HANOVER – Even before 120 golfers returned to Hanover Country Club as they do each year on the final full weekend of July like swallows to Capistrano, Scott Peters found himself reflecting on the Tommy Keane Invitational tournament.
The 42nd renewal of the event is the first without Tommy (TK) and Elaine Keane as well as Fred Kelley, all instrumental in the start of the four-ball tournament that honors TK’s father, the legendary Hanover pro and Dartmouth golf coach from 1922–1966. Kelley, the longtime head trainer for the Big Green, died at his retirement home in Florida on May 11. Elaine Keane passed away on June 4 and TK one month later to the day.
|"Fred in Red"|
“What the Tommy Keane has evolved into is a very, very special tradition,” said Peters, who chairs the event’s organizing committee. “I can only imagine what TK and Elaine felt, particularly over the past five or 10 years, when they saw the generations of Keanes and friends coming each year.
“It is one thing to say we wouldn’t be here without TK and Elaine, and that’s true. But as I look around at the tournament, there are people who literally wouldn’t be here without them. Not only is it special because of all the friendships it has helped create, but for the generations of Keanes who play. That is something TK and Elaine had to be immensely proud of. And Fred and TK were so close he had to feel the same way, especially playing with (son) Mike.”
Talk to those who were there at the beginning and you’ll hear stories of Elaine Keane, Fred and Sue Kelley, and former Hanover CC champion Kathy Slattery teaming up in the early days to slap together sandwiches to tide players over during qualifying.
As the tournament grew in numbers and esteem the cuisine might have changed, but the essence of the weekend remained the same.
“People would circle the weekend on the calendar,” said Jimmy Keane, TK’s son and Tommy’s grandson. “It meant a lot to my dad, but my mom also looked forward to seeing everyone coming back year after year. There was a lot of joy having so many people around for the weekend. There was a lot to do, but it wasn’t work.
“They’d be up making sandwiches until midnight to feed people once the tournament got going. It was a big family reunion and as it went on a chance to see friends you might only see once a year.”
The Tommy Keane was the brainchild of the late Tommy Purcell, who hoped to recreate something akin to Rutland’s venerable Pierce tournament to honor his old friend.
“My grandfather gave more lessons to Billy Purcell than anyone,” said Jimmy Keane. “They would be up at Smith Field at 5 in the morning and Billy really appreciated the time and effort my grandfather showed him, so he went to my father and suggested the tournament. My father was thrilled.”
Instrumental in getting the tournament off the ground in addition to Purcell, TK and Fred Kelley was Seaver Peters, the former Dartmouth athletic director and a friend of all. Still the honorary announcer of the event, Peters believes the tournament is a fitting tribute not just to longtime Hanover Country Club pro Tommy Keane, but to the trio being honored in its 42nd renewal.
“They were very special people, wonderful people,” he said. “There wouldn’t have been a tournament without them. Losing them in such a short period of time is just staggering. They meant everything to the Tommy Keane.”
To be sure, the threeare missed. But the tournament they nursed along in those early years is in now full blossom, something Tommy and Elaine saw on display from the tent behind the 18th green on a brief visit to their final Keane.
In recent years a new generation has picked up the ball. Seaver Peters, so instrumental in the early days of the event, has seen son Scott step up and assume the leadership role he once held. And he has watched proudly as grandsons Ben and Tom joined the ranks of players.
Understandably, Jimmy Keane – who credits Bill Johnson, his grandfather’s successor at HCC, and current pro Alex Kirk for the lasting success of the TKI – expected the the first event after the passing of his parents to be hard. But being surrounded by so many family members and adopted family members on a weekend when everyone at HCC is an honorary Keane, figured to make it easier.
In the lead-up to the tournament Keane said something else would give him peace. Something that would have brought a smile both to his parents as well whom the eponymous tournament honors.
“I’m playing with my son Chris for the first time,” he said during the final organizing meeting for the event. “He only plays once or twice a year, and my game is not good right now. But that’s not what matters. For me, it’s about playing with my son and having a good time.
“I’m going to get more joy out of the TK this year than ever, no matter what we shoot. I’m going to have fun with my son and my nephews and our friends. It’s going to be an emotional weekend, but it’s also going to be a celebration, which is what it should be.”
•Tournament veterans Scott Peters and Andy Hydorn combined to shoot 64 in the first group of the day to lead qualifying from pillar to post. Two shots back were the teams of Zach Temple/Mak Lyford, Nate Choukas/Benny Hayes and Jake Obar/Billy Vielleux. Three-time defending champions Nick and Shane MacDonald are at 67.
The individual highlight of the day was a hole in one by Mike Yukica on No. 14.
Matches begin in three full flights Saturday with the survivors of the morning and afternoon matches advancing to Sunday, when the semifinals and finals will be conducted by flights.