North finalist, aggregate record the last three years under their brilliant coach John Walsh of 51-8, three straight Northeastern Conference titles) lost two key players with the graduation of Kieran Beck and Mark McCarthy.

But they return with unquestionably the best starting front court in program history in 6-10 Peter Merry, 6-4 Vinny Clifford and 6-4 Devon Harris. And the starting backcourt is solid with 6-foot junior Rashad Francois and sixth man of a year ago Devonn Allen.  Imagine two Devans/Devonns on the same hoop squad.

Merry, a senior, is proving to be every bit as talented as older brother, George, a key cog on the team’s two state title campaigns. Harris, a Conference MVP a year ago and a Charles Barclay clone if I ever saw one, benefited from playing football this fall for the 6-5 Falcons.

But the biggest story of the pre-season is the return pif the multi-talented, long-range sharpshooting Clifford, who missed the entire 201302014 season because of an knee injury from the 2013 summer that required surgery. The senior co-captain is wearing a brace but looked sharp, swift and confident in Monday’s opening workout. He’s been preparing for this season ever since he got the clearance from his doctor to play at full speed in the spring.

Walsh has a first five that could match up with any team in the state Division 1, 2 or 3. His major task will be deterring his bench rotation, which could be based on any number of players, including Mike Nestor, newcomers Tom Gillespie and Taj Coakley and Tre Crittendon, among others.

Walsh has two weeks to figure that part out, since the Falcons open the season Tuesday, December 16 at Winthrop at 7 p.m., followed by a December 19 home opener against Swampscott and a September 20 non-league affair with Somerville at Salem State University.

“We understand all too well that our fans have high expectations, but we have those same high expectations,” Walsh said. “It’s up to us to meet those expectation if not exceed them. We realize everybody will be out to knock us off. We’ll be one of the big, big game on everybody else’s schedule, but we’ve been through that. We can handle it. We simply have to give one hundred percent effort every night and we should be just fine.”

The Falcons are coming off a 20-3 season accomplished without standout Clifford. Now that he’s back with a dazzling nucleus, it’s only fair to say the sky could be the limit for this crew. We begin to find out on December 16.

Gary Larrabee




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Danvers High Falcon Cagers Keep Making History — With Potentially More To Be Made in 2014-15

The Danvers High boys’ basketball season officially came to an end the other night with another classy awards banquet at Spinelli’s in Lynnfield put on by the team;s Booster Parents. The event saluted head coach John Walsh — arguably the best coach on the North Shore — and the first boys’ team in recent memory to win 20 or more games three straight seasons. In effect, thisd has been the most successful run by a DHS major sports team in school history!

Moreover, the Falcons could take special pride in the fact they won the Northeastern Conference Small Division and mythical overall NEC crown for an unprecedented third consecutive season.

“It’s been an unbelievable three seasons, what these kids have accomplished,” Walsh, recently made a father for a third time by wife Laurie, told the audience. “And what this group did this year, under difficult circumstances, under loads of pressure, was simply amazing.”

Walsh, at 34 one of the youngest coaches in the region, was not exaggerating. The Falcons, after losing four starters to graduation, lost lone returning starter Vinny Clifford for the season after he suffered an ACL injury playing summer ball that required surgery September 16 at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The cynics didn’t give Walsh and company a prayer to finish .500, never mind what they in fact did achieve — capturing repeat NEC titles en route to a 20-3 record before falling to eventual State Division 2 champion New Mission in the Division 2 North final.

To most close observers of Falcon boys’ basketball, what this group achieved surpassed what the last two teams accomplished, which was nothing less than back-to-back Division 3 state titles.

Every player in Walsh’s six-man rotation sparkled in various ways, but the arrival of newcomer Devan Harris, a junior transfer from Hingham High School, probably made the difference  between Danvers winning 10-13 games and winning 20. In short order the 6-3, 210-pound forward became the Charles Barkley of the Northeastern Conference, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds a game, 24 points and 14.5 rebounds during the team’s tournament run, and earning co-MVP honors in the NEC.

All made possible because he played summer ball with Clifford and took Clifford up on his offer to look into the possibility of transferring to Danvers. With his mother’s blessing, they made the move from the South Shore to the North Shore and the rest is more history.

The Falcons graduate two players vital to their success this season — Kieran Beck and Mark McCarthy — but the returning nucleus led by Clifford and Harris and including guards Devonn Allen and Rashad Francois and center Peter Merry, plus likely sixth man Mike Nestor, make the Falcons the odds-on choice to win yet another NEC title and an even favorite with defender New Mission to capture the Division 2 state title.

The “X” factor in this utterly unexpected but glorious championship domination by the Falcons the last three years has been the fiery Walsh, who had never been a varsity head coach when he came to Danvers after a long stint as the junior varsity coach at Watertown.

The first season Walsh turned a team that had been 3-17 the prior winter into a 13-9 until that reached the Division 3 North semifinals for the first time in program history, going 11-3 after a 2-6 start that included a very public confrontation with a disgruntled parent the first week of the regular season. After a short cooling off period ordered by athletic director John Sullivan, Walsh got the Falcons turned around in remarkable fashion.

The next two years made the Falcons a recognized powerhouse thanks to winning the first and second state  titles (Div. 3) in school history. Then came this stunning season of success and now, well, Danvers Falcon Basketball Fever remains at a high pitch (did you check out the record crowds that turned out in the DHS field house for regular season and tournament games?), even with the season nearly eight months away.

The Falcons project to have three possible All-Scholastics next winter in Harris, Clifford and Merry. They clearly have one of the very best coaches in Eastern Massachusetts in John Walsh. The 2014-15 season can’t begin son enough for anyone associated with Falcons Boys Basketball in this astounding era of victories and championships.

But for the moment, thank you, John Walsh, coaching staff and players for giving the school and town yet another season to remember and a joy never needed more.


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Relentless Danvers High Boys Basketball Team Providing Much-Needed Joy to its School and the Community

Winning two tournament games in 2011 was a novelty. Capturing back-to-back MIAA Division 3 state championships the last two years was the ultimate in so many ways.

But what the Danvers High boys basketball team has accomplished this winter defies description, defies all understanding of what this team faced when pre-season practice got under way last November.

Four of last year’s starters gone off to college. The fifth starter, Vinnie Clifford, lost for the entire season with a busted knee repaired at Massachusetts General Hospital late last summer. Kieran Beck, a key reserve last year, the only returnee with valid playing credentials.

So, amazingly, incredibly, the Falcons achieve the impossible with a virtually entirely new cast of characters. Oh yes, and one indescribably talented new face inside in Hingham High transfer Devan “Barkley” Harris.

And here the Falcons sit this morning, 20-2 and one of the two teams locked into Saturday’s Eastern Mass. Division 2 North Section title game against the winner of tonight’s Lynn Classical-New Mission semifinal. New Mission was ranked No. 2 in The Boston Globe’s final “Top 20.” Danvers beast Classical earlier this year at Classical, 58-47.

A win Saturday and the Falcons return to TD Garden for the Eastern Mass. Division 2 final.

As phenomenal a coach as John Walsh is, aided by a dynamic group of assistants led by Mark Garrity and Bob McKenna, and regardless of the potential they saw in this completely “new look” team, how could any of them, let alone any of the team’s supporters, have expected this:

  • A 17-2 regular season accented by two eight-game win streaks
  • Two losses by a combined nine points (three-point loss at Salem; six-point loss at home to Lynn English)
  • Fabulous play by each of the players in Walsh’s six-man rotation — Harris (35 points, 20 rebounds in last night’s emotionally and physically exhausting 62-59 win over Belmont), point guard Mark McCarthy, off guards Rashad Francois and Devon Allen, versatile Kieran Beck and center Peter Merry (eight blocks versus Belmont)
  • The best record in either Northeastern Conference division (12-2) and overall (17-2)
  • Another NEC Small Division title
  • A super successful season like this without the sharp-shooting, multi-talented Clifford, though his leadership sans uniform has been invaluable; and with only two seniors (McCarthy, Beck) on the squad

The three tournament wins and the regular season wins over Beverly and at Lynn Classical and Gloucester have probably been the  highlights of this delightfully improbable season, a smashing success whether the Falcons win any more games or not.

Above all else, this group of young men and their coaches have provided a much-needed joy to a school and community still suffering deeply from the tragedy that occurred on campus at the start of the school year.   No matter what happens these next one, two or three games, that will serve as this team’s greatest legacy.


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Walsh, Danvers Falcons A Revelation, Even in Defeat, at 10-2

The more I have watched John Walsh’s fourth Danvers High boys’ basketball team, the more I have been amazed at the quality of Walsh’s coaching and the talent displayed by his six-man rotation, all new players this season except for 2012-2013 super sub Kieran Beck. Especially in their two defeats — the three-point setback at Salem and last night’s 71-66 home court defeat to Division 1 standout Lynn English.

Despite their carelessness in the way they handled the ball (read: 22 turnovers) and their blowing golden scoring opportunities last night, the Falcons (10-2) continue to show a heart, a character the way they play the game, that we have never ever seen from the DHS boys’ hoop team. Not even from the last two teams that captured state championships.

Granted, they squandered an 11-point halftime lead and struggled against the Bulldogs’ pinching trap defense after intermission, but they once again displayed a dogged determination and stamina at which you can only marvel.

Also keep in mind that against English, a team expected to contend for the Eastern Mass. Division 1 title, Division 2 Danvers was playing without its lone returning starter from a year ago, Vinnie Clifford, sidelined for the entire season because of a debilitating summer knee injury, and starting center Peter Merry, the 6-7 junior who was missing his third straight game because of a hip injury. Merry’s presence might have been a significant equalizer opposite English’s 6-6 pivot Johnny Hilaire (15).

As it was, the Falcons had every chance to win the game once point guard extraordinaire Mark McCarthy (11 points) drove the lane to even the score at 62 with 3:10 remaining, and Devon Harris (22) did the same, starting from the top of the key, and made it 64-64 with 1:20 remaining.

But it was all English from there. Just too much firepower and player depth, while Walsh stuck pretty much with five players the entire game. No matter. A marvelous effort from a team that little was expected from at the start of the season, and now one that figures to be a Division 2 tourney contender, assuming Merry returns healthy before too long, no one else comes down with an injury, and Walsh figures a way to get a couple more players into the rotation, probably Mike Nestor and Andrew Dunn. Frosh Devon Allen has done a yeoman’s job filling in for Merry among the first five. Now, if he can only regain his shooting touch, his role will only become more important.

After winning back-to-back Division 3 state titles, Walsh, a marvel in his own right in his first head coaching job, just might have the Falcons in a position come post-season time to make a run at a Division 2 championship. Who would have believed?

This lovable Falcons’ squad now projects to go somewhere between 15-5 and 17-3 in the regular season. Astounding. Can’t wait for the next one, a non-league home game Sunday afternoon with Billerica starting at 2 p.m.












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Danvers boys’ cagers (8-1) off to remarkable start in 2013-14 season

Even after suffering its first defeat last night at Salem, 41-38, the Danvers High boys’ basketball team, with nary a single starter back from last year’s state championship-winning group, is off to a spectacular start.

Makes one appreciate even more, if that’s possible, the Belichikian-like job John Walsh has done in his first varsity head coaching job. The Falcons are 8-1 and a lock to go to 9-1 when they host Revere Friday night. Projecting through the regular season, the Falcons look like a lock to go 15-5 at worst in the regular season.

Who would have imagined such a thing back in late summer after junior sharpshooter Vinny Clifford, the lone returning starter from a year ago, smashed up his knee, required surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and was ruled out for the entire season.

Well, based on what Walsh had accomplished in his first three seasons, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Year 1: 13-10, a 12-win improvement on the previous season, the first time the Falcons had won two tournament games, the first time they’d reached the North Section semifinal round

Year 2: A 21-4 record and the program’s first state championship (Division 3)

Year 3: An 18-0 season start, a 24-2 record en route to repeating as Division 3 state champions

But with zero starters returning this winter, expectations were modest at best heading in to this new season. We should have known better. Walsh has created a six-man playing rotation that has combined the program’s trademark in-your-face, man-to-man defense, combined with some zone and trap variations, to make the Falcons a powerhouse once again. They are steamrolling through the Northeastern Conference large and small teams, last night’s stumble the exception, and already they are considered one of the teams to watch as the Division 2 state tournament approaches.

Yes, the Falcons will not be able to go for a three-peat in Divisision 3. Enrollment numbers at DHS have moved the Falcons up a division. I doubt Walsh and the players care either way.

There is some concern among diehard fans who attend every game if Walsh can get the maximum out of a group when only six players figure into the rotation. Here’s hoping he expands the rotation to at least seven, if not eight, by tourney time. The Falcons are a sure thing to win the Northeastern Conference Small division once again, but their post-season prospects are uncertain.

Regardless, the “Stupendous Six” has been marvelous so far.

Kieran Beck, who played a vital “super sub role last year, has emerged, as expected, as the leader of this year’s unit, able to play inside or out, guarding the opposition’s top scorer most nights and delivering clutch offensively at the same time. Best example: the pulsating comeback win over Beverly last Friday night.

Peter Merry has made huge strides since last season and is a major presence in the middle at both ends of the floor; a feared shot blocker and rebounder as a defender and with a smooth inside game at the offensive end with his jump hook, soft jumper and hunger for offensive put-backs. He could next year make people compare him with big brother George, an all-scholastic his senior year when he led the Falcons to the 2012 state title.

Devan Harris has emerged as the wild card after moving to Danvers from Hingham, influenced more than a little from his summer basketball-playing relationship with Clifford. He is the perfect complement to Merry, giving Danvers an ideal 1-2 inside presence offensively. Harris, at 6-foot, 2 inches, sports a football lineman’s body but with a running back’s agility, wondrous spin moves near the basket and a soft jumper he can make from most any range. Harris took the final-seconds three-pointer last night at Salem — the perfect strategy from Walsh — that went around the rim, in, then rolled out as the buzzer sounded; an excellent shot from Harris, who deserved to see it drop through the bottom of the net and force overtime.

Mark McCarthy has played a terrific point guard to date at both ends of the floor and has been the team’s most reliable three-point shot. His development over last season, like that of all his holdover teammates, has been significant. The one weakness Mark and all of his teammates showed at Salem was a tendency to force passes where they should not go. If they get that issue resolved, they will be mighty hard to beat in every game upcoming, including the NEC battles with Large division teams Peabody (away, January 24) and Lynn English (home, January 28) and the non-league home-and-home in February with Martha’s Vineyard, the team the Falcons defeated last March in TD Garden in the Eastern Mass. final.

Rashad Francois has been a pleasant surprise as the fifth starter, with an impressive athleticism that no teammate can match. He made several huge plays to help the Falcons rally in the final minutes against Beverly, but, like his teammates, had rocky moments at Salem, hopefully a good learning experience for them all. Rashad is the team’s second-best three-point shooter. His quickness on both sides of half court makes him a player who can change the complexion of the game.

Devon Allen is a reliable sixth man, a fantastic feat for a freshman, who can play guard or small forward and has a three-point shot that must be respected by rival defenses.

Beck and McCarthy are the only seniors on the team. Merry and Allen are juniors, Francois a sophomore. That means four of the six regulars are back next year along with Clifford, who, despite his season-killing injury, is already being eyed by Division 3 college recruiters across New England.

The future looms incredibly bright, especially with reports that the eighth grade team is loaded with potential talent. But the future is NOW for this team, starting with Revere. After that, who knows?

This observer’s biggest concern is the team’s current lack of depth, which can lead to durability issues in fourth quarters and late-season/post season battles that go down to the wire. For all the energy they have as high school athletes, Walsh’s six regulars are going to need timely rests during the second half of the regular season and the tournament. Hopefully Walsh will find another player or two who can provide those necessary substitutions down the road.

Beyond that, enjoy what is shaping up an another phenomenal ride with the Danvers High boys basketball team and its brilliant head coach. Success we had never seen with this program until Walsh arrived on the scene.




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Catching up after a Long Respite; Looking Ahead to 2014; USGA Calling?

Catching up in all directions today after being sidetracked with a melanoma issue the last few months that won’t go away, but which can hopefully be controlled, thanks to the amazing caregivers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

We start, as I am prone to do, with golf news, and some special dates we can look forward to, especially here on Boston’s North Shore, in 2014.

Ferncroft Country Club and Turner Hill will host the Massachusetts Fourball Championship May 12 and 13, and many of those same top-flight players will return to the area July 14-18 for the Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Kernwood CC, a highlight of the Salem club’s centennial year. The following week more great action takes place with the New England Amateur slated for Winchester CC July 22-24.

The biggest golf story of all in 2014 in these parts, hopefully, will be an announcement from the United States Golf Association that it is returning to Salem Country Club for the 2017 Senior Open. That would mean millions to the local economy and bring the world’s greatest golfers 50 years of age and older back to the scene of one of the most exciting Senior Opens ever in 2001, when Bruce Fleischer held off Jack Nicklaus, Isao Aoki, Jim Colbert and Gil Morgan to win the coveted Francis Ouimet Trophy. Stand by for word from Far Hills, N.J.

It’s been a good end of year for Andover’s Evan Harmeling. He is all over the cover of the winter 2013-2014 issue of MassGolfer, the publication of the Massachusetts Golf Association. The theme of the issue is “Giving Back,” and no one was a better example of that than the 24-year-old Harmeling, who, after winning the 2013 Massachusetts Open at Woodland donated his entire $15,000 winner’s purse to The One Fund, the charity organized to support the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Then we got word that Harmeling had won the first event, worth $5000, of the reborn Space Coast Tour  at the Reunion Resort in Florida. So more good things are coming Harmeling’s way and that makes us all happy. Evan is a wonderful face for Massachusetts golf wherever he plays.

Belated congrats to Larry O’Neill and his newly-crowned Division 1 state champion St. John’s Prep golf team, as well as to Salem News Player of the Year Steven DiLisio, who was medalist at sectional qualifying with a 69 and led the Eagles at the state final at Black Swan in Georgetown with a 72.

That goes double to Masconomet’s George May, who succeeded his brother as Division 2 state individual champion after shooting a 73 at Blackstone National.

It’s been a sad time around these parts as well with the passing of some special people, starting with Joyce Swedberg, wife of Beverly Golf and Tennis Club’s Steve Swedberg, who played in the 2001 U.S. Senior Open at Salem, Walter Mitty-style. Add to this list Stephen Connolly III, Joyce Cunney, Caleb Loring, Jr. and Paul Marquis.

Great pieces in the recent Golf magazine on Greg Norman and Ben Crane, whose aunt is a member of the Salem School Committee, but then the publication stumbled with its “Most Beautiful Women in Golf” pictorial…Then, how could Golf Digest put Kate Upton on the cover with Arnold Palmer and then run a big piece on Arnie, looking haggard and older than his octogenarian age, giving her golf tips. Awful.

Great line by Mike Purkey on the magnificent Global Golf Post website regards men who wear beards are people who need to cover their faces. He deplores professional golfers who sport beards. I agree. I have always felt that men who wear beards are hiding something…Same old Tiger at his big tournament in Thousand Oaks, California: Playing partner Zach Johnson holes out on the 72nd hole for a par-four and Tiger can’t even acknowledge it except with a painful look on his face in which he can’t even offer a grin, never mind a salute. This guy will never get it.

A few more observations: David Ortiz and the Red Sox made my first month battling malignant melanoma on my lung bearable. They were amazing and more amazing and more amazing; a phenomenal sports story we should never forget around here…Josh McDaniels should not be the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. Tom Brady is still extraordinary, but restricted by McDaniels’ cockamamie play-calling, especially in the red zone…Boomer Esiason must replace Phil Simms as CBS’s lead NFL game analyst..How in Clark Gable’s name can Ben Stiller continue to show up in lead roles in Hollywood-produced movies…Dick Vitale has grown so stale he should have retired from the college basketball analyst’s chair 10 years ago.

Honored to be part of the resurrected Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee, chaired by Massachusetts Golf Association vice-president Tom Bagley of Worcester. We got off to a terrific start with our first meeting last week at Wellesley CC. Nominations will be discussed at Meeting 2 in February at Golf House in Norton. Got any names to send my way? Please do so.

Also honored to have been part of the annual Presidents’ Dinner at Salem Country Club last week. Outgoing president Hank Ramini was saluted, as was long-time secretary Tom Standring, who is stepping down and handing the duties over to Bob Luscinski. Tom and yours truly received personalized rocking chairs, Tom for obvious reasons, me for having the good fortune of covering everything Salem CC golf over the last 40 years, with hopefully many years to come. Thanks to new president Ron Pascucci and his Board.

Lastly, congrats to Jack King, who takes over for the outgoing Scott Sagan as president of Kernwood for its 100th birthday year in 2014.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 to everyone.



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A Few Thoughts on PGA Championship, U.S. Amateur, Tiger, Phil, Steven Fox and Colin Brennan, and “Old Man” Cy Kilgore

A big 11 days of golf get under way tomorrow at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., fittingly, the home of five-time PGA champ Walter Hagen, with the PGA Championship. Should be a terrific weekend, with the strongest field of the year’s four majors and all kinds of story lines:

  • Can Tiger win his 15th major after this agonizingly long drought without a major triumph? Let’s hope not.
  • Can Phil Mickelson win his sixth after his spctacular victory at the Open Championship at Muirfield? Let’s hope so. Most everyone IS rooting for this fellow, me included.
  • Can former Salem CC golf director Kirk Hanefeld make the cut at the age of 57? We hope so. Go Kirk!
  • Watch out for Jordan Spieth.

Now to the other special event in golf — the 113thh United States Amateur from The Country Club in Brookline. After meeting and chatting with — and hitting a few practice balls alongside — defending champ Steven Fox during Amateur Media Day last month, you cannont wish anything but the best to this humble, clean cut, young man from University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Fox hasn’t done much since his dramatic victory last year at Cherry Hill outside Denver, but he’d enjoyed a marvelous ride as U.S. Amateur champion, competing in the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, though missing the cut in all three. Defend well, Steven.

Local hopes rest with Indian Ridge’s Colin Brennan, the 2012 MGA Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year and soon-to-become professional. This is Colin’s first and last Amateur. May he give it his best shot in the two days of stroke play qualifying at Brookline and Charles River and maybe — just maybe — he’ll pull off a Jim Hallet and make a strong run in match play. His caddy will be Salem CC member and long-time chim Matt O’Keefe, a fine player in his own right.

Congrats, lastly, to ageless wonder Cy Kilgore, 59, who won his record 17th Tedesco club championship, rallying from a three-down deficit after 11 holes in the 18-hole final and won out on the 19th over Chuck DeGrande.

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Prep, DHS Baseball Teams Follow Lead of Their Respective Hoop Teams

Possibly inspired by the spectacular seasons their basketball buddies experienced, the St. John’s Prep and Danvers baseball teams are proving to be just as successful — so far anyway.

The Prep, in 33-year coach Pat Yanchus’s final season at the helm, is 10-1 and was riding a 10-game win streak entering their game this afternoon at 5-6 Xaverian.

Danvers, meanwhile, was putting its 6-0 record (3-0 in the Small Division) on the line tonight at Danvers Park against fellow Northeastern Conference powerhouse Peabody (10-1, 8-0 in the Large Division.

The Prep currently is No. 1 in The Boston Globe baseball ratings, with Peabody fifth and Danvers, which gave coach Roger Day his 400th career  win last week, sixth. Let’s see what happens today.

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Cheers to Danvers’ Day and the Prep’s Yanchus As We Catch Up

Danvers continues to be the Hub of North Shore high school sports, thanks to the spectular early season showings of the DHS and St. John’s baseball teams. They rank among the best in Eastern Mass., just as the schools’ basketball team did during the winter.

Doubly big news regarding the two squads has emerged of late. Danvers coach Roger Day won his 400th game Monday after junior ace Brandon Hyde fired a three-hit shutout at Gloucester on chilly Stage Fort Park Field.

Equally noteworthy was the announcement from 33rd-year coach Pat Yanchus that he would be retiring at the end of the spring from his positions as baseball coach and mathematics teacher.

Day’s milestone moment comes as no surprise. Since covering him as a floppy-haired three-sport standout at Ipswich High too many moons ago, I sensed greatness in the baby-faced Day as a future leader of young men. And here he is enjoying yet another notch on his Massachusetts High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame resume.

Roger has made the Falcons into a state powerhouse during his tenure. Over the last 15 seasons, as The Salem News’s Phil Stacey reported today, Danvers has won one state title (2001), lost another (1999), won 12 of the last 14 Northeastern Conference titles and who knows where the 2013 season will lead to, what with an 8-0 record to date.

Yanchus, meanwhile, as unassuming as any coach I have ever known at any level, has his Eagles sitting strong at 8-1, riding an eight-game win streak after Monday’s 3-1 success over visiting Malden Catholic. His players are shooting for nothing less than a 3rd Division 1 state title before sending Yanchus off into the sunset.

Having grown up with Yanchus in Danvers’ Great Oak School district (Pat actually could walk to the school in two minutes), I have followed his career from Great Oak to St. John’s Prep to Brown University, back to the Prep with admiration and pride. Pat’s been the most exemplary teacher-coach-counsel-husband-father-friend I have ever known outside my own family. Ask Prep athletic director Jim O’Leary of Headmaster Ed Hardiman or anyone who has known Pat for 1 week, 1 month, 1 year or 55 years, as I have.


  • Last week’s life-jolting terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon, if nothing else, reminded us how much we should appreciate today’s communication technologies. How many hundred of thousands, probably millions, of us whether we were in the city of some place else, rushed to our hand-helds as fast as we could, once he heard the news, to contact a loved one? We all did. Without those devices, imagine the heartache we’d have experienced scrambling in other ways to locate those we care about most.
  • We can never overstate the importance of the jobs all first responders do, a fact brought home to us in the most deadly of ways last week. Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses. They can never be paid enough, in my estimation.
  • Amazing start for the Red Sox, disappointing playoff start for the Celtics, mysterious inconsistency by the Bruins, big test for the Patriots braintrust Thursday night and Friday with the NFL Draft.
  • Fabuklous documentary on the Discovery Channel last night, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Redford, on the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal breaking wide open and the superb movie that sprung from within, starring Redfords and Dustin Hoffman; arguably the greatest journalistic achievement in the history of this country. Thank you, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and The Washington Post.
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