In the last 12 months, TGC at Sacconnesset (formerly The Golf Club of Cape Cod) has experienced a healthy dose of success. The Falmouth club enrolled 67 new members in 2016, and as of early May, new membership momentum continues. The club recently completed an aesthetic update of its 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, initiated a popular membership program for junior members, and hired a new in-house chef. Also, as a result of its unique ownership structure, where a good percentage of members have purchased equity in the club, TGC at Sacconnesset continues to operate debt-free. The biggest accomplishment, though, may be yet to come.
From Monday to Wednesday, June 12-14, TGC at Sacconnesset hosts the Massachusetts Golf Association (MGA)’s 108th Open Championship, a historic 54-hole tournament that annually crowns the region’s best golfer—professional or amateur. For some perspective, the average handicap of participants in the tourney is “under 2.4”
Kevin Eldridge, the MGA’s director of rules and competition, says the Mass. Open is one of the organization’s three biggest events of the year. One must qualify to play in the Open, and many local club pros participate, but since the first tourney in 1905 a number of PGA Tour golfers have also taken part. The list of winners is a formidable lineup and includes Francis Ouimet, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith—the winner of the very first first Master’s Tournament—and Cape Cod’s Paul Harney, who claimed five Open titles, including four in a row from 1967 to 1970.
Eldridge says the process of selecting courses for tournaments like the Open takes several years, but he added that TGC at Sacconnesset has done well in hosting recent MGA events, including the 2007 MGA Senior Amateur Championship, the 2013 Father-Daughter Championship, and the 2016 Mid-Amateur Championship. “The staff and membership at TGC has been awesome,” Eldridge says. “They have been super accommodating. They’re really just excited to show off their course.” Eldridge added that the layout of the course, which was designed by Rees Jones and stretches for 7,047 yards, is relatively modern compared to others that have hosted the Open in recent years when it comes to course length and hole location. “It’s probably one of the longest courses that have ever hosted the Open,” he says.
Charles Passios, the club’s chief operating officer, says being granted the right to host the Open Championship and other MGA tourneys is a big feather in the club’s cap. “It just speaks to how strong the course is,” Passios says. Doug Errhalt, the club’s golf director, adds that hosting the Open is a goal the club’s staff has long been striving for. “It’s something we have been working towards since 2007 [when the club first opened],” he says. “It’s all been a lead-up to hosting the Open. This will likely be the biggest event the club will ever host.”
Spectators are welcome to attend the tournament, where they can walk the course and observe some of the best golfers in the region in action. When the final shots have been drained at tourney’s end, an awards presentation will be held on the patio overlooking the 18th green.
Club member Peter Sessa of Newton says it’s an honor that TGC at Sacconnesset was chosen to host such a prestigious event—but not a surprise. Sessa says he plays some 50 rounds at the club each year, and he enjoys spending time with his son and bantering with the golfers he has met over the years. “The camaraderie is really good here,” he says. “You don’t find stuffy folks. It’s a serious golf course, but it has a really loose atmosphere. The main thing is we have fun. Most of the people just really enjoy the game, so we have a lot of laughs.”
Sessa, who plans to attend the Open and is happy to volunteer, is also impressed by the club’s caddie program and the quality of the food served in the clubhouse, not to mention the play of the course itself, which he describes as challenging for both average and experienced golfers. “All the holes are different,” he says. “It keeps your interest. The layout of the course is just so interesting and challenging.” What’s Sessa’s favorite hole? Number 4—that’s where he struck his first hole in one.
As of early May, TGC at Sacconnesset had more than 200 members—the most in club history—including many who have bought equity in the club. “We have had a phenomenal year,” says Gwen Errhalt, the club’s membership manager. “We are well on our way to realizing our total membership goals.”
The inspiration for a membership ceiling came from the members themselves, Errhalt says, and the reasoning is simple: “The goal is a culture of accessible tee times and swift play.” With a limited number, members have a better likelihood of getting a requested tee time, and if they are so inclined, they can spend the rest of their day on their boats or enjoying many of the other amenities Cape Cod has to offer.
One more notable change, of course, is the club’s name: Formerly known as The Golf Club or TGC, the club is moving forward in 2017 as TGC at Sacconnesset.
Errhalt explains that Sacconnesset is the Wampanoag term for the Falmouth area, and it means “the place where the black wampum is found near the sea.” The Wampanoag used wampum as a means for trade, and it was a valuable commodity to them, Errhalt says. Due to the club’s location—and the fact that many club members have put up a substantial investment in the club—she says the term Sacconnesset seemed a natural fit. “We’re an evolving club,” Errhalt says, “in the best possible way.”
TGC at Sacconnesset is located at 132 Falmouth Woods Road in Falmouth. For more information, call 508-457-7200, or visit tgcgolf.com.
The following is a list of some notable winners of the Massachusetts Golf Association’s Open Tournament over the years:
Donald Ross—1905, 1911
Alex Ross—1906 to 1910, 1912
Harold McSpaden—1936 to 1938, 1941
Paul Harney—1967 to 1970, 1977
Geoffrey Sisk—1995, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007