After Diane Carangelo-Gruner opted for early retirement in 2015 to care for her sick parents, her husband gave her a gift certificate for golf lessons at Lyman Orchards Golf Club, a well-known 45-hole public facility in Middlefield, Conn.
“I was kind of feeling a little bit down about life and things, and he said, ‘You’ve gotta get out. We’ve gotta golf,’ ” she recalled.
Carangelo-Gruner registered for the introductory class that LPGA teaching professional Marissa Kulig Crow offers as part of the Golf Fore Women program she spearheads at the Lyman Orchards Golf Center, a practice and teaching facility that opened across the street from the club in 2012.
In four-plus years, Carangelo-Gruner has completed all five levels of the program and progressed from a beginner to a bogey golfer who is on a quest to play every public course in Connecticut.
“It definitely got me addicted to the sport,” she said. “I fell in love with the programs. First and foremost, when you first meet Marissa … she’s just kind, she’s welcoming, she’s encouraging, and she’s exactly the person you want to see as the first person you meet when you take golf lessons.”
Carangelo-Gruner’s experience is but one example of the impact Kulig Crow has made with Golf Fore Women. When Kulig Crow joined Lyman Orchards’ teaching staff in 2013, perhaps 50 to 80 women participated in the golf center’s introductory class, which was its only offering at the time, she said. In 2019, more than 700 women participated in Golf Fore Women, and 175 played in Lyman Orchards’ women’s golf league.
Given Kulig Crow’s success in fostering increased interest and participation in the game among women in her area, it’s no surprise the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division recently honored her as its Northeast Section Teacher of the Year. She was one of six regional winners from across the country and overseas.
While gratified by the recognition, Kulig Crow derives most satisfaction from her students’ progress and fulfillment.
“It’s been pretty cool to see … women who started with me in 2013, they’re now playing on our championship courses regularly in the women’s league that we have there on Wednesdays,” she said. “And there are groups of women who have become friends just coming here taking classes. Women are staying, they’re enjoying themselves … and they’re improving.”
Growing up in the Western Massachusetts town of Granby, Kulig Crow first became intrigued with the game by observing her father, a scratch player, and grandfather.
“Around maybe 8 years old, I approached my father and wanted to learn,” she recalled. “Just running around on the golf course, I was really interested. It looked like something I wanted to try. And my father was really surprised, because there weren’t really any girls at that time playing. So he taught me everything he knew.”
Kulig Crow played first at Oxford Country Club, a nine-hole course in Chicopee, Mass., that has since closed, and later at Chicopee Country Club, an 18-hole public course. She played in her first tournament at 10 and later made the boys’ golf team at Cathedral High School in Springfield, competing all four years. And her first job as a teenager was as a summer golf shop assistant at Chicopee Country Club.
Upon graduation, Kulig Crow enrolled at Springfield Technical Community College, where she played on the men’s golf team and earned an associate’s degree before transferring in 1997 to Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., where she captained the women’s golf team. During her time at Bryant, she twice competed as an amateur in the Friendly’s Classic, an LPGA tournament staged at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, Mass.
“It’s been pretty cool to see … women who started with me in 2013, they’re now playing on our championship courses regularly in the women’s league ... ”
Marissa Kulig Crow
After college, Kulig Crow spent a few years in an administrative position for a small Springfield company and came to a realization.
“After three years in the corporate world, I really missed golf,” she said.
Kulig Crow became an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division member in 2001. She worked her way up to head professional at two Western Massachusetts clubs – Shaker Farms Country Club in Westfield and Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley – and subsequently served as general manager at the latter club before transitioning into teaching full time.
“Having gone through managerial positions … teaching is what I really, truly enjoyed the most,” she explained.
Kulig Crow commutes more than an hour each way to Lyman Orchards from her home in Westfield, Mass. But as Carangelo-Gruner will attest, Kulig Crow’s decision to follow her passion to central Connecticut has been a gift to the region’s female golfers.
“She’s just a top-notch professional,” she said. “She’s talented, and she’s very thoughtful in her approach to golf. She’s just very in tune with her students. … She gets to know you on a personal level, because that’s how she teaches you.”