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Massachusetts Duo Keeps Coming Back

Hanover — Bob Donahue and Tim McCarthy have been coming to the Tommy Keane Invitational golf tournament from the Worcester, Mass., area for a long time. Make that a long, long time.

Sitting on the Hanover Country Club porch, the 65-year-old friends will laugh and tell you that they’ve been teaming up at the Keane for 35 years or so, but that their history of playing with each other goes back further. Make that a lot further.

“We went to kindergarten together,” McCarthy said. “I had the best chair until he stole it. He was that big in kindergarten.”

They are the last of their kind, these two Holy Cross grads, the final members of a cohort of upwards of 16 or so players who used to make a regular pilgrimage from Worcester for Hanover Country Club’s annual rite of summer.

“At one point in time we would have almost half a flight,” Donahue said wistfully. “We did that for years and years and years.

“In the early years, we got a big condo over in Quechee. They didn’t used to have anything here on Sunday, and if anybody got eliminated on Saturday we’d play over there on the Highland course. We always had a lot of fun up here.”

It was McCarthy who made the initial foray north for the Keane when it started in 1975.

“In the first year they wanted to get really good amateurs, which I am not,” he said with a laugh. “My partner at the time, Dennis Cooney, played in the Vermont Open as an amateur. They sent invitations to every amateur who played in the Vermont Open. Dennis said to me, ‘Hey, why don’t we go up to this thing at Dartmouth?’ Since then, Bob and I have played a billion times.”

Their memories belong in a Tommy Keane time capsule.

“When we started playing, Tommy Keane was still alive,” said McCarthy. “It would be about 100 degrees out, and he’d be sitting there in his Cadillac.”

“He’d have the air conditioning on,” said Donahue, picking up the story.

“He’d put the window down and say, ‘Is it hot enough for you boys?’ ” a laughing McCarthy added.

The two fondly recall playing with popular Dartmouth assistant football coach “Cactus Jack” Curtis and his son, Darren, who Donahue recalled “could hit it a thousand miles,” and with Dom Zappala, the well-known Hanover clothier.

“He was a wonderful guy,” Donahue said. “He has a bench here now. We got to play with Art Bemis and John Donnelly, two of the finest gentlemen you would ever want to meet. To me, that’s what this is all about. Meeting guys like that.”

While many of the players they knew from years ago are gone, the Worcester players have watched not one but two generations come along to fill the void.

McCarthy remembers that in his first qualifying round 38 years ago he played with Seaver Peters, then Dartmouth’s director of athletics and now the father of six-time champions Scott and Mike.

“Seaver’s boys were about 3 feet tall when we started,” he said with a smile.

Now Scott’s son, Ben, has played in a couple of Keanes, and younger brother Tom is probably champing at the bit to join him.

By their accounting, Donahue and McCarthy have missed no more than two or perhaps three Keane tournaments since the mid-1970s, each time for serious family reasons.

“It’s not about the golf,” Donahue said. “It’s just a lot of fun with good people and a lot of laughs.

“They are gentlemen up here. You root for the other guys. You hope he hits his best shot, and then you hope that you hit one just a little bit better.”

McCarthy, who once played to a 5 handicap, is an 11 now and points out that it’s not just the calendar that is to blame. “I’m in the insurance business, still,” he said with a laugh. “I have a life sentence. I only get to play once a week because work gets in the way.”

That’s not a problem for Donahue, who retired in 2007 after a career in high tech and tries to hit the links three times a week. Once a 7 — although his childhood buddy protests that he might have gotten as low as a 5 – he currently plays to a 14.

Playing with Dave and Ron Cioffi, the longtime Massachusetts teammates opened qualifying Friday with a 74 to earn a spot in the first flight of match play. Although they were sent to the consolation bracket Saturday, their opening round was a reminder about why they keep coming back.

“We love playing with the Cioffis,” said Donahue. “They are wonderful guys. We’ve probably played with them six or eight times over the years. We are about the same abilities and oftentimes end up in the same flight.”

Not to mention at the same table at the back of Hanover Country Club, sharing yuks and perhaps even a beverage or two, if the truth be told.

“The best porch in golf,” Donahue said for the third time in a short conversation. “You just can’t beat it. Back in the old days, you couldn’t hear yourself talk back here.”

“It’s not quite like that anymore, but we’ll keep coming back as long as we can,” said McCarthy, who is only too happy to share the annual ride north with the buddy who once booted him out of the best chair in kindergarten.

Saturday’s Action: Two of the four afternoon matches in the Championship flight came down to the final hole with the porch-sitters watching closely. After Mike Peters drained a tricky uphill putt for an up-and-down par, Chris Hynes matched him to give the team of Hynes and Dean Cashman the win over Mike and brother Scott.

Hynes and Cashman will face the team of Tyler Silver and Chris Pollard, who held on to beat No. 1 seeds Jake Obar and Joe Toland on 18.

In the other half of the bracket Mitch Cable and Mike Hathorn claimed a 4-and-3 win and will square off with Shane and Nick MacDonald, 3-and-1 winners.

Play in the TKI wraps up with semifinal matches this morning and the championship in the afternoon.

The shot of the day Saturday was the second hole-in-one in as many days. Paul Spera aced the 124-yard fourth hole. Paolo Bentiviglio had a hole-in-one on the 14th a day earlier.