The distinguished members of the society of lady golfers—who comprise the thriving and robust roster of now unified Stamford Women’s Golf Association (SWGA); whereas Sterling Farms’, and Hubbard Heights’ respective clubs merged—is unbridled in their passion for the game.
In order to appeal to the broadest range of potential members, the SWGA consists of two very distinct groups of golfers: the in-it-for-fun-only 9-Holers, and the more-serious, by-the-rules 18-Holers.
These two groups of women golfers play a full season’s schedule of events at both Sterling Farms, on Tuesdays, and then again at E. Gaynor Brennan G.C. on Thursdays.
This the two intra-association leagues did all season long, and every single member—regardless of their status as a 9-Holer, and/or 18-Holer, or whether they appeared at the tops of leaderboards, or not—were all champions, because they played the game!
Understanding the 9-Holer experience is to grasp a special and genuine degree of warmth, cheer, and spirit emanating from their ranks, and leadership.
The 9-Holers cover the gamut of the game’s skill levels, from multi-decade veteran champions, to beginners, aspiring intermediates, one-club-hitting colorful personalities and women who just want to enjoy the sun, fresh air, and new friends they’ve made.
Spearheading the 9-Holer cause, is the fabulous Linda Colucci, who represents this extremely friendly, and very welcoming group known as the 9-Holers.
Linda’s passion is electrifying, and she has spent an inordinate amount of time helping to set the record straight so that interested women golfers, of all ilks, may get a sense of the 9-Holer section of the SWGA’s less-intense 9-Holer league, and the indisputable allure of their fine fellowship.
“So, there is a very different culture between the 9 holers and the 18 holers. The 9 holers are very much in it for the fun of it,” Linda explains.
“We are not as competitive as the 18 holers. So, there you go!”, said Linda, a sprightly Sterling Farms, and E. Gaynor Brennan, golfer who tells me she’s “pretty picky” about her choice of the Titleist Pro V1. “My indulgence is that I like to get them engraved,” Linda explains. “I have balls that say ‘Go Nonna’, which is what my grandson calls me. Some say ‘Hit ‘em Long and Straight”’ Just fun stuff. (Not quite as crazy as the 18 holer who will only play with a Titleist Pro V1 with the #4 on it!!)”, Linda joked.
The current 9-Holer leader picked up the game as a beginner, joined the 9-Holers, and has never looked back.
“I have been playing golf for 5 years now,” she writes. “My first year I only played at the Heights. The second year, and every one since, I play Tuesdays at Sterling and Thursdays at the Heights. The 2nd year I took a place on the Board doing publicity, but then became the 9 hole rep for Sterling Farms in my 3rd year where I have settled in”, the SWGA 9-Holer explains.
I asked Linda how she got the bug.
“I have a cousin, Carol DeSiato, who is the most fun person to be around that I can think of,” said Linda. “She will have a good time anywhere she goes, and she brings that energy everywhere. She was the one who said to me ‘Hey, Cuz! You should come and play golf with me. It’s really fun! The girls are great and we could have a good time'”, Linda writes.
“How could I possibly resist an invitation like that. So, I got myself a set of Lynx clubs and joined up. I never looked back. I’m having a blast with an amazing group of women who are talented, fun, sweet, compatible, and everything else good,” Linda explains, adding:
“Carol and I have had such a great time on the course. The first year we were on the 17th hole (now the 10th [at E. Gaynor Brennan G.C.]) and it was hot hot hot. We both teed off and on the third shot (it took us that long to get to the fairway) Carol hit one up to the heavens. Her ball hit a bird and he fell like a rock to the ground. We rushed to his side and decided that he needed to be out of the sun and we put him under a tree. We checked later and he wasn’t there anymore so either he was just a little stunned or, it was squab for dinner for some animal. The same day, now we are on the old 18th hole. I hit my tee shot and my ball went right as usual and there is a tree on the right side of the fairway that is pretty rotted out. My ball went directly into the hole on the side of the tree. ‘Did you see that???'”, Linda asked, then continued: “We both jumped up and down! We were astounded. I still tell people I had a hole in one in my first year playing! We got to the bottom of the fairway and we were sweating like crazy even though we were only on the second hole. All of a sudden the sprinklers came on. ‘Hey Cuz, Come on…we’re gonna cool down!’ She jumped into the cart and we drove through the sprinklers wondering what the guys up in the office would be thinking if they saw us, but not really caring. We cooled down a little and made a memory,” Linda said. Clearly, golf has been enriching for her.
“And I think that is one of the things that is so important about being with these wonderful women. We make memories all the time. I remember playing with Annie DuFrane at the Heights. She was not having a great day and she said ‘I think I’m just going to have to quit this game.’ Next shot from about 70 yards from the pin she pitches her ball, hits the pin, and the ball drops to the ground about 3 inches from the hole. ‘Well, maybe not’ she said dryly. It’s like that every day,” Linda said. (Boy, don’t we all know it!)
Of course, while her having made friends is nice, and the experiences of the seasons seem rife with so many tales, I wanted to know who was Linda’s biggest influencer, e.g., a Tour player, an idol, who?
“I think my husband is most influential in assessing my abilities as a player…even though we have only played maybe 3 times in the past 5 years. He encourages me to go and play whenever I can. Never grouses when I say I can’t run an errand for him because I’m playing golf and by the way, he will have to get his own dinner as I will be out until after our usual dinner time. It makes me feel like my game is important and makes me want to do better.,” how about that! Nice man!
I was curious how a beginner, or a woman golfer who doesn’t know anyone, might get involved with the SWGA, and by way of an entry point like the 9-Holers, in terms of joining, playing, etc.
“Pretend you are talking to a beginner woman golfer,” I asked Linda. “She might be old, young, maybe she knows how to hit a ball, but likely very intimidated by all of the rules, and so forth—why are the 9-Holers a good entry point into playing regularly with the SWGA for that woman golfer?”
“Well, my dear,” Linda says, role-playing as though she is talking to a prospective member of the 9-Holer part of SWGA, “if you haven’t ever played, or haven’t played in a number of years, the 9-Holers are definitely the place to start. First, you just need to get in touch with our membership chair, Cindi Hart. She will give you an application. (I have no idea what the fees are this year as we changed the structure last year when we became SWGA) but it’s not expensive, and you can get a senior membership, which gets you a discount on the cost of 9 holes and a cart, to about $22 at the Heights, and $30 (I think) at Sterling. You can play with me for your first week, or two, until you meet some of the other gals and then you can join another group. But I’ll always be there if you need me! Most of our players ride. In fact only 1 player walks at the Heights and I think 4 at Sterling walk, but they are probably in their 40’s. (I am NOT.) You don’t need a handicap. After you play 5 rounds, we will assess your game and your handicap will be calculated. As long as you are under a 40 [handicap] (for 9 holes) you are good to play. Obviously, you can be pretty lousy to have a 40 handicap and still be in the league! But don’t worry about it. We have ways for you to better your score. You’re in the rocks?? move your ball out a little. Don’t risk banging up your club for a silly shot like that. We won’t count those strokes anyway. We will help you (if you want it) select the right club and the right swing to get you through the game. We have all been where you are now and we are still here because we are having a good time. We even have one player who has a shoulder injury and can’t really swing a club and has learned to play her entire game with just a putter! She is amazing!”, explained Linda.
The 9-Holers had a cracking season this year, and began 2020 with a Stroke Play Event on both June 2nd and 9th, with Astrid Funicella edging Pat Sileo with a match of cards on the 2nd of June with 35s, and Arlyn Kaster winning on June 9th with 32. Linda Colucci placed 2nd with a match of cards at 37!.
“Astrid is a high handicapper, and I know that Pat was delighted to give her the win,” Linda told me of the two season-opening titleists. “Pat and I play together at both courses. She is a new friend that I made since getting into the game. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. We go for coffee and a muffin after almost every game. We are special friends off the course as well. If Pat and I were in competition for the same tournament, I know we would both be rooting for the other one to win. That’s just the way we are with each other. I know I can call her for anything on or off the course.”
A somewhat pragmatic Pat Sileo had a broader perspective on her play that day, or any other, for that matter….
“I can tell you I just play each round out the same way each day I play,” Pat Sileo later wrote. “I try to do the best I can and sometimes I have a great outing sometimes not so good! Ha ha!”, said Pat.
The season-opening match of cards 2nd place finisher is fond of her fellow 9-Holers, and wasn’t bashful about telling my as much.
“I love playing with the 9 Holers,” Pat explains. “They are a great group of women. Although we all like to win, the girls are not extremely competitive, so there is no pressure”, Pat said.
The SWGA, SFMC, both decide ties by a match of cards. I asked Linda how this is done.
“The match of cards comes in when we have two or more players tied for the win. We take the total of the last three holes and add them together and see who would have the win based on those holes only. If there is still a tie, we go back one hole at a time and compare the score until we have one player who has a better hole than the other. That person wins,” she writes.
The next 9-Holer event in June was the Throw Out. I asked Linda about that format, if it was fun?
“I love the throw out games. You take the worst score on a hole and deduct it from your overall score THEN you also deduct your handicap. Then you have a really good score. Those are fun. I usually say after playing the first hole (which is the 10th hole) ‘Well, that’s my throw away hole!’”
Connie Sinnaeve won that week with a 22, and Pat followed with a 28.
“From what I can recall I believe I was really exhausted that day after not sleeping very well,” Connie later wrote.
“Sometimes when I over think the game and try to do it all ‘correctly’ I can never get anything right. I think I was just so tired, I was a little more relaxed and let it flow. I’m not saying this no sleep strategy will be something I intend to use on a regular basis, but every now and then for the win, why not!! Ha!,” that week’s victor confided.
Connie, who uses a Pinnacle Soft golf ball, and a set of Lynx “hand me down” sticks to get herself around the Sterling Farms/Brennan links, says of her days with the 9-Holers:
“I was quite hesitant about joining a ‘league’, after so many years of not playing. I didn’t want to embarrass myself with my very rusty skill set on display,” adding that:
“Pat Sileo was amazing, and super-welcoming as were all the 9 holer ladies,” the owner of a Ping GLe2 driver continues.
“My favorite thing about playing with them [the 9-Holers] is that they are all so diverse in backgrounds and careers, and it has been so fun to get to know them, and share a common interest in getting out to have fun playing golf.”
As I’ve written before, the 9-Holers polished off the month of June with a Team Scramble, and winning with a scorching 21, was the foursome of: Patty Sileo, Joanne Salvatore, Anne DuFrane, and Mrs. Linda Colucci.
Then, on July 7th, Joanne Salvatore, a co-winner of the Team Scramble the week prior, grabbed her first taste of stroke play glory.
On July 14th, 9-Holer Noel Rosenstein was crowned the victor of that week’s Stroke Play Event, with a very minty score of 31!
According to Linda, Noel is a mother of three high school/college-aged children, and a recent transplant from New Canaan, whose husband is an orthopedic surgeon.
“Noel had to miss some golf but I know she is anxious to get back with it in the spring. She actually won Most Improved Golfer this past season. She is a nutritionist and hmmm maybe yoga instructor. Very fit and VERY fun!”
That week, Linda snagged just a little bit more of the limelight by edging the professional lighting consultant, and champion in her own right, Ms. Amy Vitale for sole 2nd, by a match of cards, after both shot lights out 34s that Tuesday. Five years into the game and Linda has got some game!
“When I decided to play golf with my cousin 5 years ago, my husband went out and got me a set of Lynx clubs,” Linda explains. “Probably Dick’s or Golf Galaxy. There was a Driver, 3 and 5 woods. Irons included 4/5 hybrid, 7,8,9,PW and SW. Since then I added a 5 iron, a 3 hybrid, a 65 degree club, a 45 degree club that I call my “stupid club” (It’s bright green and has never done me any good, but I saw it on an infomercial and had to have it.) Now, I don’t want to put them down, but they are all really entry level clubs”, the aspiring champion wrote.
Aside from the competitive nature of golf in general, the 9-Holers provide newbies and those women golfers looking for a little companionship, and help, an easy pathway to achieving success in both areas.
Melissa Lopez, a 9-Holer who has acclimated quickly, expresses her own experiences so very well:
“I began playing golf 3 seasons ago and had no real concept of the game. I had started taking lessons at Sterling. Then it was suggested that I join the 9-Hole league as it would definitely get me playing the game once a week, and it was also an opportunity to meet some great ladies. It was quite an experience that first year, and given that I didn’t join with a friend, I was playing with different groups of women every week. This taught me so many things..one, I had a better handle on how the game is played and I also saw how different groups play. Lisa Weismiller was one of the first ladies I started to play with regularly and she was so helpful, and gave me excellent tips that I still carry with me”, Melissa said of her own 9-Holer journey these past three seasons.
Melissa has come a long way in her three years with the 9-Holers, and attributes her steady improvement to the motivation and drive she gains through the twice-weekly opportunities the 9-Holers have in which to compete, and calibre of golf amidst her posse of playing partners.
“Nancy’s [Fehey] handicap is too low to compete in our tournaments,” Melissa explains. “I truly benefit from watching her play. Her talent and athleticism is consistent every week and she offers encouragement and great wisdom to us. Karen [Hart] is someone who can have one of her best, or worst, rounds and you could not tell from her demeanor. She is so funny and a joy to be around. I believe Amy [Vitale] was one of the big winners in tournaments this year, her game continues to improve and she is also a big part of why I had to step up my game. I had to keep up with these ladies!!”, said Melissa.
Indeed, as the season sped along, the Mighty 9-Holers were relentless in their Lexus-like pursuit of perfection, or at the very least, good times, as Arlyn Kaster, Ruth Weinstein, and Lisa Weismiller coasted to an easy victory in the August 11, 2020 Team Best Ball at Sterling Farms Golf Course.
The next week, on Tuesday, August 18th, Stroke Play Low Net honors, in the A Flight, went to the stellar play of Melissa’s buddy Amy Vitale, with a scorching score of 32, and Anne Modugno captured the B Flight B with a 34!
The August 25, 2020 9-Holer Putting Tournament—a “major” of the season—featured an improbable finish: Both Connie Sinnaeve and Arlyn Kaster each had 19 putts in exactly the same order, so no match of cards to determine an outright winner was possible.
“With the putting championship,” Linda Colucci explains, “Arlyn and Connie were tied. I did a match of cards and the number of total putts for the last 3 holes for each of them was the same. Then I go back one hole at a time to 15, 14, 13, etc. They had exactly the same number of putts on every hole, so I awarded 2 prizes. I don’t remember exactly how I did, but I can tell you I was not at the top of that heap or anywhere near! My putting is stinky,” the three-time 2020 major winner, and 9-Holer leader, explained.
Connie used her same “hand me down putter”, and later said: “I typically play with a Pinnacle [soft] ball. It seems to respond best, especially in putting. I’ve tried a few different balls when practicing on the putting green and Pinnacle seems to like me best so I won’t argue!”
Indeed so, as she tied Arlyn for the victory.
“I just started playing in the Sterling 9 hole league this season”, Connie explains, “so had not met Arlyn before this year. She is definitely a great golfer and likes to be competitive. I can’t say that putting is definitely the strength of my game but when I found out that Arlyn and I had the SAME putting score at the end of the round I was quite surprised and felt pretty proud of myself. And then I found out that we had the same exact putting score on the last 4 holes which was supposed to be the tie breaker, so that is why we both got the win. I’ll take it!!” Good job Connie and Arlyn!
The 9-Holer’s Sterling Farms season raced along through August. I must confess I get a little perplexed about which event, and what golf course, was played, and the fact that the SWGA is adopting the leaderboard.systems club event management program, is going to make easy work of keeping tabs on these great women golfers.
“We have a few majors each year”, Linda explains. “The Member/Member is considered a major…Club Championship also…As well as the Putting Championship. These are events for which the winners get a prize at the end of the year.”
Linda swept two Member/Members back-to-back this year!
“Winning Member/member was a thrill for me”, Linda writes. “Pat [Sileo] and I were actually neck and neck with Connie Sinnaeve and Carolyn Conte and won on the last hole! It was very exciting. This was at the Heights [E. Gaynor Brennan]” she wrote.
“Linda and I have been playing in the same foursome for the last 5 years and we have developed a great friendship”, Pat Sileo later wrote. “Linda is a wonderful, kind, generous person who is also lots of fun,” said Pat.
After Linda and Pat were crowned champions at Hubbard, Linda was on a roll.
“Then we had the same Member/Member tournament at Sterling Farms”, the 9-Holer starlet later wrote, enthusiastically. “I paired up with Connie for this one, and on my way to get my cart, Lisa Weismiller was going to the parking lot and she said ‘wouldn’t it be fun if you won Member/Member here too?’ I thought…’Never happen’. And, what do you know… Connie and I won the two week tourney. That too was really fun.”
Linda gave herself a reward for all of her 2020 9-Holer efforts, thanks to a few pro shop credits earned during the year, and a bit of cash stashed in her piggy bank, for just such an occasion:
“This year, because I won 3 majors, I decided to buy myself some really respectable clubs. I went to Sterling and met with Keith last Wednesday and tried out a zillion clubs. It was love at first swing with the XXIO’s. So, I [got] the 5 wood and the 5 hybrid. (I had upgraded to the Big Bertha a few years ago, and Keith said I didn’t have to replace that at this time, but I think I’m going to go and order that too. This line is amazing.) In irons I got the set which is 7, 8, 9 and PW. (I also have a Cleveland PW which I love. Had to buy that when I lost my Lynx PW…no great loss)”, the Sterling Farms golfer, and champion 9-Holer wrote.
After co-winning a major of her own, Putting Tourney co-champ Arlyn Kaster was unstoppable, and on September 8th, the top o’ the leaderboard hot shot snagged the Club Championship with a two week total of 110 to best this field of great champion golfers, with a hard-charging Melissa Lopez hot on her trail at 120.
“My golf game has been improving since I joined the 9-Holers. I have found that playing regularly with great people has contributed to my improvement. [This] summer I won the 9-Hole club championship using my Callaway clubs. I was just as excited as a pro golfer who wins a championship and was very proud of my accomplishment. As you can imagine, I am really looking forward to next spring and a new season of the 9-Holers!”
Arlyn’s closest pursuer, runner up, Melissa Lopez found her stride thanks to the 9-Holers she’s gotten to know, and some help from our great PGA golf professional staff, led by Angela Aulenti.
“The Club Championship was quite a surprise!!”, Melissa confided later.
“My game had started out pretty decent in the season but within two weeks I was making all sorts of mistakes, and could not get out of my slump. Realizing I needed more guidance, I took lessons with Kent Smith, who corrected my swing immediately. He also gave me the confidence that I could ‘take my game to the next level’. Along with the lessons, I was getting to the driving range and practiced what I had been taught. I was so elated to discover that my practicing paid off!!”, Melissa said.
The 9-Holers played a lot of golf at Sterling Farms, and E. Gaynor Brennan, during this 2020 season. ,and the women of Stamford, who have unified their clubs into one governing SWGA body, comprising the sentimental favorite 9-Holers, and their pin-seeking, blade-running, take-no-prisoners 18-Holers, seem to have had a grad 2020 season, in spite of the Covid-19 woes.
“Playing with the 9-Holers has been a highlight of my last 3 summers,” Arlyn later wrote, “but never more so than last summer. Being able to play golf with the 9-Holers really helped to get through these unusual times caused by the pandemic. And Sterling took every precaution to enable us to do so,” the 9-Holer Club Champion explains, adding:
“The 9-Holers is a group of great women who love to play golf and know how to have fun doing so. The group is supportive of one another’s golf game, providing encouragement along the way. But just as important, the group knows how to laugh and have a good time. I love waking up on Tuesday morning during golf season knowing I am going to play golf with friends, have a good time doing so and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Sterling Farms offers,” said Arlyn Kaster.
This year the 9-Holers hung in there, and had themselves a sensational season, in spite of the effects of COVID-19.
I really wish I had spent more time with this great group in 2020, but alas, look forward to 2021, and even better days ahead.
If you are a newcomer to the game, or want to have a regular game with a very friendly, and supportive group of women golfers, join the 9-Holers. You’ll be glad you did!
To join, send an e-mail to: Stamfordwga@gmail.com. They’ll get you rolling.
From the desk of Paul grillo, executive director, Stamford Golf Authority
Welcome to Sterling Farms Golfer. Over the past five decades, Sterling Farms has evolved into one of the premiere golf destinations anywhere in the region. We continually strive to maintain, if not exceed, that distinction, and know we owe it all to our Stamford families, friends and neighbors, as well as our patrons like you. Now is the best time of the year to play our spectacular 18 hole championship golf course. Our Golf Course Superintendent, Mike Golden, and his whole team, are leaders in the world of greenkeeping, and we are very proud of the quality of their hard work. I think you'll find our putting greens, fairways, tees, roughs—and every landscape feature here—reflects their devotion and hard work. It is spectacular. Sterling Farms is home to the area's top driving range facility. You won't find a better value, or level of quality, anywhere! We take great pride and joy serving you, and our local community. On behalf of all of us here at Sterling Farms, welcome and thank you!