Gil Hanse’s restoration of Worcester Country Club has begun so the Lori Lajoie Charity Golf Tournament will be shorter than usual.
The 12th, 13th and 14th holes are scheduled to be closed while the 48th annual Lajoie takes place on Monday to benefit the Seven Hills Foundation.
So the Lajoie tournament will consist of 16 holes, including a 125-yard, par-3 that will be created on the driving range.
Worcester CC members never considered canceling the tournament because of the closure of the three holes.
“It wasn’t even brought up at all,” said Tom McNamara, who co-chairs the Lajoie tournament committee with Jan Fuller. “It was, ‘We’re doing it, we’ll find a way to make it happen.’ And without a doubt, the sponsors and the members have stepped up to continue this and support it.”
Special clubs are a nod to history of Worcester Country Club
To make the par-3 on the range more interesting, most golfers will use Ogg-mented irons designed for Wilson Sporting Goods in the 1930s by former Worcester CC head pro Willie Ogg, and a putter designed in the 1950s by Ogg’s successor at Worcester CC, John Bernardi. Worcester CC owns the clubs and decided to use steel shafted Ogg-mented clubs because it didn’t want to risk breaking the few hickory shafted Ogg-mented clubs it has.
Left-handed golfers will have to use their own clubs, however.
Ogg, a native of Scotland, served as Worcester CC’s head pro from 1921-1944. One of the founding members of the PGA of America, he served as the organization’s first vice president and helped bring the first Ryder Cup matches to Worcester CC in 1927. He also designed Green Hill Municipal Golf Course, which opened in 1929.
Working for Wilson, Ogg created Ogg-mented golf clubs that distributed the weight away from the heel of the club head, allowing the ball to move toward the sweet spot of the blade, a forerunner to the perimeter weighted or cavity back irons of today.
Ogg’s great-great-grandson, Ty Mancuso, is an intern in the Worcester CC pro shop this summer. He grew up in Waltham and is a student in the PGA Golf Management program at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Lajoie will be held two weeks earlier this year because more holes might have been closed later in the restoration process.
Longtime Lajoie committee member Mark Fuller, Jan’s husband, said because there will be fewer holes to start on, about 32 fewer golfers will play in the double shotgun event, but he still expects to raise about $400,000 this year.
Last year, the tournament raised $437,000, the most except for 2018 when the total of $500,000 included an additional request to help fund the construction of the Ray and Coco Lajoie Center for Children, which turned out to total $150,000. The tournament is the major fundraiser for Seven Hills and has contributed more than $8 million to the non-profit organization over the years.
Mark and Jan Fuller joined Worcester CC in April of 1975, the year before the Lajoie tournament debuted. They didn’t play in the first event, but they’ve played in nearly every one since.
“We’ve been at this forever,” Jan Fuller said. “I remember the first tournament when it was held and I was probably a beginner golfer at the time.”
Golf Digest has high marks for Worcester CC
Worcester CC, by the way, was ranked the 10th best golf course in the state by Golf Digest this month. The club improved upon its ranking of 12th in 2021-22 and 17th in 2019-20.
“I think everybody knows how special this property is,” Worcester CC head pro Andy Lane said, “and what’s upcoming now with Hanse we’re just getting started in some regards. So it’s an exciting time for sure.”
Seven Hills and Lori Lajoie tournament share long history
Seven Hills got its start in 1953 when a group of parents in Central Massachusetts met to advocate for their children in need. Seventy years later, the organization they formed is thriving and has become one of the most comprehensive health and human services agencies in the country for people with significant life challenges. Seven Hills Foundation is headquartered in Worcester and helps 65,000 people in need in more than 235 locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and eight other countries.
“It’s amazing,” said Dr. Kathleen Jordan, who replaced her husband, Dr. David Jordan, as Seven Hills President & CEO on July 1. “I’ve been here, it will be 20 years in November, and just seeing the tremendous changes over those 20 years and to think of where we began, which was parents sitting around a kitchen table trying to figure out support for their children, is just incredible.”
The Lajoie tournament has played a vital role in the growth of Seven Hills. As with the case with Seven Hills, the Lajoie tournament also had a grass roots beginning. At the urging of Worcester CC member Leo Malboeuf, head pro Ray Lajoie and his wife, Coco, formed a tournament in 1976 to help developmentally challenged people like their daughter, Lori. Worcester Country Club has embraced the event ever since.
“It really has been a tremendous piece of our success,” Dr. Jordan said, “in particular because Lori was a member of the Seven Hills family. We supported her. So much, particularly over the last 48 years, of our presence, people understanding who we are, what we do, really has come from the members of the Lori Lajoie and the Worcester Country Club just being great cheerleaders out there for us.”
Dr. Jordan said 100 percent of the money raised by the golf tournament pays for programs that don’t receive any other funding.
Dr. Jordan said she’s particularly proud that financial assistance from the Lajoie tournament has enabled Seven Hills to build Snoezelen Multi-Sensory Environments, which are relaxing spaces that help reduce agitation and anxiety, and they can also engage and delight the user, stimulate reactions and encourage communication.
In past years, Jordan has listened to her husband addressing the golfers at the Lajoie banquet the night of the tournament. This year, she’ll give the speech for the first time.
“I’m going to love getting up to that podium,” she said, “and looking at that packed room and feeling the support of the people who are attending and what that has meant over the last 48 years.”
For many years, Jordan has worked with programming in clinical support. She’s been to adoption days when children Seven Hills supports are adopted by families. She has worked with people who are trying to stop drug abuse. She’s worked with women who are victims of domestic violence.
“Those 65,000 people have faces for me,” she said, “because I am in those programs every week and it’s incredible to be able to spend your professional life doing this work.”
Dr. Jordan feels indebted to the Worcester CC members who pay to play their own course during the Lajoie.
“It tells you the love that they have for Seven Hills,” she said, “and the respect for the work that we do and the tremendous impact that the Lajoies had on the Worcester Country Club and the fact that the club loves tradition. This is such a tradition at the club.”
Jordan said she doesn’t know of another golf tournament that has supported a non-profit organization for as long as Worcester CC has.
“That’s part of the joy of showing up every year,” she said, “with the excitement and the fun and it’s always a beautiful day. I just feel like this tournament has been blessed.”
It’s the joy of the Lajoie.
The Jordans are members at Worcester CC. She has never played in the Lajoie, but hopes to eventually. This year she began playing in a Thursday night league for new golfers.
The tournament has outlasted most of the Lajoie family. Lori died at age 37 of ovarian cancer in 2001. Her sister, Lisa Marek, died in 2008 of kidney failure. Their parents, Ray and Coco, died a day apart in 2018.
Less than two weeks before last year’s tournament, Lori’s brother, John, died after a long bout with gastroesophageal cancer. He had played in the tournament nearly every year and was a big booster of the event. His wife, Susan, and daughter, Jackie, are members of the tournament committee. Jackie also works in the finance department for Seven Hills as a tribute to her grandparents. Another of John’s and Susan’s daughters, Jessica, served on the committee in the past.
Lynn Ellsworth, the last surviving child of Ray and Coco, remains an avid supporter of her sister’s tournament.
—Contact Bill Doyle at email@example.com. Follow him on X @BillDoyle15
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Lori Lajoie Charity Golf Tournament set for another successful outing