When Boxford’s Becky Blaeser became Director of Communications for the Massachusetts Golf Association in 2001, the former Masconomet and Harvard standout athlete believed, as she put it, “I’d be with the MGA a few years, get them through their centennial celebration and into their new building in 2003, then be on my way to a new challenge.”
‘A few years’ turned into 18. But as of April 30, Blaeser will be with Mass Golf (the former MGA) no more.
“I just hope I left the organization improved from when I started,” Blaeser said.
One of the trail-’blaesers’ (pardon the pun) among women communications leaders in the American golf community, Blaeser played a major role in the MGA’s 2003 centennial celebration. This ever-expanding role included the grand opening of the William Connell Golf House and Museum in Norton; the inauguration of the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame on the same property of TPC Boston, site of the biennial PGA Tour Fed-Ex Cup event; and a major upgrading in all aspects of the organization’s media relations and member relations departments. She also was a prime organizer of Mass Golf’s annual awards banquet, which annually packs the Wellesley Country Club ballroom in January.
Most recently, Blaeser, the face of Massachusetts Golf as the daily connection to the state’s golf media, spearheaded the launch of a new marketing strategy, a re-brand, as the MGA merged in 2017 with the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM), an organization formed three years before the MGA in 1900. The merger created Mass Golf on January 1, 2018.
Mass Golf president Cameron ‘Bunk’ Read had a quick response when made aware of Blaeser’s comment above.
“Mass Golf is better in every way thanks to Becky’s contributions,” he began. “As we continue to grow, we will build on these gifts. Mass Golf loves Becky. No one brought more energy, creativity and skill to one organization. Becky has been an articulate and passionate lead speaker on Mass Golf’s behalf despite her aversion to the limelight.”
Now, after nearly two decades serving the golfers of Massachusetts in myriad ways, it’s time for Blaeser to change gears.
“Promoting golf on behalf of the MGA and now Mass Golf became my life and I loved it,” Blaeser said. “The pace was hectic during the championship season (May through September). I adapted my life to the demands of a most satisfying job.
“But now my children are growing up (Jake is 13, Molly 10), and even with the flexibility my Mass Golf job gave me, I was looking forward to more time with them during the summer months. Now I’ll have it.”
She will also have more time to be to lead her husband Frank Vana Jr.’s cheering section as the Massachusetts Hall of Fame golfer resumes his record-setting amateur career in the Bay State and beyond.
“I’ve been fortunate to remain in the organization all these years, with great staff, great volunteers and appreciative competitive golfers to work with,” Blaeser said.
Jesse Menachem, executive director of Mass Golf, hates to see Blaeser leave his team, but understands her wish to change career direction.
“Becky has played a vital role in our growth and success,” he said. “From our recent re-branding to managing all of our communication platforms. We would not be where we are in terms of fulfilling our ever-growing mission without Becky’s talents. Her tireless efforts have been critical to all our successes.”
Former MGA president Tom Bagley, now the chairman of the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame committee, described Blaeser’s value to Massachusetts Golf like this. “Becky has done a tremendous job helping us grow the game on a variety of levels throughout her time with us. We will never forget her contributions in making Mass Golf one of the top regional organizations in the country.”
Maybe, just maybe, the gifted former high school and college athlete can try her hand at golf.
“Someday, but not right now,” she responded. “I’m going back into running first. I keep my shoes in the car for whenever the chance arises to jog for 15, 30 minutes, like when the kids are at practice.”
Professionally, she plans to “take all my experience and make a difference with a new organization, maybe golf-connected,” she said. “I’ve already started work with a few companies on a consultant basis. Who knows where it might lead?”
Blaeser has passed the baton to her successor, Catherine Carmignani, who is in charge of communications and marketing after joining Mass Golf from Paramount & Company.
“It’s humbling to follow in Becky’s footsteps,” Carmignani said, “and I hope to make as great an impact at Mass Golf as she has.”
Condolences to the family and friends of Tom Rivers, Jr., Jim McGilloway and Bruce Hamilton … Rough finish for Swampscott and Salem Country Club’s Steven DiLisio competing for Duke last weekend at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. He shot a close 79 for a 224 total for the Blue Devils, who finished tied for fourth on the team side. Duke will find out on May 1 if it has earned a berth in the NCAA Regionals … Holly Ridge’s Jennifer Webster O’Connor, the Peabody native, and her husband Joe OConnor both finished in the money at the NEPGA Blind Draw Pro-Pro Scramble at Halifax. Joe was a member of the first place tying team that included Ipswich’s Nathan Myers and former Salem and Kernwood assistant Scott Allen, the long-time pro at George Wright. Salem’s Kirk Hanefeld and his team also shared first place at 12-under 60, while O’Connor’s team shot 62 … Bass Rocks’ Todd Scarafoni was low local pro with a 73 in the NEPGA’s Stroke Play Series Event No. 1 at Newport National. Ipswich’s Aaron Harper shared ninth place with a 74. Pure Drive Golf’s Adam Kolloff was medalist at 69, three under.
Major congrats go out to Travis Hall, most recently in these parts general manager at Ipswich CC, now back home in Iowa as GM at Cedar Rapids CC, host site for this year’s USGA Women’s Senior Amateur. Frank LaVacca now reigns as GM at Ipswich and Dan Dwyer continues as director of golf … Disappointing week for Salem native Rob Oppenheim at the Web.com event in Alabama, where he shot 148 and missed the cut by four shots … The most recent North Shore-based players to compete at the ‘big time’ college level? Cape Ann’s Pat Bates at Florida and St. John’s Prep’s/Lynnfield’s Joe Rocha at North Carolina State as a walk-on.
Gary Larrabee has covered golf on the North Shore for the last 50 years.