That roar you heard in the background at the 105th Massachusetts Amateur at venerable Longmeadow Country Club is not from thunder and lightning storms that have interrupted match play, but rather from the storm of controversy over defending champion and final 16 competitor, Mike Calef, and whether he is eligible to participate under newly installed MGA qualifications. And, also, whether Calef falsified his MGA application, claiming membership at Brockton Country Club, when he has admittedly lived in Texas for the past 20 months.
There are a number of unanswered questions from players, from many of the 84,000 MGA membership and from observers of this prestigious event that outgoing MGA Executive Director Joseph Sprague refuses to discuss. In fact, if Mike Calef ends up winning, this could be the MGA’s worst nightmare, and so far they have done nothing to quell the firestorm.
First, a little history about Mike Calef, the former director of golf at Brockton Country, until he resigned in the fall 2011, because he moved to Texas with his spouse. He gave up the $32,000 year salary and all accessory income from running the pro shop, club tournaments, merchandise sales and various commission income incentives from the club, excluding lessons. Essentially, Calef acted as the golf pro at Brockton CC, but Executive Director Joseph Sprague, allowed him to compete in September 2011 in the MGA Mid-Amateur, and low and behold he won. Bad decision No. 1 for Sprague.
Shortly after winning the 2011 Mid-Amateur title, Calef moved to Texas and despite a Texas address and no affiliation with his old course, he filled out an application to play in the 2012 Mass Amateur, claiming membership at Brockton CC. In December 2011, PGA pro Rob Bradley was hired to fill Calef’s old position, which should have signaled to Sprague and his staff that Calef is earning income as a professional and that he is not eligible to compete in amateur events sponsored by the MGA.
Sprague and his staff failed to screen Calef’s application claiming at the time that the MGA application screening process is “on the honor system.” This revelation by Sprague, and by Jesse Menachem, director of rules and competition is troubling, since the MGA staff is sufficiently funded and fully staffed. Bad decision No. 2 by Sprague. The Executive Director’s salary, which position will be vacated in August, is over $150,000.
Bottom line is the 2013 MGA Amateur is fast-turning into the MGA’s worst nightmare since Calef has advanced through two qualifying rounds and has been successful reaching the top-16. The MGA wishes this travesty would end but Sprague and his staff is solely responsible for the decision to allow Calef to compete. At the MGA awards dinner in January, Calef told a golf writer from Brockton that the MGA does not want to see his entry. Despite the request, Calef submitted his entry from his home in Texas; he is competing here at Longmeadow CC, and, perhaps on his way to a second tainted title.
Several email requests to Sprague over the course of the first three days of the tournament asking for comment generated a curt response.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will take it under advisement and follow up as appropriate,” Sprague replied on Tuesday July 9 at 8:43 a.m., knowing that Calef was in fourth place after Day 1 qualifying round. Since that response, Sprague has refused to discuss why Calef is eligible to participate.
On Wednesday July 10 at 8:01 p.m. Sprague’s only comment was, “Mike meets all the requirements for eligibility to play in MGA championships.”
On Wednesday match play was suspended at 6;47 p.m. due to inclement weather but not before Calef thrashed Victor Galvani (Framingham) 3 & 2 and leads 2 up through 6 holes against Bill Trainor (Oakley), with play resuming at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and lots of golf to play. The Mass Amateur has always been a true test of skill, character, endurance, patience and superiority.
Repeated calls and emails to Mike Calef Wednesday night seeking comment were not returned.
The saga at the 105th MGA Amateur at Longmeadow CC will continue with a huge dark cloud, not rain clouds, hanging over the decision made by outgoing executive director Joseph Sprague, concerning Mike Calef’s eligibility to participate.
MGA officials seem to have dropped the ball last year concerning clearly defining Calef’s alleged amateur status. The facts show a claim of amateur status, but in reality Calef was working as a pro in a pro shop. Just because he doesn’t offer lessons doesn’t not mean he’s not a pro. This week Mr. Sprague is guilty of malfeasance and ignorance. Until Mr. Sprague satisfactorily answers questions, that so far been ignored, the controversy continues to percolate. Whether Calef wins or not, the last two year’s MGA Amateur championships has been compromised by a failure at the top of the organization to make proper, informed decisions, and they have failed to live up to the MGA motto which “is dedicated to promoting and preserving the best interests of the game throughout the Commonwealth.”
Listed below are questions Sprague refuses to answer:
Is Calef eligible under “exempt” status?
If “exempt”, does Calef still qualify under the new MGA eligibility criteria of having posted 5 rounds at his home course Brockton CC?
Is Calef a member of Brockton Country Club?
Did Calef falsify his application with respect to claiming membership at Brockton CC?
Can Calef verify 5 rounds at his alleged home course?
If Calef falsified his application, why is he not disqualified?
Please provide a copy of Calef’s MGA Amateur application?
How long has Mike Calef lived in Texas?
If Mike Calef has lived in Texas for 20 months why is he eligible?
Why didn’t the MGA return his application and $150 entry fee?
Why didn’t the MGA disqualify him when credible information about his application became available to MGA officials on July10?
What screening application process is in place to prevent the MGA from future embarrassment presented by the Calef situation?
If Calef wins the 2013 title and it’s proven that Calef has entered the event after falsifying his entry, will the MGA strip him of the title?
Is Mike Calef guilty of gaming the system?
Did the MGA conduct an investigation of Calef on Tuesday July 9, when all this information was brought to their attention, and prior to Calef’s 1:04 tee time? If so, why were the results of the investigation covered up?
Has the integrity of the MGA Amateur been compromised by Calef’s questionable eligibility?
Why have MGA officials seemed to have acted as an advocate for Calef in this matter?
Finally, why has the MGA not released a statement addressing Calef’s eligibility status to players, fans, the media, observers and other interested parties?
(Tom Gorman, a Boston-based freelance golf writer, has been writing about golf for over 20 years.)