What We Do
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
PROVIDENCE – Ledgemont Country Club was under water. In fact, most courses in Rhode Island were dealing with a similar situation due to the amount of rain Mother Nature handed the state on July 17, 2023.
The inclement weather forced the postponement of the USGA Amateur Qualifier in Seekonk and that’s when I received a first-hand experience of one of many services the RIGA provides for its member clubs.
After 30 years in sports journalism, I began working for the RIGA as its director of communications/senior writer on March 1. In fact, I started my writing career, covering RIGA events for the Providence Journal in 1995 alongside legendary golf writer, Paul Kenyon. So, I thought I knew a lot about golf when I joined the RIGA staff last spring.
I was wrong.
I had no idea what occurs behind the scenes and the countless hours it takes to successfully run a season’s worth of men’s, women’s, junior and qualifying tournaments. It was incredible to learn the process.
On this day at Ledgemont, four members of the RIGA staff, including 84-year-old Joe Pieranunzi, along with the club’s grounds crew, and one volunteer dug in – literally – to fix and rake the 75 washed-out bunkers on the course. Using pumps and good old manual labor, a crew of seven people worked from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to prepare the course for play the next day.
The golfers who played in the qualifier were pleased with the condition of the course but had no idea the work that went into it.
In general, preparing a course for a tournament is extensive. Jim McKenna, the RIGA’s Senior Director of Rules & Competitions, is on-site days ahead of a tournament, working with the course’s superintendent and club pro. Jim, usually with a cigar in hand, spends hours selecting hole locations and “painting” the course to properly mark it. On the day of each tournament, he arrives before the sun’s up and stays long after it sets.
The official golf season in Rhode Island begins in late April and runs through October. The RIGA conducts 85 tournaments each season. That includes 41 days of men’s and women’s majors and 33 days of weeklies.
“I have been playing in RIGA events for over 10 years now and their events are extremely well run and by people who truly care about the game and the folks who play in their events,” said Michael Hamilton of Kirkbrae Country Club. “The RIGA continues to grow and improve its support for not only its participating players but giving back to the community to help grow the game.”
Since golf’s popularity is at an all-time high, securing courses for RIGA events is a major challenge. The majority of the 54 member clubs are extremely welcoming and provide an outstanding experience.
The RIGA does so much more than just run tournaments.
The RIGA has been serving golf in the Ocean State since 1902. It is dedicated and strives to preserve the integrity of the game and its rich history in Rhode Island. Each year efforts are made to expand services and develop programs to benefit the growth of the game.
It’s common practice for RIGA Executive Director, Bob Ward, or McKenna to receive phone calls from club pros to make a ruling during club tournaments and outings.
Here are some club benefits from the RIGA:
- Course rating, measurement and stroke index allocation
- Member clubs use GHIN (Golf Handicap Information Network) which is a USGA product
- Golf Genius Software, which is utilized for leagues and tournaments
- Eligible for RIGA annual awards
- Opportunity to host RIGA events and tournaments
- Eligible for the annual Mulligan Team Championship
- Club consulting, including course marking and management
Here are some individual benefits from the RIGA:
- World Handicap Index from GHIN
- Eligible to compete in events, tournaments and championships for men, women and juniors
- Ability to earn Player of the Year points
- Eligible to play in Weekly Invitational packages, which is one of the oldest and best values in the country. It allows all players the opportunity to play the state’s best courses.
- E-Revision newsletter distributed twice a month that includes your World Handicap Index and amateur golf updates
- Free RIGA/GHIN mobile app for easy score posting and stat tracking
- Satisfaction of supporting golf in Rhode Island
The RIGA recently instituted the Distinguished Club Award, which is given in recognition of “Exceptional Dedication and Commitment to the RIGA.” Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club won the inaugural award in 2023. Wanumetonomy continually goes above and beyond to support golf in Rhode Island. It hosted both the State Amateur and Women’s Amateur championships in 2022, the Women’s Amateur again 2023, along with hosting the Women’s Four-Ball Championship annually. It also hosted the Endicott Cup, and a RIGA Weekly Invitational in 2023.
We redesigned our website to improve our look and functionality. We’re active on social media, including X (Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.
In case you don’t already know, let’s introduce our staff:
- Let’s start with the legend, Joe P. Everyone in the local golf world loves Joe P, and he loves golf. He owns a relentless work ethic, and his stories are priceless. He’s genuine and cares about the integrity of the game and its players.
- Bob enters his 25th year with the RIGA. His dedication is second-to-none and he takes pride in continuing to build the RIGA’s strong and storied legacy. Championship-level competition is thriving and the successful Weekly Invitational is one of a kind.
- Jim begins is 18th season with the RIGA. His knowledge and work ethic are off the charts. He’s respected by every superintendent and club pro in the state and work closely with everyone to make sure each tournament runs smoothly.
- Katie DeCosta is beginning her 11thseason as the Director of Women’s Golf and Member Services. Women’s golf is thriving in Rhode Island and Katie has helped create a positive culture on the circuit.
- Kate McCurry is one of the unsung heroes of the RIGA. She is beginning her 26th year as the office manager and you might recognize her vintage “Good morning, Rhode Island Golf.” Kate makes sure everything runs smooth. She handles one of the most thankless roles at the RIGA with grace.
- Each season the RIGA participates in the best internship programs in the country. The P.J. Boatwright program is designed to give experience to individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in golf administration, while assisting state and regional golf associations in the promotion of amateur golf, on a short-term, entry-level basis. This season the RIGA will have three interns, including URI junior Olivia Paquet, who returns for her third season as a Boatwright.
- Volunteers are always needed. The RIGA is fortunate for its handful of longtime volunteers, including Brian Harbor, Bob Dufresne, Sandy Salvadore, Peter Terreri, Phillip Norton, Moe Gallant, Joe Kosiarek and Dean Berardi. If you’re interested in volunteering, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of us at the RIGA are looking forward to an enjoyable and successful 2024 season. Enjoy and play well.
Oh, and the other thing I learned last season while raking bunkers, I’m allergic to bee stings.