Today is the 8th Annual Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament being held at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds Golf Course in Marston Mills on Cape Cod. It’s going to be a good day for a golf tournament. The forecast is for a sunny but windy day with a high of around 77°F.
Gary Philbrick was the pro at the course from the day it opened until his life was cut short at the age of 55 after losing his battle with cancer in 2005. He was also my brother and I miss him.
Gary was the middle brother of a brood of seven boys. He was one of those rare people for whom it would be difficult to find someone who would have anything bad to say about him. He was really a “people person.”
Gary loved sports from an early age and he was good at them. He was an All-Star Little League catcher and excelled at tennis in high school but his real love was golf.
He went to a small college in Ohio for part of a semester when he got out of high school. As he told it, he and some friends went out one night and really tied one on. He said, “it was the weirdest thing. I blacked out, and when I woke up I was in a rubber room and dad was looking at me through a tiny window. I thought it was some kind of a dream but it was all too real. I’d been expelled and on the whole ride from Ohio to Orleans dad didn’t say a single word. It was a very long ride. For the next couple of weeks every time I’d come down for breakfast, mom would burst into tears. After a couple of weeks they sat me down at the kitchen table and said, ‘well, now that you’ve ruined your life and embarrassed us so we can never face our friends again, what to you intend on doing?'”
“I’m going to play golf,” I said.
“‘Don’t get smart with us, young man,’ they said. ‘We’re not talking about what you want to do today, we’re talking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.’
“Play golf,” was his answer and that’s what he did.
He apprenticed at a country club in Connecticut in the summers and came down to Florida in the winters in the late ’60s to attend the PGA school. He and I also caddied together in several of the LPGA tournaments back then. Let me tell you, those ladies bags are heavy.
When he received his PGA club pro membership he returned to the Cape and was the pro at the Dunphy’s Resort Hotel and golf course in Hyannis where he reigned for a decade or so before taking over the Cranberry Valley course in Yarmouth for several years. He then became the first pro at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds course.
He was the Vice President of the New England Professional Golfers Association from 1992-96, President of the Cape Cod Chapter of the N.E.P.G.A. in 1984, ’85 and ’87. He was the director of the Doreen Grace Fund Golf Tournament for the Foundation of Brain Injury Research 1985-94. and on the Board of the Cape Cod Golf Association. He received several awards including Golf Professional of the Year in 1993 and 1996 and the National Golf Founders Achievement Award in 1993, ’94 and ’95. In 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Bill Strausbaugh Club Relations Award by the New England Section, PGA, “For Untiring and Distinguished Service to Golf Facilties and to Fellow PGA Members in the Field of Employment and Club Relations.”
He met, and married a young nurse who worked at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Dianne Ruest.
They had three great kids, Ian, Lindsay and Tracy. I’d say they were great kids even if they weren’t my nieces and nephew. They inherited all the best traits of their parents.
Gary was a great father. I don’t know what his parenting techniques were, but I vividly remember an incident from a family reunion years ago. We were at the dinner table. Gary was sitting at the head of the table. I was to his left and Tracy, the youngest, then about five years old, was on his right. Tracy got a little fussy about something. I don’t think anyone else noticed it. I don’t remember what it was she did or said but I do remember that Gary quietly said, simply, “Remember what we talked about.” And that ended it.
He and Dianne loved to dance. They took ballroom classes and one room of their house was cleared of furniture so they could spend evenings dancing together.
If there was any doubt how popular Gary was it was dispelled at his wake. On a bitterly cold February evening hundreds, literally hundreds, of people stood shivering in a line outside the funeral home before they could get inside to pay their respects. And golfers still come to his resting place and leave signed golf balls in a hat beside his marker.
The 2005 Cape Cod Open was dedicated to his memory and each year there’s fierce competition at the Open to win the coveted Gary Philbrick Trophy for low-scoring professional golfer.
The Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship was established to assist college students who wish to have a career on the links.
Gary Philbrick was my brother. I was always proud of him and I miss him very much, especially today.