Kim Walecka took a chance when she asked Rosemary Zehntner to be her playing partner for the Country Club of New Bedford Women's Invitational Fourball.
"She was a stranger when I asked her to play with me and neither of us knew what to expect," Walecka said. "We developed a lot of chemistry with each other and became lifetime friends."
Walecka and Zehntner ended up playing in 11 fourballs together, winning back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014, but Zehntner made the tough decision to not play this year.
"Rosemary lives in Florida and she's only up here for three months. Plus, she doesn't play as much golf as she used to and she's busy with her family," said Walecka, a CCNB member who took up golf after meeting her husband in 2007. "I'm really going to miss her, but we had a great run together. I couldn't have asked for a better partner."
With an eye toward the future, Walecka will partner with Denise Belanger for this week's 43rd CCNB Women's Invitational Fourball, which will get underway with first-round tee times on Monday and wrap up on Friday.
"Denise and I have played a lot of golf together," said Walecka, who plays four or five times a week. "I know her game and she knows my game. Our personalities are a good match and we're excited about getting a chance to team up."
A fourball veteran who's played with a couple of different partners, Belanger is very familiar with the CCNB layout. She's also a past champion, winning with Jo Ann Squillante in 2015.
This year's member-guest tournament will feature 28 teams, four less than the usual 32 because there weren't enough players for a full field. As a result, the top-four seeded teams will get first-round byes. Nicki Demakis and Julie Shaw, the defending champions, will be the top seed. The rest of the seeds are expected to be announced on Sunday.
"Our membership is not necessarily down, but we do have an aging membership," said Walecka, who played volleyball for coach Neil Macedo at New Bedford High School and is the daughter of former NBH boys volleyball and UMass Dartmouth women's volleyball coach Steve DeRossi. "For our older women, playing five straight days is a lot to ask. It can be a long, tough week."
There are plenty of former champions in the field, including three-time winner Sheila Tierney-Curry (2000 with Chris Loud, 2009 with Rosemary LeBlanc, 2018 with Patty Sullivan), and four two-time winners — Sue Stykowski (2007 with Elaine Ferreira, 2019 with Linda Lemieux), Martha Clancy (1999 with Ann Webster, 2012 with Victoria MacKay), Sandy Tillett (1998 and 2003 with Donna Doyle), and Demakis (2016 with Carla Fitzgerald, 2021 with Shaw).
Tierney and Sullivan (Reservation Golf Club in Mattapoisett) are teamed up for this week, as are Stykowski and Lemieux (Whaling City Golf Course in New Bedford).
Clancy (Potowomut Golf Club in East Greenwich, R.I.) is playing with Pat Ansay, who teamed up with Temple Mitchell to win the 2017 championship.
Tillett (Whaling City) is playing as a guest with Barbara Grunkemeyer.
Shaw (The Vineyard at Escondido) will be flying in from California to reunite with Demakis, a workers' compensation attorney who lives in Mattapoisett and telecommutes to the law firm she's a partner at in San Diego.
Sue Sylvia, who won the 2010 championship with Jan Santos, is teamed up with Lori Keegan (Pinehurst Golf Club in North Carolina).
Deb Hynes, who teamed up with Sarah Valentini to win the 2004 final, is playing with Terry Garrett (Village of Golf in Florida).
Charlotte Oliveira (The Bay Club at Mattapoisett), who finished first with Christine Galligan in 2002, is teamed up with Annette Mallen.
Carla Fitzgerald, who teamed up with Demakis to win the 2016 championship, is playing with Chris Cochis (Cape Fear National in North Carolina).
Jillian Blanchard and Jillian Grolley (Acushnet River Valley) will be making their debut as a team. So will Heidi Bettencourt and Anneli Valm (Harmon Golf Club in Rockland). Grolley, whose maiden name is Nery, combined with Barbara Charles to win the 2006 championship as a CCNB member.
There will be one guest-guest team this year — Bethany Kauff and Linda Therrian, who both play out of The Brookside Club in Bourne.
"We have a pretty solid field," said Walecka, who works as a certified registered nurse anesthetist. "We have a nice mix of veteran players and newcomers. We have some experienced teams and it's going to be interesting to see how things play out over the course of the week. It's a very competitive tournament from start to finish. Any team can win on any given day and there are usually some upsets along the way. It's always a fun, interesting week."
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: CCNB Women's Fourball golf tournament: Who has best chance to win