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HINGHAM, Massachusetts – The winds were howling, and the jackets and hats came out for the first day of fall. But the greens were rolling well for the players, making for some solid opening scores at the 70th Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup, which began Tuesday at Black Rock Country Club.
Unfazed by the chilling coastal winds that sometimes surpassed 25 mph, two-time Keyes Cup winner Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea GC) surged out to a solid lead, finishing with seven birdies to card a 5-under 66 and take a six-stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round.
Last year, Johnson finished runner-up by one stroke to Sue Curtin (Boston GC), and said this year, she’s glad to have a sizable lead moving into the final day.
“Anytime you can come out and post a good low number, it gives you a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” said Johnson, who won the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy on September 3. “I’ve been playing some good golf lately, and just trying to keep this rolling.”
Just like the Women’s Stroke Play, Johnson entered this course without playing it previously, but she said was able to find good lines off the tee, and hit good numbers from what she considered “generous fairways.” She was also able to hit driver on shorter holes when facing the wind, setting up up-and-down birdie chances in front of the hole.
Johnson finished 1-under on the front nine, but was able to attack the back, making birdie on holes 11, 12, 13 and 15 and 16.
Johnson also holds a slim 12-point lead over New England Women’s Amateur Champion Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC) in the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year race, and if she wins the title will automatically clinch the POY honor for the third time in five years.
“I knew it was obvious it was gonna come down to Megan or myself,” Johnson said. “Megan’s a great player and she could have a round like I did today, and I could, I could struggle a little bit tomorrow, so we’ll see.”
Curtin started her title defense strongly by making birdie three times, even catching a lucky break in the early going. After making birdie on the par-5 6th, she topped her drive on the 7th, but it ricocheted off the rocks flanking the course, and the ball bounced onto the fairway, setting up her up-and-down for birdie.
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“I got a little quick at the top of the swing, but you can make birdie from anywhere, usually,” Curtin said. “Get the number and just stick with it and not overthink it was really the plan today.”
Chelsea Curtis made a long-awaited return to Black Rock on Tuesday, last playing at the course at the 2004 Massachusetts Women’s Open when she was just a teenager.
“I don’t remember much because I don’t really remember courses,” Curtis said. “It felt all new to me.”
Despite a double bogey on the third hole, Curtis kept a relatively clean card, making just two birdies and one bogey the rest of the way to match Curtin at 1-over. In the meantime, she earned a spot in the final group.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been in the final group,” Curtis said. “I’ve had a little bit of a tough summer, so it feels good to play well coming in late in the season and being in the final group with two good players.”
In the Tournament Division, Marilyn Carson (Marlborough CC) has the lead after shooting an 82 to keep a one-stroke lead over Kym Pappathanasi (Tedesco CC) and Meg Watson (Crumpin-Fox Club).
Janet Bean (Walpole CC) had previously won division titles at what was formerly known as the B, C, D & E Championship, designated for players with Handicap Indexes between 14.1-36.0. Bean won Class D in 2016 and took home Class E in 2013 and 2017, but this year, she has a title to her own.
Bean made par on the 290-yard, par-4 10th hole en route to a 94, helping her win the Flighted Division, which combined all the previous flights of Handicap Indexes.
Echoing some of her fellow competitors, “I got a couple lucky breaks and good lucky bounces,” Bean said. “I also made a couple putts unexpected which kind of helps.”
Like many other Mass Golf Women’s Championships and Tournaments, there is a new name for this year’s event. The Grace Keyes Cup has combined with the B, C, D & E Championship to form the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup.
The Championships began in 1950 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of what was formerly known as the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts. It was named after Grace B. Keyes, the winner of the inaugural Mass Women’s Amateur Championship in 1900 and a co-founder of the WGAM. For the first eight years, the tournament was played as a 54-hole event and in 1958 the format changed to 36-holes.
Florence McClusky won the event nine times between 1952 and 1968, while other past champions include Hall of Famer Anne Marie Tobin (6 wins), Tara Joy Connelly (7 wins), and current LPGA player Alison Walshe (2003).
Black Rock County Club was built in abandoned quarries in the early 2000s, but exposes players to three different styles of golf. The course features a woods and wetlands layout, rollings hills and mounds like a links course, and a quarry layout with four or five holes granite walls along fairways and greens.
Founded in 2002, the club has hosted several Mass Golf events in the past including the 2009 Griscom Cup, 2014 Girls’ Junior Amateur, and, most recently, the 2015 Massachusetts Open. It also hosted the now-defunct Massachusetts Women’s Open in 2004.