Mass Golf has a new Chairman of its Board of Directors and is a local member of the Winchester Country Club. Alan Macdonald, 77, succeeds Thomas Berkel. Macdonald was previously Treasurer and Vice-President since joining the Board of Directors in 2007.
“I have always been delighted to have the chance to get involved with Mass Golf,” said Macdonald, a longtime Winchester resident who now resides at the Ledges on the Lexington and Woburn line. “I just know how much I love the game, the atmosphere, the friendships and the history of Mass Golf. It is a real honor and a heavy responsibility to ensure that we continue to develop the game and strengthen the association itself, and I am delighted to be involved in it.
Macdonald came to golf in a roundabout way, never seeing a golf course until his teenage years, and he didn’t start playing until he finished high school. He said he started his career as a caddy at age 14 and learned at Poland Spring Caddy Camp in Maine.
“I was making $ 2.50 a day, but I was paying $ 2 in fees,” he joked about his introduction to the sport he has grown to love and respect.
Macdonald said he was ready to take on new challenges and continue to grow the sport in Massachusetts, for both youth and women. Mass Golf organizes 19 national amateur championships, for men and women, as well as the Mass Junior and Senior championships.
Although the organization has a relationship with the PGA Tour and the USGA (United States Golf Association), they have no direct influence on either. Although Mass Golf hosts the US Open at Brookline Country Club in June, they haven’t helped bring the long-running tournament to the state.
“We are aware of what the other is doing,” Macdonald said of the relationship between the two organizations, adding that Mass Golf and the USGA recently met at Brookline to discuss the upcoming event.
The new chairman of the board said he plans to volunteer at the tournament and noted that he has been fortunate enough to play the Brookline course several times, calling it a “wonderful experience”.
Importantly, Macdonald plans to continue promoting the First Tee initiative, an education program for young people to learn the game and learn sportsmanship. He said they run the program in several communities, including Boston, Brockton, Natick, Springfield and Cape Town.
“We are using the program to encourage and develop sport for women and youth,” said Macdonald.
Overall, its board of directors will set policy and oversee Mass Golf. As president, he receives a term of one or two years. Macdonald became the 61st president in the nearly 120-year history of Mass Golf.
When he’s not busy supervising Mass Golf, you can probably find Macdonald at Winchester Country Club playing a game or just catching up with old friends. He has been a member of the club for 46 years, joining the club in his twenties when some of his high school friends suggested it.
“If you sponsor me, I (will join),” he told his friends 50 years ago.
He has been a member since, joking that he enjoys playing golf “occasionally”.
It wasn’t until his thirties that Macdonald really started playing; however, he said his number one priority is still friendship. He places the camaraderie of playing a game with friends over the actual game (and especially now that he’s older, he cares less about his score and more about time spent with loved ones), claiming that he’s been made lifelong friends through both competitions and the social aspect of the club.
Prior to joining the Mass Golf Board of Directors, Macdonald completed formal rule school. This means that if you need someone to teach you the rules of golf (and it can be confusing), it’s your man. Now that he’s president, he has more to worry about than the rules.
“It is an honor and I am touched,” he said of his appointment.
He shared his pride in Mass Golf, saying it’s filled with excellent and average golfers who all appreciate their involvement (Macdonald, to his credit, said he’s never been great at the game). He admitted that his passion for the game changed as he got older. In his youth, he loved competition; now he prefers to get involved behind the scenes.
“My passion has grown because I enjoy all aspects.” he admitted, “and I hope others can benefit from it too.”
Because Mass Golf works with amateur golfers, they also manage the handicap system which contains over 100,000 golfers. This includes private and public lessons. Even with so many players in the state, Macdonald still comes up with a strategic plan to grow the game through young people.
A Youth on Course program allows young people to play for $ 5 a game through a number of courses. He also hopes to expand the First Tee program to more locations across the state and place more emphasis on opportunities for women.
“I hope to expand entry level tournaments for women,” he acknowledged, noting how many women are reluctant to participate when men think they are great after just one swing.
Macdonald hopes he can at least make Mass Golf more visible. In 2018, Mass Golf merged with the Women’s Association (which actually started in 1900, several years before Mass Golf) to provide more support for women’s events.
“They had a strong association without a lot of help from the staff,” Macdonald said of the women’s club.
This merger should now increase the strength of the organization for both men and women.
When Macdonald’s term as head of the board of directors ends, he hopes to continue volunteering with Mass Golf. He noted that there is no age limit for working with the organization, so he “hopes to stay involved in the future”.
Macdonald noted that it is “difficult to just sign,” but said he would be happy to “pass the baton” to the next president and help continue to attract people to the organization.
Fortunately, Macdonald has several golfing grandsons, including one who is the current captain of the Higham High School golf team. They look like family golf courses.
Macdonald having retired from his “normal” career, this gives him ample time to attend his grandsons’ golf tournaments or play his own. Keep in mind that he no longer necessarily plays to win, but rather for the sake of the game (although he would probably still celebrate a hole-in-one).