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Carmody’s Efforts Have A Great Deal Of Merit

LIBERTYVILLE, ILLINOIS For some folks, it’s not enough simply to play golf, or to be a member of a club. They are compelled by a powerful passion for the game and the pleasures it brings to give back. To the sport itself, and to the places where they play their rounds. In very big ways.
Fifty-nine-year-old Marty Carmody is one of those people. A native New Englander whose family moved to Chicago when he was in his late teens, he learned the game as a boy caddying for his father. Carmody played on his high school golf team and worked summers as a caddie master at a local club.
After graduating from Jacksonville University with a B.S. degree in Economics, he toiled for a spell as an assistant golf professional in Florida before trading his Pickering golf shirts for pinstriped suits and getting into the banking business.
For many years, golf took a back seat to business and family. But Carmody began competing again in amateur tournaments in his late 30s, and was good enough to qualify for a U.S. Mid-Amateur and to tee it up in a number of Illinois State Opens and Amateurs.
Along the way, he became so enamored of the great invitational tournaments in which he had started playing, ones like the Henry Picard Canterbury Cup at the Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland and Champions Invitational at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, that he decided to start one of his own, at the Merit Club in Libertyville, Ill., where he played most of his golf – and where he had won five club championships.
Part of that desire came from the great affection he had developed for the Merit Club. Opened in 1992 and run with the firm, sensible and benevolent hand of founder Bert Getz Sr., it had earned a reputation as a superlative golf retreat, with a first-rate course, a bucolic setting, a friendly and attentive staff and an ethos that was all about golf.
“But not many people knew about it, even after the club had hosted the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open,” Carmody says. “It had a real mystique to it, in part because Michael Jordan and a number of prominent businessmen were members, and a sense of being ultra-exclusive. I thought we could highlight the club a bit and introduce it to the greater game of golf by creating an invitational of our own. It would be a way to promote the club, showcase it and share it.”
Carmody had other reasons as well. “I did not play golf for a long time as I worked as a banker in the Chicago area,” Carmody recalls. “But as I started going to those invitationals, I was struck at each one by the generosity of golf. By the sheer hospitality of the members who staged those events and the clubs that agreed to put them on. By the true gentlemen of the sport who played in the tournaments and were as congenial as they were competitive. And I thought the Merit Club should have an invitational, too.”
A fellow Merit Club member, Steve Bowsher, agreed, and with the support of the Getz family as well as head club professional Don Pieper, they staged the first Merit Amateur in 2003. Ten tournaments after, it has secured a place among the better invitationals in the land, a two-day, 54-hole Stableford event that this year attracted 33 mid- and senior-amateur teams from six states.
“We wanted good players, to be sure,” Carmody says. “But as is the case with all the great amateur invitationals, we wanted good people, too. People who represented the best in golf and who matched up well with the culture of the Merit Club.”
When Carmody thinks of the type of tournament he wanted to create in the beginning, he remembers the first time he played in the Champions event. “I was hitting balls on the range when Jackie Burke came up and proceeded to tell me the whole story of how he and Jimmy Demaret founded the club. It was a very special moment, and it was that way throughout the entire tournament. Great golf and great guys who were as fun to compete against as they were to be with off the course.”
As Carmody surveyed last week the scene around the massive practice range at the Merit Club and the bustle around the first and 10th tees as groups were going off, he smiled with the satisfaction of a man who has accomplished his mission.
“We have a number of guys who have been here from the beginning, and lots of people who are competing for the first time,” he says. “It’s a terrific mix, and the tournament has gone as well as we all could have hoped.”
Yes, it has. Thanks in many ways to Marty Carmody.


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