When I learned about the IRONMAN golf tournament several weeks ago, an annual charity event benefitting Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts, I had serious doubts whether my aging body and struggling golf game could endure 36 holes in one day at TPC Boston. But I figured that if my fearless publisher, Tim Branco, could handle it, I’d give it a shot. How often does a private group have the run of this famed layout, site of the Deutsche Bank Championship, for an entire day/evening? (The IRONMAN tournament includes breakfast, lunch, and a dinner reception.)
The only catch was raising $750 for Junior Achievement. I pondered sending out an email solicitation to 50 of my closest friends, extolling all the benefits of Junior Achievement, but figured they’d see through this as simply a ruse to help fund my day of golf. So I took a different approach, shamelessly hitting up a couple of deep-pocket family members who agreed to finance a large portion of the contribution. No doubt there will be payback down the road.
As the event approached, I was nervous that some chronic short-game maladies I’ve been struggling with in recent weeks would prove my undoing on the demanding TPC Boston course, which features innumerable water hazards and bunkers deeper than the foundations of the new homes they’re building in my town. For some reason, short wedge shots – traditionally one of the best parts of my game – have been flying wildly off my clubface at 45 degree angles. (I am not using the “S” word.)
Desperate for some cure, I called my local pro for a short-game lesson. He told me I was a head case — so worried about hitting bad shots that I was tightening up and not releasing the club. I already knew I was a head case. Golf does that to you. He gave me a few drills to work on, but it was not the miracle fix I needed.
Tim and I were paired together yesterday in the morning match. The IRONMAN is a Ryder Cup-style competition, with two teams (East and West). You play two matches against players from the opposing team in a “four-ball” format (each player plays his own ball and the low score counts as the team score for each hole). I was a bit nervous about playing with Tim; if my game totally disintegrated it might cause irreparable harm to my status with New England Golf Monthly. Although you don’t have to have a single digit handicap to write about golf, shanking innumerable wedge shots into water hazards and bunkers from which I could not escape might have called my credentials into question.
As it turned out, my fears were somewhat exaggerated. Tim is a very congenial guy and a supportive golf partner, and we played well as a team. The key to four-ball competition is covering for your partner when he’s out of a hole, and we did that well. Although I could not keep pace with Tim and our opponents off the tee, I generally kept the ball in play, managed to birdie the par-3 16th hole, and sank some long putts to win some other holes. I shanked only one wedge shot into a bunker. We won our match and put a point on the board for the East team. My position at New England Golf Monthly is secure for the moment.
The 16th Annual IRONMAN tournament was a huge success. The 60 participating golfers raised $70,000 for Junior Achievement. Caroline Paradis, the President of Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts, noted that the event “is quite a draw for avid golfers. Participation means exclusive access to this exceptional course and its facilities, with 36 holes of no-waiting golf.” Paradis credited the two corporate sponsors – Rockland Trust and Webster Bank – for their strong support of the IRONMAN event.
Since its inception, the IRONMAN tournament has raised over $1 million and impacted 35,000 students. The proceeds fund programs that provide students with essential financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship skills. “While the location and formant of this event create a unique and highly enjoyable experience for golfers, at the end of the day it’s all about the JA mission which is to provide local students with the tools they need to attain success,” said Paradis.
Various prizes for both golf performance and fundraising were awarded at the dinner reception. Rob Schoening, an Acushnet Company employee and JA volunteer teacher, presented the Harry Schoening IRONMAN Award, named after his father who was involved in JA for over 35 years. This year’s plaque was awarded to Linda Bodenmann from Southcoast Hospitals Group for her top fundraising efforts and golf performance points. Bodenmann quipped that they might have to rename the award “IRONPERSON.” Eric Carlson from Rockland Trust and Bob Lee from Taco, Inc. took home the second and third prizes, respectively.
Would I participate in the IRONMAN tournament again? Absolutely. It’s a great venue, with great people, and for a great cause. But if I play next year I’ll spend a lot of my preparation time practicing my sand shots. You could get lost in some of those bunkers.