By BRION O’CONNOR
For many longtime hockey fans, the lasting memory of former Bruins
goaltender Réjean “Reggie” Lemelin is his one-knee fist pump after he and his Boston squad shattered the dreaded Montreal Canadiens playoff jinx in 1988.
Lemelin joined Boston at the beginning of that 1987-88 season, and moved to West Peabody. The Quebec native would finish his 14-year NHL career with the Bruins in 1993, amassing 236 regular season wins and 23 more in the playoffs. He was an all-star in 1988-89, and shared the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed with teammate Andy Moog the following year.
Lemelin, with traces of his native French Canadian accent, an easy smile and
unmistakable twinkle in his eye, is a natural storyteller. After seven years at The Golf Club at Turner Hill in Ipswich, Lemelin is the new membership ambassador at Ferncroft Country Club in Danvers, joining the staff last fall.
“Reggie’s such a great guy,” said Ferncroft head PGA professional Philip Leiss. “We’re happy to have him on board.”
North Shore Golf: When did you come on board at Ferncroft?
Lemelin: Around September. I did a couple of tournaments there during the summer.
I’ve been in the business since 2009, working at Turner Hill. So I know a lot of
players. The pro there, Phil Leiss, is a good friend of mine. And I’d known the owners
a little bit before. So we got talking.
What is your role as membership ambassador?
It’s more about helping out with the marketing and the promotional aspect of things. Obviously, I am asked to recruit new members, but I also do some membership events. It’s always interesting to meet new people.
Why was Ferncroft a good fit?
Well, I wasn’t doing anything (laughing). I had been working in the golf business and am an avid golfer. I love the game and love to be around it. Ferncroft was my first country club that I joined when I moved to Boston in ’87. I was a member there for five years. So it’s still in my heart. Due to the fact that I was available, it was perfect. It just fell into place.
Any specific plans for Ferncroft?
It’s always about promoting the membership. There’s good membership there, but it’s not at capacity. We’re always trying to bring in good people, people who are going to be active and be part of the family. There are so many different memberships over there now. They have a nice health club, and the pool, and an area where the kids can play. It’s very family-oriented. We have a nice executive course also. Seven holes back there, par three, which is great for a family. We also have an academy membership, which is for beginners. People can come once a week, and our instructors will do different things with them – chipping, putting, hitting the ball. Then, after the first year, these people have the fundamentals.
How long have you played golf?
I’ve golfed since I was about 14 years old. As a kid, I started to caddy (in Lac Beauport, Quebec) to make a few bucks. And then, within a short while, I realized that I didn’t want to be the one carrying the bag. So I started to play instead. And the year after, I started working at the pro shop. I was playing major junior hockey at the time, so that’s what I was doing in the
summer. Then I got drafted by the Flyers, and that was it.
Have you ever compared the challenges ofhockey and golf? Which do you think is tougher?
If you start doing something as a kid, and you’re doing it all the time, you get talented at it. With goaltending, I didn’t really master the craft until I had already been playing pro for four, five years. I never felt like I was a solid, Number 1 goaltender until I was 29, 30 years old. My last 10 years, from say 28 to 38, when I retired, I felt extremely confident that I was capable of playing at an elite level.
Golf, for me, is not natural. I didn’t start young with the fundamentals. I was a self-taught golfer. You can play and practice and do the best you can, but you’re going to hit a wall where you just can’t any better. My best handicap was probably 5 or 6. Now that I’m older, I’m more like a 10. I’ve lost distance. But not having the real fundamentals of the game, that’s why you can’t hit the ball as far anymore. There are guys who are in their 60s who are on the tour, and they’re professional, and they still hit the ball almost 300 yards.
Knowing how nerve-racking goaltending can be, were you ever nervous in goal? And are you ever nervous playing golf, especially in tournament play?
Oh, yeah, I got really nervous playing goal. I remember a game in my last year of junior. We were playing Montreal, in the Quebec Major Junior League, and it was a playoff game and
it was my draft year. And this team was much better. I remember being almost sick, just thinking about the game and wanting to do well. We did win, 4-3, and there were a lot of scouts there, and that helped me going into the draft. But as I mastered my skills, by the time I was 29 and felt really good about myself, I was not that nervous. When you get to the Stanley Cup finals, you do feel it, until game time. But once you get into the game, it all disappears. You just do what you have to do, and your instincts take over.
With golf, you’ve got to do the same thing, over and over. And that’s hard to do. If you’re off a little bit, or your hips are ahead a little bit, or you turn too early, or you hit the ball a fraction
offline, it can mean a 20-, 30-yard mistake, and now you’re in trouble. I’ve played with a lot of really good players. The ones who can control their emotions and accept the fact that they’re human and they are going to miss some shots, and concentrate on their recovery and rebounding to the next hole, are the ones who succeed the most.
It seems like many hockey players are good golfers.
Do you see a connection?
Yeah, we have our summers off (laughing).
How about the camaraderie? That’s why so many older hockey players keep going to the rink. It’s as much about the locker room, sharing stories.
Do you see a comparison?
Well, in the dressing room, you can let loose a little more because you’re behind closed doors. When you’re in the clubhouse, you have to be a little bit more careful. But it’s the same idea. You become much closer when you’re part of a team. You go on the road with these guys, and they became your brothers. You know everybody’s life, the things they do, the way they act, what they did the day before. So it’s not quite the same camaraderie as your buddies that you go golfing once a week with.
Any fun anecdotes from the links?
A bunch of us went to Gordie Kluzak’s
bachelor party, back in 2003. It started with a round of golf at the Golf Club of New England, and then downtown for a big dinner. There were at least 20 guys, if not more.
So we had a big night. Ray (Bourque) and I were together, and we had taken a limo
because we didn’t want to drive. So we got back real late. And we had made plans to golf with two friends of ours for the morning. So they call us in the morning, and say “Where are you guys?” And we told them we decided to play a little bit later because we were hurting a little bit.
So, anyway, we finally show up, at Salem Country Club. Now, we usually beat them, and they figured this was the day they were going to get us for sure. We both had a bit of a headache.
So we started the round, and Ray dubbed his shot, maybe 100 yards on the first hole. And I was struggling.
Ray hit his second shot with a 5-wood from about 210 yards out, and it lands five feet from the hole, and he makes birdie. That gets the game going. So we’re going back and forth, and we get to the eighth hole. It’s a par 5. Ray hooks it a bit left into the rough, and everyone else is down the middle. He hits his second shot absolutely pure. It’s on the green somewhere, but there’s a little bit of a dip in the green where the pin is, so we’re not sure where the ball is.
Everybody hits their ball great, and we chip to the hole. And it turns out Ray’s ball is in the hole for a two, on a par five.
So these other guys, we all made birdie. And one guy, Joe, was playing with a stroke, because he had a handicap a little bit higher than the rest of us. So he birdied for a four/three, and lost the hole to a two.
And, of course, we then went out and beat the crap out of them. l
Brion O’Connor is a long-time freelance writer and incurable “social” golfer who lives with his wife in Hamilton, where their neighborhood abuts the legendary links of Myopia Hunt Club. He has no idea what his handicap is.