On a night that delivered some serious numbers, Mark O’Meara provided a little levity, admitting his first set was “my mom’s Louise Suggs clubs,’’ his first professional check was for $39, and joking that his tell-all book on friend Tiger Woods would be a lot better than Hank Haney’s.
O’Meara was the featured guest and speaker at the 63d Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund annual banquet, held Monday at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. During what’s billed as the largest fund-raising golf dinner in the country (more than 1,300 attended), O’Meara received the 16th Francis Ouimet Award for lifelong contributions to golf.
Prior to receiving the award, O’Meara told how he didn’t take up golf until 13, when his family relocated to Mission Viejo, Calif., and he occasionally sneaked on a nearby course. He worked there eventually, starting O’Meara on a path that would take him to Long Beach State, see him win the 1979 US Amateur, then 16 times as a professional on the PGA Tour, including two majors (Masters, British Open) in 1998, when he was named player of the year. He plays primarily now on the Champions Tour, where he’s won twice.
“Golf really became my friend. When you’re bounced around a lot as a young person, especially at those ages, trying to make new friends at school is always tough, and golf really kind of became my friend,’’ said O’Meara, whose father was a furniture salesman who moved the family frequently. “It’s been a dream life. It was humbling, it was a great experience, to play golf in the United States, to have been able to make a living, not really sure, even after I won the US Amateur in 1979, about how my pro career was going to go.’’
It went better than the 13-year-old O’Meara ever would have imagined.
“I’d have never dreamed it,’’ he said. “Where in the world at [age 55] could I still be playing a professional sport, making a nice living, competing at a high level? There’s no other professional sport that gives you that opportunity, and golf does.’’
O’Meara established a permanent endowed Ouimet scholarship in memory of his late father, Robert.
Proceeds from the dinner - the silent auction alone raised $65,100 - go toward financial assistance in the form of college scholarships, which the Ouimet Fund has handed out since 1949, when an initial class of 13 students shared $4,600. This year, the fund will award $1.5 million to approximately 285 students, which brings the total since the charity’s inception to more than $25 million, with more than 5,000 scholars receiving aid.
Brian Hammons, an announcer for the Golf Channel, served as master of ceremonies. Patrick Bibaud, who worked at Worcester Country Club, walked on to the golf team at Manhattan College and became captain, was the student speaker, and Ted Highberger, a former president of the fund, received the Richard F. Connolly Jr. Distinguished Service Award.
Announcements were also made regarding 2013, which is the centennial of Ouimet’s US Open victory at The Country Club. Arnold Palmer will serve as honorary chair of the centennial festivities, which will include a special logo, new programs and sponsorship initiatives, and a kickoff event later this year at a place also celebrating its 100-year anniversary, Fenway Park.
Golf Fights Cancer will hold its annual marathon June 7 at Stow Acres Country Club, and anyone interested in playing can still sign up. The marathon is 100 holes in one day, with this year’s proceeds going to the hospital outreach program at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. There is no cost to participate, but those taking on the challenge must pledge to raise $3,000. For details, call Dianne Lynch at 978-771-6151 . . . The New England Golf Tour holds its first tournament of the season on May 21 at North Andover Country Club. The tour is open to amateurs and professionals, with no handicap limit. For a full schedule or more information, call 978-270-4329 or visit www.NewEnglandGolfTour.com . . . Rich Berberian of Hoodkroft won the professional portion of the New England PGA’s pro-am at Portsmouth Country Club in Greenfield, N.H., shooting a 7-under-par 65, five shots ahead of Shawn Warren (Nonesuch River). Warren’s team, which included David Gushee, Brad Myers, and Shawn McCurdy, captured the two-better-ball event with a 15-under-par 129 . . . David Dionne of Beverly Golf & Tennis Club finished with 45 points (he shot a 2-under 68) to win the NEPGA’s individual Stableford competition, held at Presidents Golf Course. Host pro Dana Smith, who shot 70, finished with 44 points . . . Sean McTernan (Brae Burn) won the NEPGA’s Assistant Series tournament at New Seabury, shooting a 2-under 68 at the Dunes Course to beat Brian Owens (North Kingstown) by two strokes . . . A reminder that entries for this year’s Cape Cod Open (May 30-31) are being accepted until 5 p.m. on May 25 at www.ccopen.com.
Feel like winning $50,000? You could, at Saturday’s 50th anniversary celebration at Blue Rock Golf Course in South Yarmouth. For $50, anyone can play unlimited golf (with breakfast or lunch included), and participate in a hole-in-one shootout. Here’s how it works: Those with tee times between 8 a.m. and noon can enter the shootout, with the 10 closest shots on the par-3 third hole qualifying for the final, which will begin at 2 p.m. Any of the 10 who then makes a hole-in-one on Blue Rock’s signature hole, No. 9, will win $50,000. For information, call 508-398-9295 or visit www.bluerockgolfcourse.com/50k . . . Congratulations to Judy Cannon, who joined the hole-in-one club recently by using a 5-wood on the 146-yard 17th hole at Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course. She was paired with Jane Gerry and Janet Owens . . . Titleist is offering free personalization on their golf balls, in conjunction with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Until June 30, anyone ordering at least one dozen of any Titleist golf balls can get them personalized at no extra charge. Colors can be black, blue, red, green, or pink, and there can be up to three lines of text (17 characters per line). Allow one week for delivery. To find where Titleist golf balls are sold, visit www.titleist.com/locator.
New ticket deals
Tickets are now on sale for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year at TPC Boston in Norton. Tickets can be purchased at the tournament’s website (www.dbchampionship.com), by phone at 877-849-4322, or at any of the seven area Golf Town locations. New this year is ‘‘Rope Side Seating,’’ which guarantees a ticket-holder a front-row greenside seat at both the 17th ($550 for all competition rounds) and 18th ($600) holes. A $60 food and beverage credit is included. A skybox on the 16th hole and champions club seating along the 17th fairway are new features as well for this year’s tournament, which is Aug. 29-Sept. 3.