By GARY LARRABEE
A few observations around and about the North Shore golf scene at August checkpoint time, as many of us close to the 2017 U.S. Senior Open continue coping with withdrawal symptoms after working one, two or three years on the now-departed championship at Salem Country Club.
The Open at Salem could have worked out better only if Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had squared off in a playoff. The spectacular shot making by Kenny Perry and Kirk Triplett gave the sizable galleries plenty to cheer about; in stark contrast to 2001 when par was the winning score. The week was nearly flawless in every respect, most important in regards to the weather and spectator satisfaction. Everyone seems to have gone home happy Sunday night, especially champion Perry, who left Peabody $720,000 richer.
The big question looming now is where and when the United States Golf Association might visit the region again, following the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline and the 2022 U.S. Senior Amateur at Kittansett in Marion.
The North Shore has prime candidates in Essex County Club and Myopia Hunt Club and secondary prospects in Kernwood and Turner Hill. The Salem CC membership wishes to remove itself from USGA-related conversation for five to 10 years, then consider what championship might be feasible within a 15-year time frame beyond the 2017 Senior Open. The USGA will certainly come calling again at Salem.
Essex, its stunning tree removal program complete, is on the USGA radar after hosting a highly successful 2010 Curtis Cup. The Manchester-by-the-Sea club, boasting one of Donald Ross’ earliest of several Greater Boston gems, hosted a U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championship in 1995.
The USGA, it is believed, has an open line of communication ongoing with Myopia, site of four of the first 14 U.S. Opens dating to 1898. But the South Hamilton club and the USGA have not been able to meet eye to eye on what national championship should return to the travel-back-in-time, William Leeds-designed layout.
Kernwood, another Ross beauty from 1918 that straddles the Danvers River in North Salem, and Turner Hill, the modern Dana Fry creation in Ipswich, are longshots yet possibilities. The clubs have to express unabashed interest in hosting a championship first, then the evaluation process can begin from the USGA perspective.
We know Wellesley and Vesper have invitations outstanding.
Is there a better municipal golf course in the state than Gannon in Lynn? Boston’s George Wright – yes, another Donald Ross course – and the William J. Devine course at Franklin Park will both host next year’s Massachusetts Amateur – a first for both. George Wright is one of Salem CC Director of Instruction Kirk Hanefeld’s favorite tracks in Massachusetts. I think the old“Valley” is George Wright’s equal.
They are still teenagers, but brothers Mark and James Turner of St. John’s Prep, Gloucester and Bass Rocks have a chance to some day rank among the finest brother golf pairings in Bay State history.
Mark, postponing his entry into college for one year like James did, has played in a USGA Junior and reached the round of eight in last month’s Massachusetts Amateur at Charles River. Dartmouth freshman-to-be James won the 2016 New England Amateur with record scoring (7-under 273) at Hartford Golf Club.
But they have a long way to go to attain “historic” status. If my memory serves me well, the Gillis brothers of Beverly, Bob and Jim, both deceased, may be the most recent brother combo to achieve equally acclaimed status in the golf community. Bob served for decades as head professional at Bass Rocks. Bob did the same at Portland Country Club in Maine.
Rising Duke sophomore Steven DiLisio may have provided an inkling of great things to come after the Swampscott resident and Salem CC member captured Mass. Amateur medalist honors at Charles River with a 3-under 137 score before falling in the match play round of 16 on the home hole.
Like two-time former Ouimet Memorial champion Jack Whelan of Myopia and Topsfield, DiLisio appears to have the ideal golf body, brain and foundation game to successfully climb a good portion of the professional competitive ladder. But since turning professional,Whelan has struggled on a few lower level tours. Whelan remains optimistic he can succeed in the cutthroat game of tournament golf.
Ditto Gloucester’s Josh Salah, trying to grow professionally playing on the challenge-level tours in Asia. He has won once, in 2016, but has remained stagnant so far in 2017.
Time will be the great determinator for all these young men, including DiLisio, who may have the best chance to succeed in the play-for-pay world after three more years of big-time Division 1 college action.
Hopefully, the rare and disconcerting trend of watching local public golf courses shut down for good is over. First the landmark Colonial Country Club in Lynnfield, situated adjacent to Route 128 south, gave way several years ago to the new MarketStreet complex, though the Town of Lynnfield has saved nine holes where the back nine was located.
Then came the official sale in mid-June of the nine-hole Lakeview executive layout that had been part of the local golf scene in Wenham since 1929. Business had slowed at Bill Flynn’s Lakeview the past few years and the Flynn family had found a respectable and generous suitor in the Atlantic Tambone Co., a local,family-run real estate development firm. The Tambones got a fair deal from the Flynns and will now develop 20-plus townhouse homes priced at $1 million and up, to be built deep on the property, away from the busy Route 1A traffic.