PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Yes, the best senior golfers from New England and beyond will be competing at Plymouth Country Club in the Senior Hornblower Tournament on August 20-21. And, yes, just as the Champions Tour showcases the legends of yesteryear’s PGA TOUR, so, too, does the Senior Hornblower present a showcase of the New England’s best amateurs, aged 55 and older, with their decades of expertise.
One of the New England’s finest, Jack Kearney, a former Hornblower Champion (2005) and Senior Champion (2013, 2016), recalled with enthusiasm the genesis of the stand-alone Senior Hornblower in 2014.
“Hornblower chairman Mike Ellis asked me about the idea of a separate Senior Hornblower,” said Kearney in a recent interview. “Since the Plymouth membership, staff, and the Donald Ross course are always top notch, I thought it was a good idea as it would give me the chance to play Plymouth twice in one year. I also believed other seniors would embrace the new event as they love playing there, too.”
“So, in three short years the Senior Hornblower has become a top point-earning tournament in the Mass Golf Player-of-the-Year system, behind only the State and New England Senior tournaments. I’m proud to be a champion of both Hornblower events, and I always put these two events at the top of my calendar each year.”
The August tournament is actually a spin-off from the traditional early June Hornblower championship. It initiated a senior division in 2007 for the low score by a player 55 years or older. The first winner was Jim Ruschioni of Wachusett Country Club. Jim won the senior division again three years later in 2010. Other early winners included the Kearney, Joe Keller, Neil Kelley, Carter Fasick, Ray Richard, and Kevin Carey.
In 2014, Hornblower Chairman Mike Ellis and his committee decided to establish the Senior Hornblower as a separate two-day event to be held during the summer season. This championship provided more scratch handicap senior golfers with the opportunity to tee it up in a field of peers that is seldom equaled in New England.
Since then, the winners have been Kevin Carey, Dennis Pines C.C. (2014); Mike Arter, LeBaron C.C. (2015); Jack Kearney, Elmcrest C.C. (2016); and Pat Scanlon, Wenham C.C. (2017).
The major difference between the two tournaments is that the Senior Hornblower is played from Plymouth’s gold tees instead of the longer black tees, which were recently strategically constructed for use in the traditional Hornblower.
The 260-yard overall change in tee placements still provides the players with a formidable 6,095-yard, par-69 challenge, with only one par 5 on this 108-year-old Donald Ross masterpiece.
Course superintendent Ben Whiting, who has been instrumental in renovating and improving the course through the years, always looks forward to the visit from these talented senior golfers.
“I try to provide them with the same Hornblower level challenge, only from the gold tee set-up, said Whiting. “The green speed will Stimp at around 11.5-12 and the course prep will stay the same.”
What Whiting means is keep the ball in play, keep it below the hole, and keep the putter on line. Or else!
“We are thrilled to celebrate the largest field since the event’s inception in 2014,” said head pro Mike Roy. “It was remarkable to sift through all of the applications and to see the names and resumes of all the participants. The number of amateur wins that this field has collectively is impressive.”
Ray Richard, Hornblower Champion (1989) and Senior Hornblower Champion (2012), plays in both events but especially enjoys the Senior challenge.
“The Hornblower has always been one of the premier tournaments on the schedule,” said Richard, who works at Willowbend Club in Mashpee. “It always has a competitive field, and the course is demanding. From the back tees, it’s a test for us old guys. Instead of just trying to make the cut, the Senior Hornblower allows us two days of competition with the same players and friends that we have been competing with for all these years. I can’t speak for all the players, but whenever I get a chance to play any Hornblower at Plymouth Country Club, I will be there.”
Furnishing the competitors with the best possible tournament experience is the primary goal of everyone involved in the event from Mike Ellis and his committee, to head pro Mike Roy and his staff and to Ben Whiting and his crew. Every effort is made to ensure that the players leave that 36th hole knowing that they have participated in a high-quality tournament at a premier facility.
“Plymouth is a great Donald Ross-designed course,” said Mike Arter, 2015 Senior Hornblower Champion. “The tournament committee, volunteers, and staff go out of their way to make the Senior Hornblower a special occasion for each player. They contribute so much for our benefit, including live scoring, leaderboards, and scorekeepers for each group. I truly look forward to going back every year.”
Tournament Chairman Mike Ellis takes pride in what Plymouth Country Club has accomplished with both Hornblower editions.
“The Hornblower was my father Skeet’s pride and joy,” added Ellis in a pre-tournament interview. “The committee and I are doing our best to maintain his vision and build a tradition for generations to come. The Senior event allows those players who built the Hornblower another opportunity to compete for the prestigious senior title. The young guns have taken over the Hornblower, but the Senior Hornblower brings us back to our early years with many familiar faces that have been competing at Plymouth Country Club for years. By the way, the winning scores are very close to what wins the Hornblower. These senior guys still have it!”
Club President Tom Mayer, along with Mike Ellis, Mike Roy, Ben Whiting, and the entire staff and membership of Plymouth Country Club cordially invite the public to “Come On Down” to “America’s Hometown” to watch this exciting event Monday Aug. 20 and Tuesday Aug. 21. Complimentary access to all areas of the course and to all club facilities are available to all visitors.
As far as New England amateurs are concerned, the Senior Hornblower is as close to a “Champions Tour” event that this area will be able to offer. See you in Plymouth about five miles south of Plymouth Rock!