Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Pat Saunders—Supporting Athletes


By Charlene Giannetti

Anyone who has an athletic child knows the commitment involved. It takes a special person, however, to make a commitment to help other people’s children achieve their athletic dreams. Pat Saunders has spent more than twenty years working tirelessly for the American Junior Golf Association, serving on the organization’s board of directors, traveling internationally with the golfers, and serving as tournament chairman for local events. Recently, the AJGA recognized Pat’s efforts, awarding her the prestigious 2009 Digger Smith Award (photo, left below). “Pat is a prime example of a person who never stops giving to others,” said AJGA’s Executive Director Stephen Hamblin.

saundersdiggerawardAlthough Pat is a golfer herself, helping young people succeed at the game has become a passion for her. “I love meeting the kids and traveling with them,” she said. Her satisfaction comes from seeing young golfers benefit from their involvement with AJGA. With more than 80 tournaments each year, AJGA provides a high profile venue for young golfers to compete and earn college scholarships. Many of AJGA’s graduates ultimately turn professional, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, among them. In 2003, Saunders traveled to Sweden with a group of young women who competed in the Junior Solheim Cup. At least three of those women—Brittany Lincicome, Paula Creamer, and Amanda Blumenhurst—are now competing professionally. The last two years, she has accompanied both boys and girls to the Evian Masters Juniors Cup in Evian, France. (Photo , top, shows Pat with Annie Park, left, and Kyung Kim, members of the 2008 U.S. Evian Masters Juniors Cup Team).

Saunders’ dedication to young athletes does not stop with golf. As a member of the board at Asphalt Green, she has been active in raising money for the organization’s Swim for the Future, an initiative launched after 9/11 that does for young swimmers what the AJGA does for young golfers: provides the resources to cover the costs for these students to swim and train at Asphalt Green. Many of these Swim for the Future recipients have gone on to qualify for Olympic trials, hold national records, and are members of the U.S.A. National Swim Team. “These students have great futures in the world of swimming,” said Saunders. She also supports Asphalt Green’s efforts to teach public school children how to swim through the Waterproofing Program.

party with Olympians

Saunders has been a member of Asphalt Green’s Masters Swim Team for sixteen years. (Photo above, Saunders with members of the Masters Swim Team and, on left, Olympians Craig Beardsley and Janel Jorgensen). When two member of the team, Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang, perished on 9/11, Saunders, fellow Masters swimmers, Asphalt Green staff, and coaches at Asphalt Green met with the families. “We wanted to raise money for competitive juniors swimmers at Asphalt Green to help those who do not have the money to cover the costs of training and competition,” she explained. With the support of the Fisher and Irgang families, the first Swim for the Future benefit was held in November, 2001, and raised $150,000. “People came out and the dollars poured in,” Saunders said. On September 12, the Ninth Annual Swim for the Future was held, a brunch, preceded by a practice swim dedicated to those who died, a “lap of silence” swim by Masters swimmers, and a relay race featuring scholarship recipients and Olympic swimmers. (Photo below, Saunders, front, with Olympians and members of the Asphalt Green Board).

Pat with Olympians

In addition to the AJGA and Asphalt Green, Saunders has aided children’s causes through the Legal Aid Society, serving in the past as chairman of the Civil Support Division and a board member. For many years, she was instrumental in organizing the society’s yearly Christmas Party for children living in shelters, as well as the “Thinking Out Loud,” luncheon with speakers that included Linda Fairstein and Anna Quindlen. She now serves on the agency’s policy committee. As a member of the St. Vincent’s Auxiliary, she co-chaired the group’s annual benefit and worked on the annual Christmas boutique. And while she dedicates most of her time to benefit children, for sixteen years she oversaw a weekly lunch for senior citizens at the Church of St. Thomas More on East 89th Street.

pat-rowdy1Saunders’ drive to give back began when she was growing up in Brooklyn. In high school, she spent her off hours volunteering at a nursing home and for the Red Cross. She received her bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from Binghamton University, where she now serves on the Foundation Board. She received her master’s degree in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1969. (Photo left, Saunders with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowdy Gaines, a board member ar Asphalt Green).

Saunders, and her husband, Paul, an attorney, raised their two sons, Paul Jr., now a cardio thoracic surgeon, and Michael, a corporate executive, in Manhattan. When her sons were young and she stopped working fulltime, Pat became involved at their school (she served as secretary, vice president, and president of St. Bernard’s Parents Association) and lent a hand with sports activities for children at the Apawamis Club in Rye. Both sons played golf and were members of the club’s swim team. After many years of watching golf on TV, she began to take lessons herself. Her involvement with AJGA began in 1990 when she served on the committee for the first AJGA event at Apawamis. For ten years, she served as chair of player services for the Buick Classic, held at the Westchester Country Club. Other tournaments she has worked at include the PGA Championship at Winged Foot and the U.S. Open in Bethpage.

Saunders knows what so many parents have discovered: that being involved in sports like golf or swimming benefits children. “A sport like golf teaches a young person patience, that if you want to do well, you have to put in the time,” she said. “They learn respect, for themselves, fellow players, and the course.” During each AJGA event, the group holds “thank you” writing parties, where the young golfers write notes to the sponsors and volunteers. (Photo below, Saunders with the 2008 U.S. Evian Masters Juniors Cup Team).

Evian Team

Now a grandmother of four (Michael and his wife, Kathryn, have two children, Tatum, 4, and Henry, 2, and Paul Jr. and his wife, Susie, also have two children, Erin, who will turn four in October, and William, two and a half), Saunders can often be found in the pool helping them learn to swim. She continues to swim on Asphalt Green’s Masters Swim Team, in the pool three times a week before 6 a.m.

Although Pat admits she doesn’t work on her own golf game as much as she would like, she loves the experience of playing golf. “There are so many special moments in travel,” she said. One year on vacation in Kapalua, Hawaii, she remembers taking a path and coming out on a promontory that afforded breath-taking vistas of the islands and ocean. “If you didn’t play golf, you wouldn’t have that experience,” she said. “It was like being in heaven.”

Woman Around Town’s Six Questions

Favorite Place to Eat: Uptown, Vico, 1320 Madison Avenue, downtown, Frankies Spuntino, 17 Clinton Street
Favorite Place to Shop: Peter Elliott, 1071 Madison Avenue
Favorite New York Sight: Returning to New York by air and experiencing the wonderful views of the city as the plane cruises up the Hudson or East River.
Favorite New York Moment: After a snow storm, I went cross country skiing around Central Park with my friend, Kathy. We checked our skis and had lunch at Tavern on the Green.
What You Love About New York: The neighborhood experience, enjoying the diversity of the great neighborhoods in our city.
What You Hate About New York: The incivilities, honking horns, littering and other discourtesies on the part of our fellow New Yorkers.

For more information about the American Junior Golf Associations, go to www.ajga.org

For more information about Asphalt Green, go to www.asphaltgreen.org/

Occupation: Dragonslayer Has Heart, Lacks Polish


If there’s one sure-fire way to reinvigorate a stalled conversation, it’s bringing up something about 9/11. Like the Kennedy assassination in the 60s, everyone who was old enough to remember knows exactly where they were and what they were doing that day. For many of us it’s still as clear in our minds as if it were yesterday, and the stories are vivid and full of emotion. This is why I had high hopes going into the new Isle of Shoals production, Occupation: Dragonslayer, a musical that takes place in a small diner in the Financial District on Christmas Eve, 2002. That’s also when the musical was first presented to an audience, though not in the form it takes today.


Steve Walsh and Cecilia Vaicels

Conceived and created by Bryan Williams (music, lyrics, co-author) and Lance Hewitt (co-author) shortly after the 2001 attack, the musical focuses on a disparate group of lonely souls trying to scrape by — some financially, others emotionally — after a year of trying to come to grips with the loss, the devastation, and the arduous process of picking up the pieces. The diner is soon to be demolished and so this evening is something of a last hurrah for the regulars as the staff contemplates what the future holds. When a stranger with a memory blank walks in the door dressed like Santa, he sparks off conversation with each person in the room, bringing gifts out of his Santa sack for every one and listening as they share their stories about what the holiday means to them and what it’s been like since that day when so many lost so much.


Cait Kelly

The story behind the musical is one of personal loss harnessed for the sake of catharsis. Director Stephen Ryan was a rescue and recovery worker at “The Pile.” He lost friends and colleagues who had run into the towers to rescue civilians before the buildings came down. Writing Occupation: Dragonslayer was a way to pay homage not only to the people who lived, worked and died there, but also to try to remind people of the feeling that settled over the city in the months following 9/11. “New York was indeed a kinder, gentler place…what we actually began to notice was how many of our fellow New Yorkers were in need of just a friendly word. And we began to connect.”


Theodore Errig, Ruby Spryte Balsamo, and Benjamin Errig

There are some really great voices in the cast, including Cait Kelly as Jenny, Kimberly Bello as Mara, Steffen Whorton as Chris the Dragonslayer and Steve Walsh, who received surprisingly little stage time considering the quality of his contributions as both Gil the haunted construction worker on the Pile and Duffy the churlish firefighter only in it for the government pension. The three kids who appear — Ruby Spryte Balsamo, Benjamin Erring, and Theodore Errig — are incredibly delightful and harmonious as three cheeky siblings forced to go caroling with their somewhat military-minded, tramping-for-Jesus mother.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of microphones or a misbalanced sound board, a lot of those voices had to fight to be heard. Not all succeeded. Perhaps that’s why the production never seemed to entirely come together. The characters are all familiar: the line cook who dreams of opening a great restaurant, the poor little rich girl, the serial bachelorette, the waitress who dreams of the stage, the eccentric older lady in tattered furs. It’s a lot of cast, and though the production is a full two hours long, it feels like running through a list of archetypes checking off those present rather than watching one or two really develop as characters. The overall effect was to make the story seem drawn-out and without focus.


Steffen Whorton, Kimberly Bello, and John Mervini 

Similarly, among the abundant musical numbers were several that didn’t feel like they helped move the story along at all. Again, this could be chalked up to being unable to hear all of the words, but they simply didn’t land with any kind of emotional force. Those that did, however, did so well. In particular, the songs “Absence,” “The Girl in the Mirror,” “The Pile,” and “Learn to Say Goodbye” felt true and the singers emoted powerfully in their moments. Likewise, the songs that brought the entire cast onstage simultaneously contained just the kind of classic spirit-lifting Broadway harmonies that bring the applause. Where the story really faltered was when the supernatural element kicks in toward the end. By making that turn, certain elements just didn’t make sense. Certain inconsistencies became apparent and the characters’ issues may have been better dealt with on a more uniformly corporeal plane.

It’s clear that a lot of love went into putting this production together, from inception to performance, but it just misses the mark. It can be stiff at times, the characters somewhat generic, and the fact that it takes place in 2002 in the Financial District is mostly irrelevant. Yet for what it is, a labor of love by those who were there, it says a lot about what they experienced and how, even 15 years later, the memories of those we lost can haunt us.

Top photo: L to R: Steffen Whorton and John Mervini
Photos by Maria Baranova