BRATTLEBORO—Diane Bassett points to a picture gracing the dining room of the Brattleboro Country Club.
Taken in 1952, the picture shows a quartet of women golfers — Bunny Gibson, Agnes Huestis, Lowell Perry, and Bassett’s mother, Peg Allen. With the subjects standing in their summer dresses and each holding a golf club, the photo offers a glimpse into a time when women weren’t allowed on the course before 1 p.m.
Bassett, who grew up in Brattleboro, moved from the area in the 1960s and returned in the 1980s. She was a child when the picture of her mother was taken, and remembers how restricted were the roles of women then.
“We’ve come a long way from ladies sitting on the veranda, playing bridge,” Bassett said.
The BCC celebrated its 100th anniversary this month, and it could go without saying that much has changed at the club over the past century.
Perhaps the biggest change is the role of women in the club, and how much the work of the Brattleboro Country Club Women’s Association (BCCWA) drives the overall health and well-being of the club at large.
“People around the state say we have one of the most active women’s associations in the state,” said BCCWA member Carol Ann Lobo Johnson.
“We’ve done a lot here at the club, as well as for the community, considering this is a small club in a small town,” said Bassett, a longtime BCCWA member.
And that work can be hands-on, such as the patio that BCCWA members built “literally brick-by-brick,” Lobo Johnson said.
The association also funded the renovation of the former kitchen pantry shed/cottage, helped fund upgrades to the kitchen and pro shop, and paid for rebuilding the forward tee box on the 11th hole. It also does much of the gardening around the clubhouse.
The secret to the BCCWA’s success? “We have a terrific group of golfers who are supportive of one another and care deeply about our course, our community, and the resulting companionship,” said Lobo Johnson.
A centerpiece of the association is the Women’s Wednesday Twilight League, led by Becky Day, which plays every Wednesday at 5 p.m. from late May to September. Approximately 60 women participate each week.
“I think this league sets our association apart from most other clubs,” said Lobo Johnson. “This is a league where all women golfers are invited, where low-handicap golfers could be teamed up with a brand-new golfer, thereby helping these new golfers improve and learn to enjoy the sport.”
Lobo Johnson said women don’t have to belong to the club to play in the Wednesday, or Friday morning, leagues. Fees collected from the non-member participants in the leagues are used to help pay for many of the BCCWA projects they’ve undertaken around the club.
One of the things the association is most proud of is the more than $65,000 it has raised over the past decade for local cancer programs at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Grace Cottage Hospital, and other organizations through an annual charity golf tournament.
The BCCWA’s Invitational Tournament started some 30 years ago as just a golf tournament, but Bassett and other volunteer organizers transformed it into a fundraiser.
Bassett said the money is earmarked for a discretionary fund to cover the needs of cancer patients for things that health insurance doesn’t pay for, such as gas cards or wigs and prosthetic devices. Occasionally, the fund has taken care of rent and utility payments for patients in need.
But beyond all the activity of the association, Bassett said she just loves being at the club.
“It’s a place that cares about its members,” she said. “It’s a lovely place to be on a nice day, surrounded by your friends. It’s such a lovely place that it would be a shame to see it disappear.”
“It’s like ‘Cheers,’ the place where everybody knows your name,” said Lobo Johnson. “Golf is a sport where you want someone else to play with you, and the comradeship is as important as the game.”