A New Englander's Take on Golf
May 22, 2024
A little rain never hurts -- but a lot of rain sometimes adds to the flavor of the moment as it did here at Turnberry for the author and great friends Jeff Babineau (left) and Alex Miceli (right).

Having always felt that golf was layered in richness, the flavor that dominates is this: The game is at its best when it is shared.

How that plays out in your world is a personal choice, whether you embrace travel groups, weekly games with friends or clubmates, golf handed down generation-to-generation, or reach-outs to longtime acquaintances to suggest that golf be used as a means to rekindle kinships.

All of it works.

So, too, does sharing golf in a competitive arena and that thought consumed me when news surfaced about the passing of a Massachusetts golf legend named Jim Ruschioni. He was 76 and insofar as his resume was known to me during a wonderful era when the job entailed covering a lot of local golf, his name truly resonated loudest one day when a simple question was posed: What is the most formidable four-ball team in your competitive circle?

Jack Kearney – an esteemed competitor from Western Mass. who never saw a competitive event in which he didn’t want to partake – heard the question and quickly said, “Jim Ruschioni.”

“Jim Ruschioni and who?” he was asked.

“Jim Ruschioni and anyone he brings. That’s the best four-ball team.”

What is stamped within the walls of my memory is that no one laughed, several onlookers nodded their agreement, and forever my membership to the Jim Ruschioni Fan Club was sealed. Not so much because of his wonderfulness – his was off the charts. Not so much because of his success – his championship achievements are endless.

No, the affinity toward Jim Ruschioni was for this reason: He personified what is and always has been the essence of our love for the game – that others can be by our side to savor so much joy.

Jim Ruschioni’s success revolved around four-ball tournaments. Whether paired with his son, Jason, or his great friend, the late Paul Nunez, Jr., Jim Ruschioni shined and that success was owed to more than his golf skills. It was connected to his uncanny ability to draw so much enjoyment out of the camaraderie component.

Though never a competitive golfer, methinks that what galvanizes great four-ball teams is a united love of the game and an unwavering commitment to those beliefs that are the framework of true golf passion: Ignore wind and rain; embrace friendships and moments.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a competitive golfer to absorb the glory of the game; it spreads its magic liberally to a wide-cross section of enthusiasts. A loyal friend’s experience with a round of golf one spring in Florida always ignites some light laughter for the grandest of reasons – it is true.

He had arranged for a game that morning, only clouds rolled in and rain fell. Heavily, some reported. Mildly, countered my friend. The discussion reached that point where they agreed to disagree, which is when three walked off. Disappointing, perhaps, only golf is indeed mystical and two holes later my friend was joined by another golfer who agreed it was the perfect day to share a golf experience with a stranger.

They were both from New Jersey. Cool nugget, but it grew even cooler. The gentleman approved of my friend’s commitment to this framework of true golf passion and asked if he wanted to join him at his club back in Jersey. Place called Pine Valley. The answer was sharper than a clap of thunder – “Yes!” – and before leaving the 18th green, a date was set.

“Jimmy my boy,” said my friend, “he who perseveres gets rewarded by the Golf Gods.”

Truth is, from my little corner of the world, golf has never failed me. When it has been at its best, however, friends have been alongside and weather a mere afterthought.

A day at Turnberry, on the Firth of Clyde in southwest Scotland comes to mind. Now, the commitment to a tee time at any golf course is of paramount standing so it mattered not in the least that rain was coming down sideways and wind was whipping in the neighborhood of 30 m.p.h.

That’s really a beautiful neighborhood in which to play when you’re on a links, and so onward we marched, failing laughingly in the shot-making department, succeeding magnanimously in the memory-making task.

A reward for persevering on a wet day at Turnberry -- a magnificent sight of the famed lighthouse. It was worth every raindrop.

When discussions sometimes hurdle past midfield and gather support to take a prudent look at the turbulent atmosphere, my mind wanders back to that day at Turnberry and the joy that came out of a resolve to play. We are all too quick to put off opportunities to play, chances to get together, or take part in rounds of golf with friends we haven’t seen in years.

As an acquaintance recently said as we shared a round of golf for the first time: “I was told that I’m running out of ‘next years,’ ” and so he retired, because to love golf is abundantly more worthwhile when you allow yourself opportunities to play it.


A nod of the head is offered when the Turnberry story is recalled – indeed, Capisci – or it might even be because the spirit of the late Jeff Julian has swept over me.

Though diagnosed with ALS, the most insidious disease of them all, Vermont’s Jeff Julian proved how indominable was his golf spirit. He struggled to talk and walking was painful, but he labored valiantly to play in a handful of PGA Tour tournaments back in 2002.

But where his fire touched your soul was when he talked of organizing “midnight golf” with his sisters, their husbands and friends. Impossible, this challenge to hit a golf ball at midnight? Jeff Julian proved otherwise and revealed his secret.

“Feel the shot,” he said. “Just feel it.”

Such a beautiful rhythm to those words spoken by Jeff Julian and should he not mind – and my guess is he surely would not – it moves me to add, “and share the game, for it is best that way.”

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” is a weekly tribute with that in mind, a digital production to celebrate a game that many of us embrace. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. Should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, pass them along. And if you’d like to support “Power Fades” with contributing sponsorships or advertisements, you can contact me. Jim@powerfades.com

1 – Will his team benefit?

If Bryson DeChambeau doesn’t ride this PGA Championship into a resounding run for his Crushers of LIV Golf fame, then why are we here?

2 – Seriously, you need the laughs that bad?

Bad enough that so many folks went to town on social media and had fun with Scottie Scheffler’s misfortune with law enforcement officials at the PGA. But taking it to the extreme and equating it Jesus, who was also taken into custody on a Friday . . . well, sometimes the quest for laughter makes you lose your way a little.

3 – Keep things as they are

Nelly Korda’s fantastic season continues, but why are people trying to spoil it by suggesting that now is the time to thrust her into the chaos of a PGA Tour sponsor’s exemption? It most certainly is not.

4 – Too much red down deep

Not sure what a major championship venue should look like, but I know what its leaderboard shouldn’t look like – a player (Keegan Bradley) shooting four rounds in the 60s and finishing T-18th.

5 – Give it a long rest, please

Firm no when it comes to Valhalla as a major site.

6 – Remember where we are

Firm and fast is a wonderful concept. In July, when the Open Championship arrives. Otherwise, stifle it.

7 – Be honest

Then there is this truism to factor in: People did love watching the PGA Championship – but that was owed to the leaderboard, not the venue. So you figure out how to guarantee the networks that sort of leaderboard every time.

8 – First things first . . .

When asked what bothers me, there’s this: “A hard left-to-right wind.” Otherwise, consider me pretty agreeable.

9 – Don’t need to know basis

“You have 265 to the flag, 238 to the front, 220 to cover that cross bunker.” Blank stare, of course, but then I responded, “Since we’re discussing numbers that don’t mean anything to me, could you tell me what a five-pound bag of Tofu is selling for on the open market in Bangkok?”


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