Mike Cullity's NH Golf: Stories of a hole-in-one, Golden Bear
When I was a high-school golfer in the late 1980s, one of my teammates fulfilled every player's dream by making a hole-in-one. But he soon began hemorrhaging strokes, leading him to think that the lucky hole-in-one ball he had deposited in his bag might help him right the ship. Shortly after putting it back in play, however, he lost the memento in a creek.
I was reminded of this tale recently when Londonderry High School golfer Taylor Simpson made a hole-in-one during a schoolboy match against Keene, Concord and Timberlane Regional. Playing in a foursome that included Keene's Chelso Barrett, the reigning State Junior and NHIAA Division I individual champion, the 17-year-old senior aced the 190-yard third hole at Atkinson Resort & Country Club on Sept. 20, holing a cut 6-iron. And unlike my old teammate, he still has the ball.
Simpson didn't realize his good fortune until he and his playing partners approached the green on the uphill par-3. “I was about to head to the back of the green because I thought maybe it went over,” he said. “The kid in my group from Timberlane yelled, 'Hey, check the hole' ... and sure enough it was in.”
With 1-under-par 35 in the nine-hole match, Simpson captured medalist honors by a stroke over Barrett and spurred Londonderry to an upset victory over Keene, the two-time defending Division I champions. By sweeping the Blackbirds, Concord and Timberlane, the Lancers kept their hopes for a state tournament berth alive.
Moreover, Simpson stood out while scoring his first-ever ace, sporting a brand-new pair of bright-orange pants like the ones PGA Tour player Rickie Fowler wears regularly.
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Golden keepsake: Since writing about the 50th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' appearance at a Manchester Country Club charity exhibition (NH Golf, Aug. 12), I've discovered another Nicklaus link to New Hampshire.
Thanks to a tip from reader Nancy Kazakis, Manchester native Karen Deffina perused my column on Nicklaus and passed it along to her boss, the Golden Bear himself. Deffina, a Manchester High School Central graduate and Kazakis' younger sister, is the receptionist at the Nicklaus Companies in North Palm Beach, Fla.
The second-youngest of seven siblings, Deffina grew up as Karen Desrosiers near the intersection of Maple and Bridge streets. She became a flight attendant after graduating from Central in 1964 and spent 18 years as a commercial real-estate executive in New Jersey before moving to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in 2003.
The Nicklaus Companies, which include Jack Nicklaus' golf course architecture firm and other businesses, hired Deffina as a temporary receptionist in 2006, and she's been there ever since. Although she's not a golfer and had no idea who Nicklaus was when she started, Deffina now interacts regularly with the 18-time major champion.
As one of about 40 employees at the Nicklaus Companies, Deffina feels like part of the Nicklaus family. “At Christmastime, you go to their home for the holidays. They have a sit-down dinner for you,” she said. “I look forward to going to work. It's just a nice group of people.”
Coincidentally, Deffina isn't the first member of her family to work for a golf legend. Starting in the 1990s, her older sister, Doris Lynch, spent seven years working winters for Arnold Palmer, first as a dining-room hostess at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge — the Palmer-owned facility in Orlando that hosts the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational — and later at Isleworth, the upscale Orlando-area golf community that Palmer helped develop.
Given Lynch's experience, one can understand Ned Desrosiers' disbelief when he first learned of Deffina's job with Nicklaus.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Desrosiers, the family's youngest sibling and an avid Manchester golfer. “And then when I found out it was true, I was like, 'Wow, you've got to be kidding me. Arguably the two greatest golfers who ever lived, and both my sisters end up working for them.”
Lynch once arranged a Bay Hill clubhouse tour for her kid brother during the annual PGA Tour stop there, enabling him to meet Paul Azinger and a few other tour players, Desrosiers said. And Deffina has sent Desrosiers several Nicklaus golf shirts, caps and other gifts, including a leather tour bag embroidered with his name and autographed by Nicklaus.
“I spoil Ned a little bit,” said Deffina, who also mailed me an invaluable keepsake: a signed letter from Nicklaus thanking me for the August column.
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Through the green: Londonderry's Dan Gillis (70) was the low New Hampshire finisher at the New England PGA Head Pro Championship at Abenaqui last Wednesday. Gillis tied for second, two strokes behind Massachusetts pro John Fields. ... Two amateurs scored holes-in-one during recent New Hampshire Chapter PGA tournaments. In a Sept. 17 pro-am at Rochester Country Club, Hanover's Betsy Knights scored an ace on the 108-yard seventh hole with a 9-iron, while Laconia's Bill Duggan sank a 7-iron shot on Portsmouth Country Club's 167-yard 16th hole during last Monday's Pro-Gross Championship. ... Derryfield's Andrea Morrell and Louise Billy (76) shared low gross with Rochester's June Ferland and Portsmouth's Deb Clauson in the New Hampshire Women's Golf Association's Fall Classic best-ball tournament at Cochecho last Tuesday. Rochester's Joan Cyr and Leigh Ann Melanson (65) won low net. In the “B” flight, Atkinson's Maureen Duggan and Windham's Pat Flynn (84) won low gross while Candia Woods' Margie Kearney and Rhonda Sheehan (63) won low net.
Mike Cullity's column on New Hampshire golf appears weekly during the golf season in the New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail him at email@example.com.