Once again, Tim McDonnell plans to play at the Lori Lajoie Charity Golf Tournament at Worcester Country Club on August 23rd with renowned golf professionals Joe Carr, Tom Shaw and Paul Parajeckas.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says the 66-year-old auditor. “I used to get nervous, but these guys don’t care if I hit a ball on the street or in the stream. We’re only here for a good day. “
And for a good cause – the Seven Hills Foundation, which supports children and adults with disabilities and great challenges in life.
Shaw, 82, a longtime instructor at Cyprian Keyes GC in Boylston, has won four PGA Tour events and two PGA Tour Champions events, including a major, the 1993 tradition.
Carr, 82, played the PGA Tour for eight years and has won several New England tournaments, including the 1982 NEPGA Championship. McDonnell and Carr are best friends. McDonnell was his caddy several times, and in 1992 they opened Bedrock Golf Club in Rutland. Carr now owns the club with his siblings.
Parajeckas, the 71-year-old head pro at Pleasant Valley CC in Sutton, has competed in all 45 Lajoie tournaments. At 59, he became the oldest golfer to win the NEPGA championship. That year’s tournament was held in Worcester CC, near where Parajeckas grew up, so the win was even more special. McDonnell does Parajeckas’ taxes.
Last month Parajeckas finished third in the NEPGA Senior Championship while playing against much younger golfers.
Carr and Parajeckas were both inducted into the NEPGA Hall of Fame.
McDonnell’s nickname is “Hack,” but not because of his golf game, even though he has an 18 handicap. He earned the nickname when he fouled a lot as a freshman basketball player in Plainville, Connecticut.
Carr played at the Lajoie almost every year. In 2012, the Lajoie was his first round of golf after having cancerous tumors removed from his cheek and neck. McDonnell recalls crying on her first hole because he was so emotional that Carr could play golf again.
On the second par-5 hole that day, Carr borrowed McDonnell’s 5 wood to clear the creek on his second swing, then pulled out a hybrid he’d borrowed from Bedrock’s Pro Shop. It still had the shrink wrap, so he peeled some of it off and hit the ball into the cup from 170 yards for Eagle.
Last November, Carr was honored for participating in the Bermuda Goodwill Golf Tournament for the 50th consecutive year, and McDonnell was proud to be one of his playing partners.
McDonnell has fought in the lajoie for almost every one of the 36 years he’s a member of Worcester CC. Together with his former club president Karin Branscombe, he chairs the Lajoie tournament committee.
“The tournament stood the test of time,” said McDonnell.
In 1976, WCC member Leo Malboeuf approached chief professional Ray Lajoie and his wife Coco to organize a golf tournament for the benefit of children like their daughter. As an adult, Lori Lajoie had the intelligence of a small child, spoke few words and could not walk until she was 7 years old. She died of ovarian cancer in 2001 at the age of 37. Ray and Coco ran the tournament until Ray retired in 1996, and the club has run it ever since. The Lajoies helped until they died one day apart in February 2018.
McDonnell pointed out that most Worcester CC members never met Malbeouf or Lori, Ray or Coco Lajoie.
“But they are still taking this tournament,” he said. “It’s amazing to me.”
Many long-time members continue to support the tournament, but the tournament receives new support every year, which is critical to the future of the event.
To attend the event, members pay $ 250 and guests pay $ 350, but Seven Hills benefits more from its member-sponsored foursome, which is $ 3,000, and live and silent auctions. Several non-playing members donate to the tournament.
McDonnell knows people who have only been with the club three or four years, who play in the Lajoie tournament or spend $ 10,000 to sponsor a tee, even though they never met Lori or her parents.
“It defines the club,” said McDonnell. “Many clubs have members who are very charitable. We joined this one particular charity that we want to give a lot of money back instead of giving a little bit of money to a number of charities. So that’s a little different from some clubs. “
McDonnell met Ray and Coco, but not Lori or Malbeouf.
McDonnell recalls that Ray wouldn’t allow his members to carry their clubs from the parking lot to the court. That was the responsibility of the staff, and if no one else was available, they would do it themselves. Ray also matched golfers with other members who he knew would enjoy playing with them.
“He was a pro to members,” said McDonnell. “He knew the members, he took care of the members. He knew who to play with. “
Coco not only raised Lori and her other children, she also worked in the pro shop and worked a lot behind the scenes at the club.
“I would say she was the rock of the family and Ray was the face, but they were definitely a team,” said McDonnell.
When it was discussed during the pandemic last year whether the tournament should take place, McDonnell was among those who insisted.
“We have to do it because if you let it go for a year you will lose your momentum,” he said. “Although it was supposed to be scaled down a bit, we had to have it. The show has to go on and that was our mantra last year – we’re going to do that. We will raise a lot of money and continue the tradition of holding the tournament every year. “
The Lajoie has the only side-by-side shotgun of the year at Worcester CC. Golfers tee off at 7.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Last year, the field was limited to 200 golfers because of the pandemic.
Although there were fewer golfers in 2020, the tournament grossed $ 310.5890, not far from $ 349.861 last year. In total, the tournament raised $ 6.5 million. The goal is $ 350,000 this year.
More than 240 golfers are expected this year.
“Our problem is we have too many golfers,” said McDonnell. “Maybe we need to ask people not to play and give them guest passes to play another day. It’s a problem, but I think it’s a nice problem. “
On the evening of the tournament there will be a gala dinner with a live auction and a silent auction.
McDonnell credits Mark Fuller to the tournament committee member for raising most of the money for the tournament. Fuller and his wife Jan played at the event more than 40 times.
According to Fuller, the tournament sold out faster this year than ever before.
“What we’re doing here benefits the entire community,” said Fuller, “and it helps fulfill a nonprofit’s obligation to have a 501 (c) (7). That means you should be doing something. We have been doing this for 45 years and that’s why it’s important. “
Branscombe, the only woman who served as the club president, joined Worcester CC about 30 years ago and has fond memories of Ray and Coco Lajoie.
“We were good friends,” she says. “I will forever cherish this friendship I had with you.”
She regularly participates in the tournament and the Quaker Special Risk company she founded sponsors the $ 10,000 hole-in-one contest on the 13th hole and the $ 10,000 putting contest on the 18th hole.
“It’s about remembering the Lajoie family and their daughter,” said Branscombe, “and giving back to a social utility that is probably needed more than ever.”
Bill Stock, Seven Hills vice president of Government and Community Relations, said the pandemic created this greater need for services.
“Although we are out of the COVID crisis,” said Stock, “the world is now facing long-term mental health implications, especially our children. Social isolation, loss of routine, food insecurity and family stability put a strain on people’s health. “
Stock said that Seven Hills responded to that call to action by expanding its behavioral health network, a joint network of clinical and home services, with clinics in Southbridge, Milford, and its recently opened location, the Seven Hills Child and Family Behavioral Health facility in Worcester.
—Contact Bill Doyle at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ BillDoyle15.