Golfing with a Hall of Famer

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It was another beautiful day in a summer that has provided so many.

Clayton “Tuna” Anderson, the pride of North Yarmouth’s Toddy Brook Golf Course and multi-time Toddy club champion, stood sheepishly on the fifth tee at Salem (Mass.) Country Club.

The single-digit handicapper had opened the first four holes of the historic, 115-year-old club – that has hosted five national championships, most recently the 2001 U.S. Senior Open — with an uncharacteristic double-bogey, bogey, bogey and bogey.

His thick-legged, thick-chested playing partner sidled up next to him and growled in his ear.

“I thought you were a player,” Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque said.

“I usually have a little swing oil when I play. Plus, I’m a little nervous playing with you, Ray,” a chagrined Tuna countered, offering the Salem CC member a weak smile.

Bourque, a Stanley Cup winner and a National Hockey League Hall of Famer, looked surprised, then replied with a chuckle, “No swing oil while we’re playing here. See that red stake. Just relax and hit the (expletive) ball straight at it.”

Tuna, his Toddy Brook mate Rick Baietti and Waterville golfer John Donato laughed along with the Stanley Cup champ, “who looks like he could still play in the NHL,” Anderson recalled.

Bourque spent the rest of the afternoon directing his Maine guests around the course, offering tips on how to play the Donald Ross design.

Tuna responded by playing the next 14 holes in even par.

“When we played the 14th hole, a 203-yard, par-3,” Baietti remembers, “we all stuck our drives within 15 feet of the cup. The Salem CC club champ was playing in front of us and asked Ray who we were. Ray replied we were just “farm boys from Maine, but they can play.’”

The “farm boys” puffed out their chests, with Anderson and Baietti rolling in birdies while Donato, the current Waterville CC senior champion, matched Bourque’s par.

There was a friendly wager on the game.

“Let’s just put it this way,” Baietti says proudly. “Ray had to buy drinks for all at the 19th hole.”

Sharing an adult beverage following their round, Tuna and his newfound NHL Hall of Fame friend perused a scorecard that shows the Toddy Brooker with a 5-over 77 and Bourque with an 82.

“When I found out I was playing with three guys from Maine, I thought I’d just be looking for balls in the woods all day. Got to admit, though, you’re pretty coachable,” said Anderson, recalling Bourque’s comments.

Sitting in a golf car recently while taking a few moments off from repairing divots on the second hole at Toddy Brook, where the husky hacker splits his time between working on the grounds crew and pro shop desk, Tuna assessed Bourque’s game that mid-summer afternoon.

“He hit the ball a ton with his driver. He had a few problems with his wedges, though. Best day of golf I ever had in my life,” Tuna said.

Anderson made the trip to Salem CC courtesy of Baietti, the owner of Portland Collision, who won the right for he and two friends to play with Bourque during last October’s STRIVE auction, where Baietti submitted the winning bid. STRIVE is a division of South Portland-based PSL services, designed to help young adults with developmental disabilities.

Anderson calls Salem CC, with its meticulous conditioning and classic white clubhouse, the most beautiful course he ever played. Bourque noted it took him nine years before the club allowed him to become a member.

“That’s the way it should be,” Baietti recalls Bourque saying of his almost-decade-long wait for Salem CC membership approval, despite his NHL Hall of Fame credentials.

Over the course of their four-plus hours together, Anderson, a father of two, learned that Bourque’s daughter, Melissa, is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, where one of Tuna’s daughters will be a freshman this fall.

Bourque’s oldest son, Chris, who played briefly with the AHL Portland Pirates and later with the Washington Capitals, has signed to play this season with a Russian team, HK Atlant of the Kontinental Hockey League, reportedly the strongest league in Europe. Younger son Ryan was drafted by the New York Rangers, plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was a member of the USA’s 2010 World Junior Championship team.

Asked what it was like winning the Stanley Cup, Bourque said it was the biggest thrill of his professional career and told how he thought he might pass out from hyperventilating while holding the Cup aloft, Tuna remembered.

Eighteen holes with Ray Bourque at a Top 100 course. A dream day in a dream summer and, perhaps, the biggest thrills of “three farm boys from Maine’s” golf careers.

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Boston Bruins legend and NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque (second from left) shared a day of golf recently with Toddy Brook golfers Clayton “Tuna” Anderson (far right) and Rick Baietti (far left), along with Waterville’s John Donato (second from right) recently.

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