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SCITUATE, Massachusetts – Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook CC) concluded her junior playing days in style by winning the 87th Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship on Tuesday at Hatherly Country Club.
Skoler, of Needham, overcame a four-stroke deficit after the first day by firing a 3-under 69 on Tuesday to edge Day 1 leader and Columbia University-bound Anne Walsh (The Country Club) by a stroke. Skoler, who shot even-par 144 for the two-day Women’s Championship, was one of four division champions in the event for girls aged 10-18. Jaelyn Deboise (MIAA) won the Silver Division (Handicap Index of 10.2 or more), Kylie Heffernan (Sterling National) took the Junior-Junior (under 14) and Reva Machanavajhula (KOHR Golf Center) won the Mite Division (10 & Under).
Hatherly’s Jillian Johnson, daughter of Hatherly Head Golf Pro Chip Johnson & former LPGA Tour pro Pamela Kerrigan Johnson, earned the most-improved award in the Championship Division, shaving 15 strokes from her score Tuesday with an 85.
For the second time in five days, a Women’s Championship came down to a showdown between Rebecca Skoler and Anne Walsh. On Friday, Walsh topped Skoler in the Women’s Division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, but on Tuesday, it was Skoler’s time to shine.
Skoler established momentum with four of her first five holes, and she had a two-stroke lead over Walsh with three holes to go. Though Walsh pulled even after bogeys from Skoler on the 16th and 17th, Skoler stepped to the 18th with confidence and poise. After Walsh hit an 8-iron 20 yards short, Skoler took a 7-iron and placed her tee shot right of the pin on the green. After Walsh’s par putt rolled wide, Skoler two-putted to victory.
“It’s super special,” Skoler said. “This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year especially being my last junior tournament ever.”
With the course playing at under 5,500 yards, Skoler said wedges were key, and they were working well as she set up easy birdie putts early to help chip away at Walsh’s lead.
“I didn’t have a lot of pressure, just go out there and have fun and see how low I could go,” Skoler said.
Part of that deficit was self-induced as Skoler took a two-stroke penalty Monday after she played from the wrong tee, something she says she’s never done in eight years of competing.
“My dad always told me like this is the one game where you kind of have to make every mistake once to learn,” Skoler said. “I didn’t really want to prove that right, but definitely a great learning experience. I will never make that mistake again, and I’m just proud of how I battled back.”
Walsh, who also finished runner-up when Skoler won in 2018, only managed one birdie in the final round and knew she’d be in a battle throughout this time.
“I definitely had to focus going into the back nine, and the shots weren’t really there,” Walsh said.
Morgan Smith (Vesper CC) also made a run at the lead as she shot a 1-under 71 that included an eagle on the par-5 5th hole. She finished solo third.
Most of the Champion Division players will compete in next week’s Women’s Amateur Championship at Essex County Club, but for Walsh and Skoler, it’s the end of the road for Mass Golf junior events.
“Mass Golf has definitely been a huge part of my junior golf journey,” Walsh said, “and I’m really going to miss it.”
Jaelyn Deboise (MIAA) admitted she was a little nervous entering the final round of the Girls’ Junior Amateur, which happened to be her first Mass Golf event ever. But she rose above it, shaving six strokes off her score to win the Silver Division with a two-day score of 168.
“It was a really fun round,” said Deboise, a member of the Pope Francis High School golf team. “I had the most fun ever playing today.”
After overshooting most of the greens Monday, Deboise said she shortened up her approach and was able to hit some greens in regulation. Deboise finished her round with a smooth landing by making par on four of her last five holes. On the 17th hole, she punched out from behind a tree and then nailed a 40-foot putt from the fringe on the 17th to save par.
“I was pretty happy to make that one,” Deboise said.
Ahria Desai (Nashawtuc CC) finished runner-up in the Silver Division, as she carded 88-83–171.
Amanda Adams (Winchester CC), who shot 98-85, won the Most-Improved Award in the Silver Division. She carded her lone birdie on the par-5 10th hole and finished one stroke overall behind her sister, Victoria Adams (Winchester CC).
After ending the first day in a three-way tie for first place, Kylie Heffernan (Sterling National) broke from the pack with birdies on holes 3 and 5 to shoot 1-over-par in the final round and win the Junior-Junior Division by three strokes. She also made a key 30-foot putt for par to maintain her lead.
“It was exciting,” said Heffernan, who also earned Most Improved for her division. “Putting was good today. I like the course.”
Tuesday also marked the first Mass Golf win for Heffernan, who played the Girls’ Junior Amateur two years ago in the Mite Division.
Abby Zhu (MIAA) shot back-to-back 40s to finish second, while Maddie Smith (Mount Pleasant GC) finished 40-42 for third. The pair both had a share of the lead with Heffernan after Day 1.
Reva Machanavajhula (KOHR Golf) was the lone Mite competitor (10 & under), but she also improved on her first 9-hole round by shooting a 39. The young lefty was also a big hit on social media Tuesday.
Meet Reva. She’s 10-years-old and competing in the Mite Division of the 87th #MassGolf Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship.
❤️ – If her swing is better than yours. pic.twitter.com/5bbnKtppVA
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) August 4, 2020
Victoria Veator (MIAA) wore a rainbow ribbon and brought one for each competitor at the Girls’ Junior Amateur this week. The ribbon was in commemoration of Mia Villegas, the daughter of PGA TOUR pro Camilo Villegas, who at just 22 months old died on July 26 after battling brain and spinal cancer.
Mia’s tragic death hit home for the Veator family, which has shared a deep personal connection with the Villegas family that has lasted for well over a decade.
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Next week, the top female amateur golfers in the state will take on the historic Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea in the 117th Massachusetts Women’s Amateur. It’ll be the first time the Championship Proper will take place at Essex since 1991.
Walsh finished runner-up in the Women’s Amateur last year behind Angela Garvin, who completed her freshman year at the University of Maryland in the spring. In total, 24 players who competed in the Girls’ Junior Amateur are scheduled to play in next week’s Women’s Amateur.