There's big news out of the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, with two of the headlines featuring Peabody native Scott Johnson, the long-time head professional and now director of golf at Oakley Country Club, and Tedesco member Mike Zmetrovich.
Additionally, the organization announced the retirement of Bob Donovan after 29 years as executive director and the naming of long-time Ouimet staffer Colin McGuire as his successor.
Lastly, the Ouimet Fund announced Tom Kite as the 2020 honoree — and 23rd recipient — of the Francis Ouimet Award for Lifelong Contributions to Golf. The former U.S. Open champion will be recognized at the organization’s spring banquet, April 2 at the Westin Copley Place.
Johnson, who turns 54 in January, has been honored as the Ouimet Professional of the Year. Zmetrovich, 52, has been recognized as the 2019 Ouimet Chair of the Year for his ceaseless work on behalf of the Ouimet Fund through his home club and fellow Tedesco members.
Johnson, a former Peabody High standout and Salem Country Club caddy, is the second North Shore-connected golf professional to be so honored by the Ouimet Fund. Bob Green, soon to retire after serving as Tedesco head professional for 41 years, was the inaugural honoree two years ago. Johnson served as an assistant under Green for one season.
“I’m doubly honored to be receiving the same award Bob Green accepted previously,” Johnson said. “I’ve always considered Bob the best in our profession.
“This is a great honor for me, but even moreso for my club for the support it has given the Ouimet for many years, including long before I became a member of the Oakley staff.”
Johnson, a two-time New England PGA Massachusetts chapter Pro of the Year, developed an appreciation for the Ouimet Fund as a teenager at Salem. It was an appreciation that only grew as he worked as an assistant at other staunch Ouimet-supportive clubs like Winchester and Wollaston.
Thus, when he succeeded Jeff Bailey as Oakley’s head pro, Johnson was all in with the club’s devotion to the Ouimet Funds.
“Oakley members have always understood the importance of all-out support of the Ouimet Fund,” said Johnson. “I’ve always felt honored just to be a cog in the wheel, so to speak, in keeping that support strong and making it stronger; a wonderful reflection on the membership year after year.”
Johnson said that being awarded a Ouimet scholarship can change a young person’s life. He's seen it first-hand.
“And to learn,” Johnson said, “that more than 90 percent of Ouimet scholars graduate from college in four years is the best endorsement of all.”
Zmetrovich, a former Massachusetts junior champion out of Haverhill CC who recently sold his interest in Florida-based Coral Creek CC, may be unmatched as a Ouimet Fund money-raiser. He sets the example for everyone, not only his fellow Tedesco members.
“It’s all about giving back to the game, something I have always believed in, as have virtually the entire Tedesco membership,” said Zmetrovich, formerly a close business associate of Jack Nicklaus. “Through caddying young people learn about golf, about growing up, about acting responsibly.”
Zmetrovich and TCC members encourage their young people, be they caddies or other employees at Tedesco, to apply for Ouimet scholarships — and it’s paid off. Tedesco boasted 21 Ouimet scholars this year.
Zmetrovich has raised thousands upon thousands of dollars as a participant for 22 consecutive years of the Ouimet Marathon. “It’s been a real family affair for us,” he said. “My son Oliver (a former state champion swimmer) has played the last few years, but my father, wife and daughter have taken part as well in one capacity or another.”
This past summer Mike and Oliver raised more than $30,000, thanks to the support of Tedesco members.
“It’s been exciting to see Ouimet scholarships endowed in the name of Tedesco members over the years, most recently honoring the late Peter Dalton and, just this year, an incredibly generous Steve Lockwood,” Zmetrovich said.
Donovan, universally respected for his personality and extraordinary support of the Ouimet Fund, leaves quite a legacy as executive director for nearly three decades.
“We’ve raised more and more money annually for the Fund,” said Donovan, “thanks to our annual banquet kicking off the season. We give away millions in scholarship aid and now have 155 endowed scholarships. I’m grateful, too, that I leave the leadership of the Ouimet Fund in such capable hands as those of Colin McGuire.”