A New Englander's Take on Golf
November 24, 2021
With an enduring thirst to teach, Tom Cavicchi is at home on the range.

Funny thing about that set of keys Scott Hawley has to a place where he works part-time as a golf instructor.

“I’m not sure I’ve used them to unlock anything,” he laughs.

That’s because Tom Cavicchi is always already inside at the Harmon Golf & Fitness Club, a tribute to his passion for golf and his never-ending thirst for knowledge that he can pass on to those who come knocking.

And as sure as leaves fall in October, Tom Cavicchi quite often is the first stop golfers from our area make on their quest to improve. “One, he knows probably more than anyone because he keeps learning,” said Hawley, “and two, he’s a font of knowledge and not long ago you generally didn’t share what you had learned, but Tom is the opposite; he likes to share.”

If you’re thinking humility, give yourself a gold star. The man is saturated in it. When congratulations were extended for having last week been inducted into the New England PGA Hall of Fame, Cavicchi said he was thankful, but surprised.

“It’s nice, for sure, but it’s not the aim of what I’m about,” he said. “But I appreciate that people have somewhat paid attention to what I do.”

What Cavicchi, 72, does is unleash a flavorful story of a life in golf. This son of a Quincy Police Department lieutenant fell in love with the game and possessed the savvy to recognize the on ramps and off ramps that would keep him immersed in it.

He sells himself way short as a player when he jokes that he went to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in Texas one year “and realized I sucked.” Fact is, he played beautifully and had notable success at a time when local golf rated as front-page news in the Boston Globe sports section.

Cavicchi played against Eddie Barry and Ted Bishop and was of the same vintage as Allen Doyle, but a tad older than Bill Mallon and Bruce Douglass. In 1969 he lost a spirited first-round match to the great Fordie Pitts in the State Amateur, then a year later he got to the finals, only to see the formidable John Tosca rally to win at Essex County Club.

Tom Cavicchi owes much of his success to his history with the Harmon family.

Cavicchi was a sophomore on Rollins College’s Division 2 national championship team in 1970 and if the individual winner of that tournament, Gary McCord, was good enough to try pro golf, why not the kid from Quincy?

Cavicchi’s eyes were opened to just how good one had to be to make the PGA Tour. The truth did not hurt because Plan B was appealing, too. “I told myself, ‘That’s it, I’m not good enough,’ but I loved the game and I wanted to teach.”

One small problem? “I needed to get better at that,” he said.

Enter his relentless appetite for learning, which was coupled with another strength – he listened to advice. Club pro Vinnie Del Zoppo offered him tutelage, and David Gianferante suggested he make a ride up to Oak Hill CC in Rochester, N.Y., to interview with head professional Craig Harmon.

That sound, folks, is the door opening. And oh, how Cavicchi seized the opportunity.

The Harmons are Golf Teaching Royalty and Cavicchi was all in. Craig mentored him at Oak Hill, younger brother Dick took him on as an assistant at River Oaks in Houston where Cavicchi spent many a night talking with the patriarch, Claude Sr. Cavicchi got to know Claude Jr., better known as Butch, and for lengthy winter stretches he caddied on the PGA Tour for Oak Hill member Terry Diehl and roomed with the youngest Harmon boy, Billy.

“From 1978 to 1985 my whole life flipped,” said Cavicchi. “I got the bug and I’ve never left.”

The game is immeasurably richer for that and golfers who have improved their games thanks to Cavicchi – be it at Oyster Harbors or Wollaston GC or the Harmon Club in Rockland – would form a lengthy parade route to sing his praises.

(When he joined with the Simeone family of Milton to give birth to a teaching facility, is it any wonder he wanted it called “The Harmon Club?”)

Endlessly intrigued, Cavicchi might venture onto YouTube to watch a Swedish golf instructor’s video or dive into new-found analytics that detail methods for attaining greater ball speed.

“He has the priceless combination of skill and passion,” said Hawley, who honed his game under Cavicchi’s tutelage and eventually played professionally in Canada and on various minitours. Now, Hawley is also a teacher and cherishes those days when he’s with a student and Cavicchi is close by with his.

“Something will spark his curiosity, and he’ll come back more excited than ever,” said Hawley.

“The bonds I have made are very, very strong,” said Cavicchi.

He was referring to all walks of his golf life – childhood friends from Furnace Brook GC days with whom he still plays golf; students from the 1980s who keep in touch; even Taylor Metcalfe, a Rollins College teammate.

“We hadn’t seen each other since 1971, but we got together in 2020 and picked right up where we left off, as if we had never been away,” said Cavicchi.

Magical. Mystical. The game is all of that, which explains why Cavicchi will find time to move onto the range by himself, passion percolating inside. “I still want to play,” he said. “I don’t want to suck. I haven’t given up.”

I have a passion for playing golf that is surpassed only by my passion for writing about people who have a passion for playing golf, for working in golf, for living their lives around golf. Chasing the best professional golfers around the world for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and the PGA Tour for more than 20 years was a blessing for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I’ve been left with precious memories of golf at its very best, but here is a takeaway that rates even more valuable – the game belongs to everyone who loves it. “Power Fades” will be a weekly tribute with that in mind, a digital production to celebrate a game that many of us love. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. And should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, feel free to pass them along.

Cheers, Jim McCabe

jim@powerfades.com

Jim McCabe | November 24, 2021

Khang maintains consistency

She has yet to break through for that first LPGA victory, but Megan Khang has appeared to figure out something that will serve you well in professional golf – uncanny consistency. Khang – who grew up in Rockland and has ties to The Harmon Club and the Boston Golf Club – recently concluded her sixth year with her best-ever finish in the CME Group Tour Championship, a tie for fifth, to close out a season in which she had her best standing on the money list, 26th ($723,799). Since her second season, 2017, Khang had ranked between 30thand 43rd on the money list so at the still-tender age of 24, she is clearly established on Tour. Her T-5 in the CME was her third strong performance in a big-stage tournament in 2021; previously she had finished T-10 and T-4 in a pair of majors, the ANA Inspiration and U.S. Women’s Open.

James stays on a roll

The AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions is scheduled to conclude on Thanksgiving Day at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., but it appears that Ben James of Milford, Conn., is showing the sort of form that has had him on a torrid stretch this year. Entering the Rolex T of C, James had won his previous three starts (PING Invitational, Junior Players, and New England Junior Amateur). In three tournaments before that, James had finished second twice. So, it’s not a huge surprise to see him off to a 69-70 start to sit in a share of second, four off the lead. No matter which ranking you choose (James is No. 1 in the Junior Golf Scoreboard, No. 2 with the AJGA, and No. 3 with Golfweek), James is a considered an elite talent who has committed to the University of Virginia after he graduates in the spring.

Rank has been filed

Here’s a look at some locals who hold lofty positions in the latest amateurgolf.com rankings: Amateurs – Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley, 22nd; Patrick Welch, Providence, 105th. Mid-Ams – Nick Maccario, Bradford, 17th; Cody Paladino, Conn., 21st; John Hayes, Maine, 50th; James Pleat, N.H., 52nd; Brad Tilley, Conn., 71st; Andrew DiRamio, 82nd; Matt Parziale, Easton, 103rd. Seniors – Frank Vana, Boxford, 67th . . . . . At the Society of Seniors Founders Cup at Sandpiper GC in Goleta, Calif., Rick Cunha competed in the Legends Division, placing seventh with rounds of 81-79-81.

 

1 – Winner and still champ

Apparently, this new PIP (Player Impact Program) won’t be made public, but after his video went viral last week, let’s go and give the top prize to Tiger Woods. Given that it’s $8 million, guess what, you could say it’s his 11th money title – this time without hitting a competitive shot.


2 – If I may

Not to go Martin Scorsese on you, Tiger, but that video would have been better had Joe LaCava been filmed fielding your shots in a baseball glove without moving.


3 – Keep them within reach

Yes, take your clubs out of your car trunk and store them somewhere warm. But don’t say you’ve “put them away” or we can’t be friends.


4 – Confounding

Lexi Thompson winning just twice in 72 starts over the last four seasons (0-for-her-last-42) is difficult to reconcile. Maybe putting does matter.


5 – It’s an easy pass

Let “The Match” begin? I’m thinking more like, let “The Match” be over.


6 – Give this a watch, however

Dennis Walters’s story remains inspirational, 47 years since that tragic accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. “Get A New Dream: The Dennis Walters Story” is on The Golf Channel at 5 p.m. Wednesday and deserves your time.


7 – Fly-overs rule

Every golf course should own a drone for showing off the product to members and visitors.


8 – Simply the best

I’m still debating who get the second and third spots, but the No. 1 sage in golf is unquestioned. It’s Jack Burke Jr.


9 – Just pop the trunk

It’s more than all right to change your shoes in the parking lot. It’s natural. It’s cool. It’s Trevino-like.


 

Riff enjoys trips to the kitchen, warm sand piles, and scouting out new hole locations. It's all in a day's work.

When it comes to friendly and deeply devoted colleagues, it’s tough to overlook the magical essence of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.

Of course, Terriers by nature can be a little stubborn so Riff, a 3-year-old member of superintendent Tim Hood’s staff at Needham Golf Club, might choose to stop by the kitchen (he never refuses a slice of bacon) or run through a sand pile before going on to the next job. No worries because it’s part of who he is.

He's also exuberant and dependable, wonderful at helping choose hole locations and pretty much supervising diligent work crews.

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