T&G Jay Gearan: Notre Dame Academy golf coach Cara Marrone Cullen honoring father’s memory
By Jay Gearan
Posted May 6, 2018 at 5:56 PM
When Don Marrone, the owner of Wachusett Country Club, passed away suddenly last November at the age of 67, the Central Mass. golfing community lost one of the area’s major contributors to the game.
Marrone’s daughter, Cara Marrone Cullen, is honoring her father’s memory in a special way this spring.
Cullen is the new coach of the Notre Dame Academy golf team, a program with a rich history of winning, including back-to-back state titles in 2015-16 and a runner-up finish in 2014.
Former NDA coach Dennis Streeter began the David Prouty girls’ team this season, so the Rebels needed a new coach and Cullen, a former NDA athlete, agreed to take on the role.
“My father’s big thing was getting young people involved and giving back to the game,” Cullen said. “I thought that this was the way to do that. I knew that this was something he would want me to do.”
Cullen, along with her three brothers, Matt, Mike and Nick, are now the owners of both Wachusett CC in West Boylston and Kettle Brook GC in Paxton.
“I do all the payroll and accounting for both courses,” Cullen said. “It’s been a tough transition this winter for all of us. We had our first members’ night without our father there, but he left us with the courses and business in great shape. I feel so grateful that I had my dad for 43 years.”
Last week, on a sunny afternoon, Cullen and her team arrived at Kettle Brook for a match against Holy Name. The Rebels notched their second win of the season.
Without a senior on the team, NDA is led by three juniors, team captains Annabelle Smith, Morgan Pierce and Martha McDonald.
“We’re doing okay, and trying to get four solid players in our lineup,” Smith said. “From last year’s team we lost a solid four who graduated.”
“It’s pretty cool to be on a team that has won two state championships,” said Pierce, who began playing golf as a freshman and loves playing on the high school team.
“We’re having a lot of fun with a team that includes some people who have never played golf before,” said McDonald, whose younger sister, Mabel, is one of the freshmen in the lineup. Their mother, Meghan McDonald, coaches the Worcester girls’ golf team.
The Rebels defeated Worcester in an earlier match.
“My mom was pretty good about it,” Mabel said. “She joked before the match that she was going to take away my phone if we beat her team.”
Other freshmen include, Cullen’s daughter, Elizabeth, whose late grandfather first introduced her to golf, Audrey Duclos, Kendra Barksdale and Taygan Kosky.
“We’re a young team,” Cullen said. “Some of my freshmen have not played a lot, and because of the weather at the beginning of the season we didn’t have a lot of time to practice. I told them all, it’s kind of a learning year for us, and the good thing is that everyone will be back next year.”
Cullen calls herself a “double ND,” graduating from Notre Dame Academy in 1992 and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana four years later.
At NDA she starred in field hockey and softball, and her golf handicap was once down to a 10, but she admitted that she doesn’t play nearly enough now to maintain that level.
Cullen’s son, Peter, a senior at St. John’s, was a starter on the Pioneers’ golf team that finished as the Division 1 state runners-up by a shot to Boston College High last fall at Haverhill Country Club.
What’s in the Bag?
Before the match at Kettle Brook, Holy Name junior Emma Kennedy agreed to share what she carries for clubs on the golf course.
“I use Cleveland irons from 6 through sand wedge, the Tour Action W model,” Kennedy said. “I like them a lot.” She adds a Ping Faith utility wedge and a TaylorMade Monte Carlo Rossa putter.
For the longer shots Kennedy uses a Nike 4 hybrid and King Cobra 3 and 5 woods. Off the tee, Kennedy rips her Callaway Big Bertha Titanium driver 454 with a 13 degree loft.
Kennedy, the granddaughter of the late, legendary T&G sports columnist Nick Manzello, said that she recently posted one of her best rounds at Dunroamin Country Club in Gilbertville in a match against Quabbin.
“I would say it wasn’t that great, but it was definitely promising. I had really good drives and putts,” she said.
Nash close at USGA event
Lunenburg junior Emily Nash and Allison Paik from Providence nearly made it through stroke play and into match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California, last week. The duo carded an even-par in round one, and were in good position to make the match-play bracket.
In the second round, though, Nash and Paik were 3-over after two holes, but rallied over the next 11, carding 7 pars and four birdies to get to 1 under. Unfortunately they found trouble down the stretch and finished 2 over for a 36-hole total, missing the cut by a couple of shots.
Still, Nash, 17, and Paik, 15, hope to qualify again for next year’s event.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur has no age restriction and is open to women with a handicap of 14.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA.
A reel for the Rangers
Inclement weather doesn’t stop the Westboro High girls’ golf team from still learning about the game. Recently, off the course and in the classroom, the Rangers viewed “The Founders,” a documentary film which tells the inspiring story of the 13 women who founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950.
The film focuses on how the original founders of the LPGA, traveling in their automobiles, rode across the country in search of courses to play in tournaments, while battling prejudice, backlash from society and financial struggles to set the groundwork for what the LPGA is today. Golfing legends such as Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Alice Bauer, among others, are featured in rare film footage of the early years of women’s professional golf.