WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

I had initially planned to skip the Ironman Golf Tournament this year. The tournament, which benefits Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts, consists of a 36-hole team competition at TPC Boston in Norton, home of the Deutsche Bank Championship. I had participated two years ago, and found it to be a wonderful event both for the opportunity to play a renowned course and mingle with many great individuals in support of a worthy cause.

But I was hesitant this year. I was two years older, well more than two pounds heavier, with a golf game that had deteriorated to the point I was considering alternatives like horseshoes or bocce. Now, most golfers would view playing 36 holes at TPC Boston as an amazing opportunity. But the course, which has more hazards than hotly contested provinces in Iraq, can wreak havoc on a golfer who is not on his or her game. I was afraid they might have to send out a rescue mission from the awards dinner only to find me sprawled out in one of those immense bunkers that could swallow a tractor trailer.

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But then came the fateful draft notice from my fearless publisher, Tim Branco, who is a key supporter of the Ironman event and was the captain of the North Team. It was something of an “Uncle Sam Wants You” entreaty. It’s hard to turn Tim down; he is very passionate about the event. I pledged my allegiance to the North Team, hit up some deep-pocketed relatives for contributions, and hoped that somehow over the next month I could find some semblance of a golf swing. Or a substitute player.

Sixty-eight golfers showed at TPC Boston on Tuesday for the 2015 Ironman Tournament. Unfortunately, the improvement I had seen in my game in the weeks before the event quickly dissipated during the morning round. My partner, John Foss, wasn’t faring much better, and we lost handily to Frank Rizzotti and Jamie Blasiewicz. What’s great about the Ironman event is the comradery among the competitors. All the laughs helped ease the pain of the bad shots. I just kept opening new sleeves of balls and advancing into the battle. My partner kept commenting “I just don’t get this — I was really playing well last week.” TPC Boston can do that to you.

migAfter a much needed, sumptuous lunch, we all boarded carts for the second round. (I could come up with no good excuse to opt out.) I played with Baxter Smith, a young gentleman who had a great attitude and, more importantly, a spare cigar. We were matched up again with Jamie and his partner, Ted. Although my game did not improve much, we all had a great time. Jamie recorded a number of pars to lead his team to victory.

Throughout the day, Caroline Paradis, President of Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts, and Hillary Joyce, Director of Advancement, patrolled the course taking photographs and offering much needed moral support. We were assured that we would be fed even if we failed to produce any points for our team. The event includes breakfast, lunch, and a wonderful dinner reception (if you make it to the clubhouse at the end of the day).

Apparently, other members of the North Team fared much better than I, and we brought home first place for Captain Branco. This was good for a $50 gift card to the pro shop, which I can use to replenish all the balls I lost. The East Team finished in second place, and the West Team third. John Sampson won the prize for the most points earned for his team.

The Ironman event is most important for what it helps to accomplish off the golf course. The event raises critical funds for local Junior Achievement programs in K-12 classrooms. Since its inception, the Ironman event has raised over $1 million dollars, impacting over 35,000 students. Paradis estimated that this year’s event raised over $79,000.

The corporate sponsors of this year’s Ironman were Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (Gold), East Commerce Solutions (Silver), and Rockland Trust (Birdie). Eric Carlson won the Eagle Award for the most corporate dollars raised.

cartsThe top three fundraisers were Jeff Dirkson (Emerson Swan) (1st place); Bob Lee (Taco, Inc.) (2nd place); and Frank Rizzotti (Acushnet Company) (3rd place). Prizes included Red Sox and Patriots tickets, a foursome at TPC Boston, tickets to the Deutsche Bank Championship, and FootJoy golf shoes.

Once again, the Ironman Tournament produced a great day of golf, food, and comradery. At the end of the evening, 68 exhausted and well-fed golfers departed the grounds of TPC Boston knowing that they had helped to support a good cause. I would do it again. After all, I might find some of the dozen Bridgestone balls I left on the course Tuesday.

[nggallery id=”51″] WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?