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HAMPDEN, Massachusetts – Less than a month after missing what would have been a record fifth straight Edith Noblit Baker Trophy title, Norton’s Shannon Johnson came out of the gates strong with the only under par finish on the day.
Johnson, a member of Thorny Lea Golf Club, the reigning Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Champion and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion, posted a one-under par 71 during the first round of the 2019 New England Women’s Golf Association Championship, which is being held this week at GreatHorse in Hampden, Massachusetts. Johnson currently holds a three-stroke lead over fellow Bay State competitors Jennifer Keim of Cummaquid Golf Club and Pam Kuong of Charles River Country Club.
Established in 1956, the NEWGA Championship is a 54-hole event that is contested annually in one of the six New England states with hosting duties rotating among the states every six years.
On this day, Johnson made the turn with only one blemish on the card, a bogey on the 311-yard par-3 fourth hole.
“The course is playing pretty fair today,” said Johnson of the 5,677-yard layout in Hampden. “It is key to get off the tee and in a good spot on the fairway. There are plenty of bunkers out there, but if you can find the fairway, you are giving yourself a great shot at making par if not birdie.”
Johnson would gain momentum on the backside of the course making birdie on three of her next four holes, including back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, respectively.
“These greens are tricky to read and I did not make many putts on the front side,” remarked Johnson. “I thought I had some good reads but they weren’t dropping the way I had hoped. It felt good to see more of them start rolling in after the turn, especially the finish on 18.”
Johnson completed her round by making birdie on the difficult 386-yard par-4 18th hole, making her the only competitor in the top five to birdie the hole.
When asked about her strategy on the final hole, given that her closest competitors shot bogey or worse, Shannon began to respond then hesitated to say “Maybe I shouldn’t explain my strategy… I will tell you on Wednesday.”
With a bit of distance between Johnson and the rest of the field, Kuong and Keim, teammates at this year’s Griscom Cup, will look to close the gap and make a move on Tuesday. Sitting in solo fourth firing a 3-over par is Lauren Laplume from Maine. Followed closely by Lauren Thibodeau from New Hampshire and fellow Bay Staters Hannah Ghelfi and Krystal Knight who respectively shot 5-over par.
The Bay Sate was well represented on the leaderboard following day one as seven of the top-10 scorers on Monday hailed from Massachusetts. Other Bay State competitors who are in the top-10 heading into the second 18 holes on Tuesday include Sue Curtin (Boston GC) and Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC).
For more information, visit the NEWGA web site at newenglandwga.org.