It’s a golf life for former KP golfer, now PGA pro and Merrimack College coach Malcolm | Local Sports | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing for Jason Malcolm

Whether it’s ringing from Nashua (N.H.) Country Club members calling to request tee times from him, the head PGA Pro there, or from prospective players for the Merrimack College women’s golf team of which he serves as the Warriors’ head coach, Malcolm is a busy man.

“The course opened May 11 and it’s been crazy ever since, a record number of rounds — it’s been wild,” Malcolm said the other day from the club’s pro shop, scanning over the roster of who is playing and when, the schedule of lessons for women and junior players and the calendar for upcoming fall club tournaments.

“The number of people playing golf this year, it’s a busy club to begin with and with everyone working from home and wanting to get out, golf has been the ideal sport,” Malcolm said of the rekindling of interest to take out the clubs.

Malcolm, who’s in his fourth season as the club’s pro and in his fourth year leading Merrimack’s golf team, had previously been the club pro at the Dublin Lake (N.H.) Club, where he supervised a six-member staff, managed tournaments, organized junior clinics and provided private lessons.

Prior to his stewardship in New Hampshire, Malcolm had served as a PGA pro at four other clubs, starting with the nearby Franklin Country Club in 2002, the Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., the Whitinsville Golf Club from 2003-07 and the Winchester Country Club from 2011-13.

Prior to arriving on campus in Andover at Merrimack, Malcolm had served as the assistant golf coach at Southern New Hampshire University for three seasons where he helped guide one of the top-ranked NCAA Division II men’s programs in the country while helping establish the foundation for the women’s team that was launched in 2014-15. He also coached the Northbridge High School golf team from 2003-07.

He was named the 2016 New Hampshire PGA Pro of the Year. Over the 2019-20 tournament season, Malcolm finished among the top 10 in 20 of 26 starts. In both 2018 and 2019, he finished among the top 10 in nine New England events each season. He’s also played an extensive regional tournament schedule of amateur and PGA events for better than a decade, qualifying for the Mass. Open Championship in 2014.

And to think, he owes it all to a trio of individuals.

First up is his dad, Paul Malcolm, who put a golf club in his hands by age 8 and shepherded him around the layout of the Heather Hill Country Club in Plainville.

Second is Mike Cosentino, who entrenched in him a Bible’s worth of lessons on and off of the course as the King Philip Regional High School golf coach and now as the pro at Heather Hill. Malcolm, who graduated from KP in 1997, played four years of golf for the now 90-year-old Cosentino before heading to Bryant University.

Third is North Attleboro’s Archie Boulet, the late Bryant University golf coach who mentored Malcolm for his four years as a Bulldog and kept adding chapters to Malcolm’s textbooks on the game.

“Playing golf for Mike (Cosentino) and then for Archie (Boulet), golf has been great to me,” Malcolm said from his southern New Hampshire home he shares with his wife Ingrid and two daughters. “The rest is history — I wouldn’t be in the golf business if it wasn’t for them. Coach Cosentino was great getting me into competition and Archie was super supportive.”

Malcolm was the Bulldogs’ captain during his senior year, helping Bryant qualify for the NCAA Division II National Championship. He earned NE10 All-Conference First Team and Division II All-New England First Team honors in 2000 and was the recipient of the Bryant College Bulldog Leadership Award. He graduated from Bryant in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He’s taken the lessons learned from throughout his playing career and is applying them to Merrimack’s women’s golf program, of which he became head coach during the 2016-17 season and was responsible for transitioning the Warriors’ program from NCAA Division II to Division I in Sept. 2019.

Malcolm nurtured the team to its best season in program history in 2018-19 to wrap up the Division II era on an incredible note. Not only did Merrimack win its fourth and final Northeast-10 Conference championship in five tries, but the Warriors made history by earning an automatic team qualification into the NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Super Regional Championship. Along the way, Merrimack won a season-record five tournaments and placed second at two others to comprise the greatest year thus far in the still relatively young history of the program.

For his efforts, Malcolm was named Northeast 10 Conference Coach of the Year for the first time in his career.

“It was nice to follow in Archie’s (Boulet) footsteps at Bryant into coaching,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm was a determining factor of guidance for the greatest individual season by a student-athlete in Merrimack women’s golf history. Krystal Knight, a 2019 graduate, became the first WGCA All-American in school history after qualifying as an individual for the 2019 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf National Championship. Knight, who was just the second student-athlete ever in school history to achieve such a feat, won seven individual tournaments — including her second straight NE10 medalist honor — to wrap up her career as a four-time all-conference first team selection and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree.

“It’s fun coaching,” Malcolm said. “I like college athletics in general.”

Malcolm’s second full year with the program in 2017-18 featured six top-four team finishes, including one victory and three runner-up performances. Knight had the best individual campaign up until that point in program history, winning five of the nine events she competed in, including the 2017 Northeast 10 Conference Championship, marking the fourth straight year that a Warrior had claimed the title.

Malcolm also saw three single-round scores of 70 recorded, tying the program’s single-round-low record. Malcolm and the Merrimack program were rewarded with a trio of Northeast 10 Conference selections with Knight earned a spot on the CoSIDA/Google Cloud Academic All-District squad as well as the Northeast 10 Sports Excellence Award winner and all-academic team selection.

Malcolm was instrumental in helping both Knight and 2018 graduate Alessandra Ricigliano earn NCAA Super Regional in the spring of 2017 after he took over the reign of the program earlier in the winter. That marked the first occasion in school history that Merrimack had multiple student-athletes qualify for the NCAA Super Regionals in the same season.

Recruiting new players to follow in the footsteps of the team’s success is challenging.

“Recruiting takes so much time,” Malcolm said of extending the base from New England and the New York-New Jersey metro area to the South and now to China, India and Australia.

“Certainly Division I golf is a different level of competition and there’s a lot of traveling involved,” he said. “To go from Division II, it’s a different game in Division I — the courses are longer and harder and to be competitive. The players that you need to recruit have national and international experience. You try to get some of the international kids over to the (United) States to play.”

And without viewing a spring and summer schedule of tournaments due to the coronavirus, Malcolm’s recruiting has been reduced to online viewing of swings.

“There are a lot of serious players out there (in college golf), but the pool of players (from the high school ranks) is small,” he said. “It’s challenging, we’re trying to get the right girls into the program.”

In the Warriors’ first campaign at the Division I level, the fall season was highlighted by junior Jordan Laplume of Maine, the Northeast 10 Conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman, who accounted for top 10 performances in Merrimack’s schedule of five tournaments. Then during the corona virus-shortened spring season, sophomore Alexandra Tomasso of Waverly, N.Y. had a top-30 result at the Lonnie Barton Invitational in Daytona, Florida, the last tournament competition before the pandemic sent all student-athletes to the sidelines. Laplume and Tomasso also both had stroke averages under 85 on the year.

This fall’s golf season was cancelled with the next competition most likely not to happen until late February.

“The kids are on campus, we’re practicing three days a week, but there’s no competition,” Malcolm said. “It’s challenging, the kids are getting tested once a week. Maybe it’ll get back to normal in the spring.”

The time away from competition has given him space to reflect on the game, including his course management skills and the future of the game.

“I try to be consistent with everything, but absolutely as you go along, you pick up different things on golf course management,” he said. “Like junior golf, trying to grow the game with kids – Nashua CC has a lot of families, so we’re trying to build that program and carry on golf to the next generation.

“A lot of kids aren’t playing golf these days; it’s kind of different from when I was growing up.”

Back then, he was Plainville-Wrentham-Norfolk area friends with Jim Renner, former Bishop Feehan great turned PGA Pro, and Sean Harbor, another former Shamrock as well as a Bryant University teammate and dormmate. He mentioned area players like Mike Michel and Tommy Raposa that he toured the fairways of Heather Hill CC with as a kid.

“We didn’t have a great golf team at KP, I kind of had to talk a bunch of people into playing,” Malcolm said. “Jimmy (Renner) and Sean (Harbour), we played AAGA (Attleboro Area Golf Associatiion) tournaments together, we keep in touch.”

“I’m not sure if now that there are too many other things to do,” Malcolm said of the small smattering of boys and girls taking to the game of golf. “Other sports have taken up a lot of time and kids don’t have the time to come to the club and spend all day here as we would as kids growing up.”

Naturally, Malcolm also thinks back to the days his dad had him out at the practice range and on the No. 1 tee at Heather Hill, where his love for the game of golf was groomed.

“I’ve always liked coaching, I saw myself after Bryant of trying to get into college coaching,” Malcolm added. “Playing competitively for so many years, you know what it takes to bring that mindset to the girls and make it fun for them.

“I drive the (Merrimack) van and turn the music up just like Archie did!”

Peter Gobis may be reached at 508-236-0375

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