A Love Letter to Salem Country Club, 2019

(Reprinted from The Salem News, October 4, 2019)

I have been asked often over the years why I write so much about Salem Country Club – its history, staff and members.

I usually reply rather matter-of-factly, “Because that’s where all the news is,” or at least where much of the golf news locally seems to originate year after year after year.

Fact is Salem CC’s devotion to giving back to the game in the primary form of hosting state, regional and national championships spanning nearly a century – 6 USGA, four New England, 17 state at last count – is unparalleled. Add the Lionel MacDuff-organized 1953Francis OuimetScholarship Fund exhibition among Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, JimmyDemaret and Jack Burke, Jr.,and Phil Mickelson’srecent corporate round there for good measure.

And 2019 has been another example of Salem being a major newsmaker. I’ve accented my column several times with Salem CC news:

  • Kip Tyler is retiring after working his 38th year as course superintendent.
  • Fourth time is the charm as Joe Mahoney Jr., finally breaks through and wins the Salem Invitational Fourball.
  • Salem CC’s Steven DiLisio shines for Duke.
  • Salem’s DiLisio wins the Massachusetts Amateur.
  • Director of Instruction Kirk Hanefeld is a golfing marvel at 63
  • Kevin Daly wins his 15thclub championship, the fourth in a row at Salem.
  • Salem CC hires Pine Valley’s Bill Rocco to succeed Tyler.

Many of you know that my “history” with Salem Country Club dates back nearly sixty years, and I’m proud of it.

Dear family friend Wally Cullen(remember Cullen Fuel of Danvers?) set it up with caddymaster/future North Shore golf legend Bill Flynn to give me an introduction to caddying at Salem CC when I was 12 in 1962. I got a Sunday afternoon nine-hole loop, my very first, with senior member and gentleman personified Dave Hicks. I was scared to death, but after a quick Flynn tutorial, I was on my way with Dave down what looked to me like the longest, widest fairway I’d ever seen, No. 1.

I survived that nine-hole adventure, the start of a love affair with caddying that included toting for runnerup Art Wall (set up by Flynn and host pro Paul Harney) at the 1968 Kemper Open at Pleasant Valley, won by Arnold Palmer, a season-long stint in 1969 working for the talented Paul Barkhouse and, my final jobs, caddying for Hanefeld when he won his third NEPGFA title in four years at Abenaqui in 2003 and my brother Markwhen he competed in the 2012 NEPGA Championship contested both at Salem and Kernwood.

For all the championships our other five-star, tradition-rich clubs —  Kernwood, Tedesco, Essex, Myopia – have hosted, Salem’s championship history towers over them all.

My “affair” with Salem Country Club journalistically has been chock full of exciting moments.

  • Covering the memorable 1970 Massachusetts Open at Salem, while caddying for Kernwood amateur Joe Smidt, when former PGA Tour star Harneywon his fourth Open in a row, defeating 56-year-old Jim Browningin an 18-hole playoff, 65 (a competitive course record) to 76, on a glorious July 3 Friday afternoon that drew more than 3000 galleryites
  • Teeing it top with Director of Golf Kirk Hanefeld and Paul Harney for a 1991 MassGolfer cover story marking Salem’s hosting its first Massachusetts Open in 21 years —  1970 — when Harney won his fourth successive Open by shooting a competitive course record 65 in an 18-hole playoff with Jim Browning before a gallery of 3500.
  • Reporting on more than 20 of the tradition-rich Salem Invitation Fourball tournaments starting in 1972, as well as the 1977 USGA Senior Fourball and 1984 U.S. Women’s Open and the Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coorevisit when the club was considering adding a third nine
  • Being asked to contribute to the 1984 U.S. Women’s Open championship program and covering the third Women’s Open – and sixth USGA title – won by Hollis Stacy
  • Member Jack McNiff’sphenomenal run at 62, dealing with a colostomy bag, at the 1980 Massachusetts Amateur on his home course, where he was qualifying co-medalist (146) and reached the semifinals
  • Being asked by members Steve Freyerand Steve Sweeney, as Centennial co-chairs and on behalf of the club, to research and author the club’s 100thanniversary book for 1995, which became the first of 15 institutional history books, 10 on golf, that I have produced over the past 25 years
  • The club enthusiastically supported a few years later my first commercial publication, The Green and Gold Coast: The History of Golf on Boston’s North Shore, 1893-2001, published by Webster Bull of Beverly-based Commonwealth Editions, and inconjunction with the2001 U.S. Senior Open at Salem
  • Being asked by the club to serve dual roles for the 2001 and 2017 U.S. Senior Opens as championship program executive editor and the club’s championship media liaison, representing Salem CC’s interests while dealing with the USGA media staff and the working media
  • Authoring in 2014, thanks to the support of six SCC members, a book on Babe Zaharias’shistoric 1954 U.S. Women’s Open victory – by 12 strokes – at Salem titled ”Sensation at Salem.
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