Reading The Greens: A golf year for the North Shore record books

Gary Larrabee

I may have written the same thing the end of the 2018 golf season, but it surely applies again as we slowly, begrudgingly, bid farewell to the 2019 season: It has been one amazing and historical year of golf on the North Shore.

I started my series of columns in April saluting Bob Green as he embarked on his 41st and final season as head PGA professional at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead. We start our final column of the year bidding farewell to the longest tenured North Shore private club pro ever after the membership gave him one spectacular sendoff reception and dinner last Saturday night in their glorious hilltop clubhouse. Tedesco sure knows how to give one of their beloved a fabulous send-off.

President Luke Tsokanis emceed the program that included tributes from Salem’s Kirk Hanefeld, Kernwood’s Frank Dully, former Tedesco president Jim McCathern and yours truly. Green is honored Saturday at the annual New England PGA awards dinner with its most prestigious recognition – Professional of the Year. What a grand way to go out.

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The No. 1 story of the year on the tournament trail has undoubtedly been the emergence of Swampscott’s Steven DiLisio as a player with potentially national prominence. We shall see as he continues his senior season as a member of the nationally ranked Duke Blue Devils golf team. The former St. John’s Prep ace, who honed his game at Salem Country Club, was a key member of the team that reached the NCAA Division 1 men’s championship final last spring. He even won his first individual title in the process.

His fine play for Duke was a sign of things to come when DiLisio, in July, became the first Salem member to win the Massachusetts Amateur championship at The Country Club. That’s spanning 111 years. It was also the first time a North Shore player had won the event since Barrie Bruce of Beverly, Wenham and Colonial triumphed (also at TCC) in 1967, a mere 52 years. You old-timers will recall that Tedesco’s Ted Carangelo won the coveted crown in 1965 and lost the 1966 title match on the final green.

The 21-year-old DiLisio capped off his summer by qualifying for the second year in a row for the U.S. Amateur, this time at famed Pinehurst, but for the second time failed to qualify for the 64-man match-play field.

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Remarkably, for the second straight year, when it had never occurred previously, at least not since the United States Golf Association instituted sectional qualifying, two players from the North Shore made the U.S. Amateur field. Last year Bass Rocks’ Mark Turner joined DiLisio before heading off to Dartmouth. This year it was 18-year-old Christian Emmerich, also of Swampscott, recently graduated from St. Mary’s of Lynn and playing for former Salem CC assistant Steve Napoli (who went on to a distinguished New England PGA Hall of Fame head pro career at Wannamoisett, Carnegie Abbey and Liberty National) for Holy Cross.

Two players from little old Swampscott at the U.S. Amateur the same year? What are the odds? They’re also the second and third players from Swampscott since I started keeping track 50 years ago. The first Kernwood/Swampscott resident to qualify locally was Peter Oppenheim, late uncle of PGA Tour player Rob Oppenheim, in 1973 (Inverness).

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Plaudits to another amateur emerging: former St. John’s Prep standout Nick Maccario of Bradford for winning the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur at Brae Burn, keyed by a course record 64, and the North Shore Amateur.

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Another Salem CC player wowed us as well. The 63-year-old Hanefeld, the club’s Director of Instruction, continued to defy Father Time in unprecedented fashion. The South Hamilton resident made the cut both after 36 holes and 54 holes at the National Professional Championship (the best playing club pros, all ages, in America), made the cut at the U.S. Senior Open (the second oldest player to do so at the 2019 event), then contended for the NEPGA Championship all three days with a half-swing backswing because of back spasms.

Hanefeld has undergone intensive therapy on his back since late August and is playing this week (back permitting) in Austin, Texas at the PGA Senior National Professional Championship (club pros over 50), an event he has won twice.

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On the biggest stage of all, our own Rob Oppenheim returns to the PGA Tour for a third bid at stardom. He narrowly earning his card at the three-tournament Korn Ferry Tour playoffs, which wrapped up outside Evansville, Ind.

The 39-year-old Salem-born Oppenheim will give the gazillion dollar PGA Tour a third shot after not playing well enough to retain his card based on his play in either 2016 or 2018. But what do they say? The third time never fails. Hopefully that applies to the Andover-bred talent who represents the third generation Oppenheim family from Kernwood CC. He made his second cut in three weeks at the Safeway Open last weekend, shot 69 the final day and finished in the middle of the pack.

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We also must make note of the bittersweet departures from the golf scene of two other North Shore consummate professionals who have made the home folks proud for decades.

Like Green a protégé of Larry Gannon at Happy Valley in Lynn, Peabody native Brian Hamilton, 65, concludes a 41-year tenure as a head pro, 21 years at Concord (N.H.,) CC, 20 at Eastward Ho! in Chatham.

Thirdly, Ohio native Kip Tyler steps down shortly after an unprecedented 38 years as head golf superintendent at Salem CC after coming to the Donald Ross-designed jewel in 1982 from Medinah No. 3, the major championship venue outside Chicago.

The Salem membership could pay Tyler no finer tribute than the man they chose to succeed him -- Worcester native Bill Rocco, the No. 2 man the last 10 years at the world renowned Pine Valley Golf Club In Clementon, N.J.

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Lastly, the most painful loss of 2019 has been the passing of Salem native Ed Whalley, the long-time Greater Boston PGA professional who served as head pro at top-rated clubs like Charles River and Woodland. He was Salem’s second most talented professional all-time after PGA Tour winner Dick Hart.

We mourn the passing of Brother Arcadius Alkonis, C.F.X., of St. John’s Prep, Glenn Essler, Joyce Flynn, Faye Castleman and Dorothy MacGillivray, matriarch of one of the most accomplished families ever raised in my hometown of Danvers.

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Congrats to newly-elected Salem CC president Charles Fox, Jr., who brings impressive credentials to the post, having served as president of Charles River CC, as did his late, great dad, Charles, Sr.

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Now that I have turned 70, I’m fired up to begin covering my sixth decade of golf on the incomparable North Shore starting next April in this space., Thanks for your continued support. I always welcome feedback and ways I can improve this space that I am honored to fill weekly.

Most important, keep golfing and keep reading.

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Reading The Greens is a weekly column on North Shore golf by Gary Larrabee, a former Salem News sports reporter from 1971-95. He has covered golf locally and beyond for the last 50 years. This will be the final column for the 2019 golf season. 

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