SOUTHBRIDGE, Massachusetts – You see signs all over the place thanking first responders for their heroic efforts during the pandemic.
Cohasse Country Club is taking an extra step to show its appreciation – by inviting first responders to play in a golf tournament at the private, nine-hole Donald Ross design in Southbridge at no charge.
The Fore Our Heroes Golf Tournament is scheduled to be held on Friday, June 18, with an 18-hole shotgun start at 1 p.m. for 64 medical personnel, fire firefighters and police officers from Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton. Lunch and dinner will be provided.
Cathy LaBonte, the club’s golf chair and a member of the board of governors, said Cohasse will donate the cost of the greens fees and carts, but she said the club is seeking donations ranging from $100 to $5,000 from local individuals and businesses to cover the costs of the meals and prizes. Anyone interested in making a donation should contact LaBonte at email@example.com.
LaBonte said the Southbridge Credit Union has already pledged $2,500 and Harrington Hospital in Southbridge has also pledged a generous contribution to allow their employees to play.
Cohasse CC president Chris Dono said the club’s board of governors decided last winter to hold the event to honor those on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We have a hospital that’s a driver down the street, Harrington Hospital, that’s dealt with a lot of these COVID cases,” Dono said. “These people work tremendously hard and it’s an opportunity for us to thank them and help them in the community. We haven’t conquered this yet, but we’re on our way to beating this and moving forward with our regular lives. So we decided what we could offer was a golf tournament.”
“It was a way to give back to the people in our communities who have kept us safe for the last year,” LaBonte said. “We had a lot of examples of all of our (police, fire, medical) departments going above and beyond.”
Dono’s neighbor in Charlton and good friend, Kayla Kimball, is a nurse in the COVID unit at Harrington Hospital and she is scheduled to play in the tournament.
“She’s explained how difficult it’s been when it peaked,” Dono said, “and all the people they’ve had to treat, and watching people pass away, watching people recover. It’s been a very up and down emotional roller coaster for the last 15 months.”
LaBonte said whatever profit the tournament generates will be donated to the local fire and police departments and to Harrington Hospital.
“We’re looking forward to this event,” Dono said. “It’s the least we can do for people who have been through a lot.”
Cohasse CC celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. The Wells family, which owned American Optical Company in Southbridge and founded Old Sturbridge Village, hired Donald Ross to design a nine-hole golf course for the AO employees. They named it Cohasse, which is a Nipmuc word for land of the tall pines. Eventually, the Wells turned ownership of the club over to the members.
LaBonte said Cohasse CC has become more family oriented than ever and is up to 215 members.
“The nine-hole Donald Ross is our emerald, it’s our diamond out here,” LaBonte said, “but we’re moving into the future of golf and that’s something that I think we realized we really needed to do.”