It’s been a mighty quiet quasquicentennial — 125th anniversary, that is — relatively speaking for Salem Country Club, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic like no other area club.
No 93rd Salem Invitation Fourball in June. No Salem Hull-A-Baloo in July. No Salem Classic in August. None of the club’s popular member-guest tournaments. It's the way it had to be, according to club president Charlie Fox, Jr. and his leadership team. Safety came first.
Moreover, any celebration plans the club had lined up to mark this milestone year have been put off at least until 2021. “Our celebration will have to wait for the vaccine,” Fox said.
It has been an amazing 25 years since the famed club marked its centennial in 1995. Here’s a rundown in timeline form.
1995 – The club, behind the leadership of Joe O’Boyle, marks its centennial by inaugurating Peabody Day.
1996 – The United States Golf Association (USGA) accepts Salem’s invitation to stage the 2001 U.S. Senior Open.
1997 – Tim Lynch is named Salem’s first general manager.
1998 – Director of Golf Kirk Hanefeld departs Salem after a 14-year tenure to work on a new golf course project before embarking on a successful five-year Champions Tour swing (2006-2010), during which he earned $800,000. He returns in 2016 as Director of Instruction.
1999 – The club begins a long-term renovation/modernizing project of the locker rooms and clubhouse.
2001 – Jack Nicklaus, who finishes two strokes behind the winner, and Arnold Palmer and Gary Player are the stars of the week, but Bruce Fleisher wins the U.S. Senior Open with an even-par 280 score. A new competitive course record of 64 is shot by Jay Sigel.
2003 – Mike Welch wins the New England Amateur.
2004 – The club gets major exposure at the USGA’s Golf House when it marks the 50th anniversary of Babe Zaharias’s’ historic 1954 U.S. Open victory by 12 strokes at Salem, her last major win before she died from cancer in 1956.
2007 – Forest Street, upon which Salem CC’s property lies, is dedicated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a scenic roadway, dedicated to the memory of member Wilbur Peterson. Also, the driving range is expanded.
2008 – Kevin Rourke sets a member competitive course record of 65.
2010 – Major renovation of the men's Grill and the Donald Ross Room becomes the Ross Room, the Rotunda and the new 19th.
2011 – The Golf Hole Hall of Fame names Salem’s signature hole, No. 13, an honorary inductee.
2012 – Rhode Islander Ed Kirby wins the New England PGA championship.
2014 – The book 'Sensation at Salem' is published, chronicling Zaharias’s third U.S. Women’s Open win 60 years ago.
2015 – A major greens restoration program is approved, including installation of new irrigation and reshaping of the greens as they were originally built by Ross in 1925. Ron Forse leads the project, as he did the bunker restoration project 20 years earlier.
2016 – Maureen Ramini wins a record 18th women’s club championship. Also, the patio expansion is completed.
2017 – The club hosts its sixth USGA championship and second U.S. Senior Open, which is won by Kenny Perry after an exciting final round head-to-head duel with Kirk Triplett. Brandt Jobe and Triplett set a competitive course record with 62s. Also, Greg Cincotta concludes an 11-year tenure as general manager for a new opportunity at Concord Country Club. Austrian native Peter Fischl leaves a post at The Engineers Club on Long Island to succeed him.
2019 – Steven DiLisio, a third generation member and Duke University student, becomes the first Salem member to win the Massachusetts Amateur, scoring a scintillating 10-under-par for the 34 holes in the championship match at The Country Club. In addition, the club marks its 25th Peabody Day, during which time $1 million has been generated through the Peabody Day golf outing entry fees, with the club awarding $625,000 to more than 125 Peabody residents attending college. Scholarships totaling $45,000 are awarded in 2019.
Kip Tyler retires after 38 years as course superintendent and is succeeded by Bay State native Bill Rocco, who departs the No. 2 position at famed Pine Valley for this new opportunity. Also, Kevin Wood marks his 20th year as head professional, the second-longest tenure in club history after Bill Barclay (1948-1980).
2020 – The year marks the 50th anniversary of Paul Harney shooting a competitive course record 65 in an 18-hole playoff with 56-year-old Jim Browning (the oldest player to ever finish first after regulation play), watched by a gallery of 4,500, to win his fourth consecutive Massachusetts Open. The pair had finished the rain-marred tourney with 221 totals, five over par, a record-high winning score over 54 holes. Harney two years later would win his seventh and final PGA Tour event at the Andy Williams San Diego Open.
Gary Larrabee, who writes the weekly 'Reading The Greens' golf column for The Gloucester Daily Times during the summer months, has covered golf on the North Shore and beyond for the last 50 years.