On October 7, 2020, Tom Sullivan tragically passed away when a tree collapsed on his golf cart during a severe storm that swept through the Wyantenuck Country Club in Great Barrington. In an instant the golfing world lost a respected PGA Professional.
For over 20 years, Sullivan was the PGA Golf Professional at Wyantenuck. He was everywhere, seemingly everywhere at all times. No task was too small. The concerns of each member were their concerns. In this episode, members and staff portray Sullivan’s role as Wyantenuck’s beating heart.
Jim Cunningham, the former club president, opens the episode by telling the story of how Sullivan was first hired, saying “he was the right man for the job”.
This statement is supported throughout Episode 10 by Club Secretary Tom Berkel, Assistant Pro Marc Levesque, Longtime Member Sharon Connelly, New Member Channing Gibson, Female President Marge Kinne, Superintendent Peter Bacon. and others.
“Every weekend, he got off the tee and held his ground,” said Lévesque. “Watch people play, check their equipment, interact with them, explain to them how they play. Every Saturday and Sunday, and he loved it.
“When you see that, you work with that, you realize for yourself, oh my gosh that’s what a PGA pro should be.”
Stories are also told of Sully off the course, where his Wyantenuck family would relax after a tour or a day’s work. Chops were broken, but serious topics like sobriety were also brought up. Berkel remembers hearing about Sullivan’s son performing in plays and asking him where he got it from. Tom said to himself, of course.
“The center of the stage has never been a problem for him. It was completely made up, ”Berkel said. “He was ready to face any situation that arose within his jurisdiction. He was prepared if anyone was going to overreact … Metaphorically, he had a track record that had a lot of credibility and goodwill. People understood that he was a good player, a good teacher, friendly and easy going. If he got into a situation on the golf course, those were things people respected.
It is clear to Wyantenuck that there is a void that will not be filled or healed for some time.
“There’s a natural tension between the superintendents and the pros,” said Bacon, who has worked at Wyantenuck since 1988. “With Tom, I had no problem getting along. The first thing he always said was, “What’s up? Tom gave us all the scoop, what’s going on behind the scenes. He always came to let us know things we wouldn’t know, the local club scoop. We were still waiting for him to walk in the door and say ‘you won’t believe it’.
“Even now we’re sort of looking for him, thinking he’s going through the door… But, he’s not.”
Sully, a narrative podcast series, is produced by Dominic Dastoli, in association with the Wyantenuck Country Club and the Northeastern New York PGA. The podcast is hosted by The Berkshire Eagle. You can listen to episode 1 on BerkshireEagle.com/sports.
Next week will air episode 11: “October 7th”.