---- — HAVERHILL — My job usually goes something like this: I go to a sporting event. I find the winner, or maybe even talk to the loser. But in the end ... get an interesting story.
Well, I skipped the first part yesterday at the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Golf Touranment at Haverhill Country, you know, the part about finding the best player or runner-up or so on.
Instead, I went right to the interesting story. I went to find Jim Grant.
Mind you, Grant is no slouch on the golf course. To the contrary, for three decades he has been on many leaderboards of many tournaments, mostly north of Boston. One year, he finished second in the “Masters of the Merrimack Valley,” the Allan B. Rogers Memorial Golf Tournament, with about a dozen top 10 finishes.
In fact this year, at age 55, has been one of his best. He not only won the Crystal Lake Club Championship for the fifth time this summer, but he qualified for two “state” events, the Senior Am and Mass Publinx and made the cuts in both tournaments, including the two-day event at Haverhill C.C.
Grant is the quintessential athlete/gentleman. He not only loves the game, which he picked up while growing up in Haverhill, across the street from Crystal Lake (former Crystal Springs). But when it’s over, his hat is the first to come off as he always thanks the guys in his group for the competition and, more importantly, for their company.
“I love being around nice people and getting to know them,” said Grant, who shot rounds of 75 and 80, to finish in 45th place at yesterday’s Senior Am. “I’d rather play with someone who is a nice person, who has fun, than someone who is a great golfer but keeps to themselves. That’s not what this game was meant for.
“But everyone the knows me knows I love this game and the competition,” said Grant. “And it’s not just other golfers, but it’s par. I walk on the first tee of every round I play trying to beat par. To this day, that still drives me.”
While golf has been his official hobby for three-plus decades, his first love was hockey, playing on the first Haverhill High team to play in the “new” rink behind the school.
“I dreamed of playing for the Bruins,” said Grant. “Hockey was everything to me. But as I got to high school, and it started getting very physical, I came to realize my 125-pound frame wasn’t meant for pro hockey. So it golf became my sport of choice.”
Grant worked off jobs at Crystal Springs and also spent an inordinate amount of hours hanging around Garrison Par 3 & Range in Haverhill while a teenager either playing or picking up balls.
“Ted and Mary Murphy (Garrison owners) are the greatest proponents for the game as they were when I was a kid,” said Grant, who works as a print broker full-time. “They have done more for golf champions in the state than anyone.”
Grant admits to being a nondescript member of the Haverhill High golf team, but because he worked so hard he made the team at UMass-Lowell.
Fast-forward three-plus decades and the game is as important now in his life as it was then.
The irony of yesterday’s round was that in the group before Grant was local golf “legend” Jim Holbrook, of North Andover, who has competed and won at the local and state level for nearly four decades.
”Jim Holbrook is one of the reasons I started loving the game,” recalled Grant. “He was one of the best players in the area, winning or challenging for the Rogers Golf title, which is the best tournament ever made. I remember watching those guys religiously, always wanting to play at their level some day. While I enjoy these state tournaments, nothing will ever compete with the Rogers Golf tournaments.”
While the past two days — really, yesterday — didn’t go his way, it was a microcosm of the sport and why it is so special to him.
“With golf you never know,” said Grant. “Some days you feel it, like I did on Tuesday. And then the next day, I struggled on almost every shot.”
Grant does have a life outside of golf. Not only is he a big pro sports fans during the winter, but he is close to his two daughters, Dallas (25) and Jasmine (20). And he claims to his two biggest golf fans are his mom and his fiancee, Dale Caron.
“I’m very lucky,” said Grant. “My dad was my mentor. He always taught me to treat people the way I want to be treated, thus operating with honesty and integrity in all of my dealings.”
While Grant will play a few local events at Crystal Lake and maybe a few others with some friends locally, yesterday officially ended his “tournament” season. It’s another golf season without any regrets.
”I can’t hit the ball as long as I used to, but I really feel like I’m getting better with age,” said Grant. “I had a nice year, probably the best of my career. But I can’t wait ‘til next year.”
Holbrook win super senior division titleHe may be the second oldest competitor in the field at the 2013 Massachusetts Senior Amateur golf tournament at Haverhill Country Club the past two days, but he finished first on the scoreboard. Jim Holbrook, of North Andover, 72, finished with a two-round score of 7-over par 147 to capture the Super Senior Division title. Holbrook, who plays out of Ferncroft Country Club, secured the two-stroke win over John Crook (Cape Cod National GC) thanks to a stellar to a 2-over par 72 round on Wednesday. After making the turn at 4-over par 39, Holbrook carded birdie on three out of four holes on the back nine to secure his divisional victory. He made birdie on the 11th, 13th and 14th holes. His latest piece of hardware will fit nicely next to his two Senior Amateur Championship trophies he won in 1996 and 1997.