A New Englander's Take on Golf
June 29, 2022

We interrupt all that noise coming from that corner of the golf world which has lost its way to call your attention to a young man named Mcphillips Akukwe. His family story and his achievements can hopefully re-direct our attention to the greatness of this game and not the silliness that spills out.

Now if you are wondering about his first name, it’s just a small sidelight to his tale, but here goes: “I’m not sure if there’s anything behind it except (my parents) wanted a stand-out name,” laughs Mcphillips. “They considered Michael or Phillips and sort of (put) them together.”

His older brothers are Thomas and Nathan and a younger brother is Brian. More conventional, for sure, but where things stand out for this family from Hyde Park is the inspiring commitment to education and the way in which golf has played a role.

Mcphillips Akukwe isn't a golfer, but he appreciates how golf played a big role in his education.

We are not talking his ability to play the game, mind you, because Akukwe does not play golf. No, we are talking about the innate goodness within a huge community of golfers that enables the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund to be the vehicle by which so many deserving students get to attend the college of their choice.

For Mcphillips Akukwe, it was Boston College, a reality “that still fills me with so much pride,” he said.

That he has graduated from BC’s school of nursing and is currently taking courses to prep for his boards is a massive tribute to Mcphillips’ determination and discipline. But ask him what pushed him to consider nursing – specifically in pediatrics – and it shifts the story to even more inspiring heights.

“My mother (Augusta) has been a nurse for more than 20 years (at the Suffolk County Jail),” he said. “I’m not sure I could do that job, but she believes in providing holistic care, equal care no matter what.

“She worked very hard, went to Suffolk and Northeastern, and is dedicated to her job. I’m in awe of her.”

Digest his level of love and admiration for a moment. Then consider the sacrifices his mother, Augusta, and father, Ferdinand, made in their lives, and the challenges they faced. They are from Nigeria and the decision to come to America was made for one reason. “My father had a dream to come to the U.S. and make better lives,” said Mcphillips.

Ferdinand’s dream was similar to the dream our grandparents or great-grandparents had so Mcphillips’ story should resonate.

Augusta’s and Ferdinand’s sons were born and raised in Hyde Park and each of them were put on a road that their parents insisted would provide better lives for them, too. “Every day, they preached education,” said Mcphillips.

Thomas and Nathan went to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, respectively. Mcphillips attended Boston Latin before BC. And Brian, the youngest, is a student at UMass-Boston.

If you’re thinking they all heeded their parents’ advice about education, give yourself a gold star. But here’s even more flavor – each of them took part in the Ouimet Scholarship Program at George Wright Golf Course and each of them is a Ouimet Scholar.

“I remember Thomas was looking for a summer job and how he was told about the opportunity at George Wright. He was always coming home and telling us we’d love the job because we’re outside and it would be a great summer job,” said Mcphillips.

The fresh air and the camaraderie and just being around the game of golf. All of that was as advertised. But when information was passed on about Ouimet scholarships and how financial aid was available to those with dreams for furthering their education, “we saw it as an amazing opportunity to go to college.”

There were plenty of days when Akukwe would stroll through the BC campus and pass the Lynch School of Education. No big deal. Then, one day he was connected to some Ouimet alums and it was noted how Mcphillips had been awarded the Peter S. Lynch Scholarship.

The same Peter S. Lynch whose name adorned that building at BC.

“It all came to me, how countless alumni are still connected to this scholarship fund,” said McPhillips. To know that Peter S. Lynch, long before he became an icon in the world of investing, mutual funds, and philanthropy, was a caddie and a Ouimet scholar was eye-opening.

“It blew my mind,” said Mcphillips.

Role models and mentors, Mcphillips will note, are important, and he’s been blessed to have many in his life, including the pediatrician he used to go to when he was a child. His desire to go into pediatrics is owed, in part, to the influences that doctor had on him.

On the road to becoming a nurse, Mcphillips thinks more than ever that he was able to attend the college of dreams, BC, in large part because of a scholarship from a program tied at the hip to golf. It impresses him to this day and is why he did the “I am a Ouimet scholar” video for the organization.

None of this “grow the game” nonsense from Mcphillips Akukwe. He’s giving thanks to the game.

Jim McCabe | June 29, 2022

Thorbjornsen with whirlwind visit

Not a bad little swing through his “hometown” area – and, yes, we’re taking geographical liberties when it comes to Michael Thorbjornsen. He wasn’t born in Wellesley, Mass., but he’ll forever circle that as his hometown. And The Country Club in Brookline and TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., aren’t his clubs, but he’ll long remember the competitions he played there in the Summer of 2022.

Michael Thorbjornsen: Summer ride continues in Switzerland.
Photo courtesy Stanford

Thorbjornsen, who just finished his sophomore year at Stanford, got solid media attention when he competed in the U.S. Open at TCC. While he missed the cut, he more than made up for that with a sparkling performance at last week’s Travelers Championship. It was his first true PGA Tour appearance and Thorbjornsen shot 68-65-66-66, put himself in position to win, and settled for fourth.

No, there was no prize money, not for the 20-year-old amateur, but goodness, what a ride.

As proof of the doors that open up for you in this world of global golf, Thorbjornsen could have accepted a berth into this week’s John Deere Classic for a second straight PGA Tour appearance; instead, he will be in Switzerland playing for Team USA in the annual Palmer Cup against European golfers who play their collegiate golf in the U.S.

Thorbjornsen had given thought to going straight from the Travelers to a Tuesday qualifier to try and get into the Open Championship, but he opted to rest and properly prepare for the Palmer Cup.


Many for a few – the story of qualifying

It’s hot, and it is summer, and that means it is time to try and qualify if you’re a competitive golfer of any age.

For the veteran women, the quest to get into a unique trip to Alaska led through The Acoaxet Club in Westport, Mass. That’s where Marie Theresa Torti of Canada shot 74 and shared medalist honors with Tracy Welch of Winchester. Three other Massachusetts golfers qualified with 77s – Christine Gagnon of North Oxford, Pamela Kuong of Wellesley Hills, and Danielle Lee of Concord. The national championship will be held July 30-Aug. 4 in Anchorage, Alaska.

As for the U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier at Oak Hill CC in Fitchburg, a local standout – Morgan Smith of Westford, Mass. – joined two golfers long-distance addresses to earn the three spots that were available. Consuela Guo of New Zealand and Smith shared medalist honors with 2-under 70s, while Emily Luo of Danville, Calif., was third with 73.

Also at Oak Hill, another long-distance competitor, Justin Hasting of the Cayman Islands, earned a share of medalist honors in the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier. Hasting matched the 3-under 67 scores also posted by two Massachusetts golfers – Weston Jones of Sudbury and Aidan LeBlanc of Beverly. John Broderick of Wellesley shot 68 and Patrick Ginnity of Fitchburg had 69 to secure the last berth.


PGA TOUR Canada: You better go lower than low

While his twin brother, Pierceson, won last week’s Korn Ferry Tour stop in Maine, Parker Coody has traveled a little bit further north to embark upon his pro golf career. Parker shot 66-69-67-70, pretty serious scoring, but out on the PGA Tour Canada, his 12-under total was only good for a T-15 up in Edmonton.

Parker Coody will be in the field this week in the Prince Edward Island tournament, but he’s not the only familiar name trying to advance his career through that circuit. Joe Highsmith, who helped Pepperdine win the national championship in 2021, finished at 19-under and lost in a three-way playoff at the tournament in Edmonton. Ex-long drive champion Jamie Sadlowski has finished T-13 and T-50 in the first two starts on the PGA Tour Canada.

It's clearly not easy out there, as one can see from scanning some of the notable scores that fell short. Nick Cantlay, brother of Patrick, shot 69-71 – and missed the cut in Edmonton. Onetime standout at Southern Methodist, Noah Goodwin, is 0-for-2 in cuts, though he has yet to shoot higher than 72. Taylor Funk – son of Fred – has played six competitive rounds and hasn’t shot higher than 71, though he’s gone MC and T-52.

Hopkinton, Mass., native Jamie Hervol has shot 66-72 in Victoria, B.C., and 70-72 in Edmonton and neither effort got him above the cutline. Crazy.

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 love. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. And should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, feel free to pass them along.

Cheers, Jim McCabe

jim@powerfades.com

 

1 – It’s a commentary issue

Are burner phones permitted on the LIV? Asking for an anonymous player.


2 – So tough to watch

From the Failure To Finish Off Dept.: Going forward, in Sahith Theegala, I have faith; in Lexi Thompson, I’m not so sure.


3 – Pet Peeve I

Basically, there are tee boxes on some par 3s that should have this sign: Tee box closed today while we excavate and remove dozens of broken tees.


4 – Follow up to Pet Peeve I

Man, it’s not hard, folks. Put a tee in the ground before you start, take it out when you finish.


5 – Different, but it works

If the game at the highest level is about chipping and putting and some high-quality players chip and putt with left hand low, why do you not consider that as at least as part of your practice routine?


6 – Get it straight

Notice, it is left hand low. It is not cross-handed.


7 – Speaking from experience

The chipping yips are more devastating than the putting yips.


8 – Donald Ross would agree

Gentle dogleg. Just saying those two words brings a smile to my face and a peace to my heart.


9 – My philosophy and I’m sticking with it

When in doubt, play the left edge.


 

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