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MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Massachusetts – With the largest field since Mass Golf took over the event in 2018, the 117th edition the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship began on a toasty Tuesday at the historic Essex County Club. Essex, founded in 1893, is hosting the Women’s Championship for the third time.
After Tuesday’s opening round of stroke play, incoming Brown University freshman Gabrielle Shieh (Nashawtuc Country Club) has the lead at 3-under-par 70, while Westford Academy teen Morgan Smith (Mount Pleasant Golf Club) is one shot back at 2-under 71. Shieh also leads the net stroke play score at 6-under. Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) is solo third at 1-under, while defending champion Angela Garvin (The Ranch GC) is 2-over.
Following the second round of stroke play Wednesday, the top 16 will advance to the Championship Flight of match play, while players 17-32 will move on to the President’s Cup Flight of match play. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will take place on Thursday with the semifinals and finals coming on Friday. Both the semifinals and finals will be 18-hole matches. In the event of a tied match, the winner shall be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off.
The last few months have been far from ordinary for Gabrielle Shieh. The Concord Carlisle High School graduate accepted a golf scholarship from Brown University back in the fall only to see the women’s golf program cut from varsity status in May. She’ll still attend Brown as a freshman, but not until January when the first semester starts. Her “spring semester” will then take place next summer. After that, she’ll decide whether to transfer from Brown or stay.
Until then, Shieh will be taking advantage of the extra summer.
“I’m working really hard now that there’s not really much else to do right now,” said Shieh, a Carlisle native. “I’ve just been trying to grind, like work on like parts of my game that I need to work on.”
For whatever uncertainty may lie ahead, one thing is certain: Shieh was on her game Tuesday.
Shieh’s approach shots were stellar as she shot 1-under on the front nine and made birdie on three of her final four holes to top the leaderboard at 3-under. Shieh also made par on the first seven holes, and her only blemish was a bogey on the 13th hole.
“Some of the par fours were a little bit longer and the par fives are a little bit shorter, so I was able to reach those longer par fours and reach those shorter par fives, so yeah I really liked the course it’s really nice out there,” Shieh said.
Shieh is no stranger to big events either. She competed in the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur and 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and has qualified for the Championship Flight each of the past two years.
After this week’s Championship concludes, she’ll be looking for as many opportunities to play as possible.
“I’m going to try to find tournaments in the fall to just keep on playing,” she said. “I’m excited to start (college) in January.”
Westford Academy standout Morgan Smith is playing with five new golf clubs, but most in her bags were the ones she used when she made the quarterfinals of last year’s Massachusetts Women’s Amateur.
“It’s been a complete hot mess,” Smith said. “I got fitted for clubs last fall and turns out they were fitted really poorly.”
Smith has since been fitted for new clubs, thanks to the help of fellow competitor Megan Buck. But using a mix of old and new club, Smith put together a solid round of 2-under (1-under on both nines) that ended with a birdie on the 18th. She said her putter was the one club especially working well Tuesday.
“I played pretty well in this tournament last year so I was confident coming in that I could put up some good scores,” Smith said. I just wanted to try and go out there and do my best and see how low I could go.”
Buck, the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur champion, played in the group right behind Smith and was 2-under after chipping in for birdie on the 17th. Buck hit a good drive, and thinning her second shot and sending it past the green, she was able to make up for it by rattling it off the pin and into the hole.
“I kind of got lucky that it hit the pin and dropped in,” Buck said. “It probably would’ve gone several feet by if it didn’t hit the pin.”
Buck said she’s been looking forward to this event, and if she is able to win she’d join her Thorny Lea clubmate, Shannon Johnson, as the most recent person to win the New England Women’s Amateur and Massachusetts Amateur in the same year. Johnson swept both events in 2018.
Buck said she was also impressed with the talent on this year’s tee sheet.
“I think it’s definitely the strongest field we’ve had this year and from what I can remember even in past years,” Buck said. “That’s going to make it fun. You have to stay. steady and you’re going to have to play really well to even make it into match play and then advance.”
Johnson matched Columbia University-bound Allison Paik (Ledgemont Country Club), while defending champion Angela Garvin was 2-over to round out the top six. Garvin, who played the course for the first time, was even on the front nine, but made bogey three times on the back nine.
Garvin said she’s playing with more confidence after winning last year, but doesn’t nearly have the same amount of momentum as last year.
“I’ve definitely played fewer tournaments, but I’m also more excited to play tournaments this summer,” Garvin said. “Now that I’ve had year of college, I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
Strolling around Essex County Club, both in the clubhouse and on the course, is like walking through a museum. Donald Ross’ house still sits behind the 15th tee of the course he redesigned and was head pro and superintendent. Inside the clubhouse, there are trophies and memorabilia from past events held at Essex, including from the Curtis Cup, an international amateur event named after two of its most noted members — Harriot and Margaret Curtis.
Here are just a few of the many fantastic sights on display. (Click each to see them in full size).
College Count: In total, there are 13 players who are either currently playing at the college level or are set to begin college this year
|Name||College||Incoming Year||Home Club|
|Hannah Blonder||Wellesley College||Junior||Blue Hill CC|
|Angela Garvin||Maryland||Sophomore||The Ranch GC|
|Alia Godek||Franklin Pierce||Sophomore||Agawam GC|
|Tate Hadges||Holy Cross||First Year||Thorny Lea GC|
|Samantha Leary||Assumption||Senior||South Shore CC|
|Emily Moy||Hamilton||Junior||Cohasset GC|
|Emily Nash||Elon||Junior||Northern Spy GC|
|Margot Osterman||Siena||First Year||Hyannisport Club|
|Allison Paik||Columbia||First Year||Ledgemont CC|
|Gabrielle Shieh||Brown||First Year||Nashawtuc CC|
|Rebecca Skoler||Virginia||First Year||Pine Brook CC|
Back From Maryland: After playing the U.S. Women’s Amateur the week prior, Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) was back on the tee at the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur. Johnson didn’t make the cut, but she finished even-par 73 Tuesday to keep her in the hunt for her second title in three years.
Presidents Cup Champ: Danielle Lee (Stow Acres CC) shot an 88 Tuesday to begin her defense of the Presidents Cup Flight, which she won last year.
Youngest In the Field: Isabel Brozena (Indian Ridge CC) made her debut in the Mass Women’s Amateur. The North Reading native, who will begin high school soon, said she enjoyed playing with people of all different ages as well as having the multi-day tournament format. “I like playing with the cutoff. It makes it more intense, so I really like it.”
Quoting: “I didn’t do anything completely stupid.” — Jacqueline Gonzalez (Charles River Country Club), a recent Holy Cross graduate who shot a 5-over 78 with a birdie in her opening round. Despite hitting way left on her opening tee shot, she saved par to start the round.
Official & Player: Mace Foehl (Taconic Golf Club), one of 92 players in the field, was supposed to be the Official In Charge at this year’s Massachusetts Open, which was scheduled to take place at Taconic.
Essex Four-Ball: In the leadup to the Mass Women’s Amateur, Essex County Club hosted the 101st Essex Four-Ball over the weekend. The event is believed to be the longest continuous Four-Ball invitational in the country. For regional comparison, Myopia, founded in 1894, held its first Four-Ball Championship in 1920. Ed Stabler & Ryan Thrope won the First Flight championship, while Fred Forsgard and Tom Cushman were runners-up. George Scharfe & Rick Ramsey won the Second Flight.
Going For The Sweep: Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook Country Club), who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall, is playing for a historic sweep. Last year, Angela Garvin became only the fourth player ever to win Mass Golf’s Girls’ Junior Amateur and Women’s Amateur Championship in the same year. Skoler, who won the Girls’ Junior Amateur last week at Hatherly, shot a 4-over 77 to finish the day T10.
For the second consecutive year, the stroke-play qualifier will include 36 holes contested over the first two days. The low 16 stroke play scorers will advance to the Championship Flight of match play on Thursday, with the semifinals and Championship Match taking place Friday. The next lowest 16 competitors will advance to the President’s Cup Flight (match play).
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12: 18 Holes, Stroke Play (Starting Times Begin at 7:30 a.m.)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 13: Round Of 16 and Quarterfinals
FRIDAY, AUGUST 14: Semifinals and Championship Match
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Per the State’s (EEA) guidelines surrounding outdoor competitors and tournaments, NO SPECTATORS WILL BE PERMITTED at any point of the championship (stroke or match play). This includes family members, relatives, members of the same household, general spectators, etc.
To help individuals follow along, Click Here to view Round 2 starting times.
This year marks the 117th playing of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship. The first Massachusetts Women’s Amateur, played in 1900 at Oakley Country Club, was conducted for a total of 54 golfers. Grace Keyes, a pioneer for Women’s Amateur golf in the Bay State was its first Champion. The championship was held every year except for 1918 and 1943-45 due to WWI and WWII, respectively.
The Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship is the oldest championship conducted by Mass Golf.
Eligibility: Entries are open to amateur golfers who have an active Mass Golf/GHIN Handicap Index at any public, private, semi-private, municipal or non-real estate Mass Golf member course/club not exceeding 14.0 – Class A (as determined by the July 23, 2020 Handicap Revision), or who have completed their handicap certification.
Prizes: Stroke Play Medalist | Low Net Qualifier – Osgood Memorial Cup | Amateur Champion – Gold medal and Championship Bowl | Amateur Finalist – Curtis Memorial Trophy | President’s Cup Champion – President’s Trophy | President’s Cup Finalist – Finalist Tray.
Championship Field: The starting field of 92 golfers will be cut after 36 holes to the low 16 scorers who will advance to Match Play in the Championship Flight. Low finishers 17-32 will advance to Match Play in the President’s Cup Flight.
Championship Format: Eighteen holes of stroke play are scheduled on Tuesday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 12 at Essex County Club. The low 16 competitors will advance to the Championship Flight (match play). Any ties for the final Championship Flight qualifying place(s) will be determined by a hole-by-hole playoff.
The next lowest 16 competitors will advance to the President’s Cup Flight (match play). Any ties for the final President’s Cup qualifying place(s) will be determined by a USGA match of cards. Competitors who “opted out” of the President’s Cup Flight will not be counted in the match play seeding.
Match Play: A general numeric draw will be used. For purposes of determining places in the draw, ties in qualifying rounds shall be decided by the order in which scores are returned, except that places of those participating in a play-off shall be determined by performance in the play-off and if necessary a blind draw.
In the event of a tied match, (a) the winner shall be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off, and (b) the stipulated round is deemed to extend to as many holes as are required for a match to be won.
Essex County Club is set up at approximately 5,970 yards and will play to a par of 38-35–73.
Essex County Club