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MASHPEE, Massachusetts – With a come-from-behind effort over the final nine holes, Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea GC) became only the third person in Mass Golf history to win the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy five times.
Under rainy and overcast conditions at The Club at New Seabury, both Wednesday and Thursday, Johnson finished with a two-day score of 141 to edge 2019 Merrimack College graduate Krystal Knight (Bradford CC) by one stroke. The two were tied on the 18th hole of the Ocean Course, but Knight missed her par putt, while Johnson two-putted for par and the victory.
Johnson joins fellow five-time Baker Trophy winners Joanne Goodwin (1955-59, 1971-72), a Mass Golf Hall of Fame inductee as well as Tara Joy Connelly (1997, 2006-08, 2010, 2013-14). Johnson won it every year between 2015 and 2018, and after finishing runner-up to Hannah Ghelfi last year, was able to reclaim the title.
She said she’s hoping for one more win for the “Brady six” alluding to Tom Brady’s six Super Bowl rings he won with the Patriots.
“Anytime you can put your name on one of the Mass Golf trophies, it’s awesome,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship last month in Maryland, picked up her first individual Mass Golf victory of the season with steady play, first on New Seabury’s Dunes Course on Wednesday and then Thursday on the Ocean Course. Johnson hadn’t played either course, but was able to play the sightlines well and roll the putt well enough on the softened greens.
Knight, who also finished runner-up in the 2019 Ouimet Memorial Tournament, started Thursday one stroke behind Johnson, who sat at even par. But she took the lead by making three birdies on the front nine, including a chip-in on the 7th. She went bogey-free through 13 holes to take a two-stroke lead.
“I knew if I got my drives out there, I would have a good chance at birdie or par, so I just focused on fairways and greens,” Knight said. “It’ probably my best tournament of the year. I’ve struggled with my swing a little bit this summer, so it’s the best two rounds I’ve put together.”
Johnson caught up on the par-5 15th when she hit the middle of the green in two with a 7-wood on her approach shot to set up a two-putt birdie to pull even. Knight almost regained the lead on the 16th when she almost chipped in from behind the green, but it sat just left of the cup. Johnson drove into the right fairway bunker, but it rolled back to an even lie, allowing her to blast an 8-iron to the front fringe and then two-putt for par to stay even.
“I just got off to a little bit of a rocky start, with my tempo and it was raining,” Johnson said, “but then I kind of found my groove on the backside and really made some good shots and that puts some pressure on your opponents.”
After they made par on the 17th, both players hit driver on the par-4 18th, a dogleg left. Johnson hit her tee shot into the right rough, and Knight opted for the driver, too. However, Knight ended up farther right into the fescue, leaving her only 10 yards between a tree and greenside bunker.
Johnson was closer toward the fairway and hit the front of the green with her second shot, while Knight punched an 8-iron onto the fairway and then pitched to about 10 feet behind the hole. After Johnson’s birdie landed within five feet, Knight stepped up and rolled her par putt just wide, allowing Johnson to counter with the winning par putt.
“It was great playing with Shannon; it was fun and challenging,” Knight said. “It just basically came down to 18 and wrong club choice off the tee.”
Catie Schernecker (The Country Club), who played with Johnson and Knight in the final group, started the day tied with Knight at 1-over. Despite shooting 1-under on the front she had four bogeys on the back to shoot a 3-over 75 and finish 4-over overall.
Molly Smith (Vesper CC), a 15-year-old standout, made a 20-foot putt for birdie on the 18th to move into fourth place with a two-day score of 148. Her putt put her a stroke ahead of her older sister Morgan Smith (Mount Pleasant GC), 16, who finished T5 with Mass Senior Women’s Amateur champion Pam Kuong (Charles River CC) and New England Amateur champion Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC).
Lindsay Cone (Granite Links), a former Team USA skier turned amateur golfer, set an untouchable pace in Net scoring, as she followed up a 9-under 63 on Wednesday with a 2-under 70 on Thursday to finish first by five strokes. Cone finished with three net birdies and a net eagle Thursday to maintain her lead. Knight finished second at 4-under.
Cone, who lives in Killington, Vermont, and works for Spartan Race in Boston, made her Mass Golf debut last month at the Women’s Amateur Championship and said she has enjoyed Mass Golf competition.
“I’ve played in other state amateur tournaments, and the level here is a lot better,” Cone said. “It just elevates my game, and it’s fun to see how they’re hitting it and trying to beat that.”
Sisters Diane Nessralla (CC of Halifax) and Fern Langella (Indian Pond CC) say they play better when they get to banter back and forth on the golf course. “It takes our mind off certain things,” Nessralla said. “I think we play better together when we do that.”
“We enjoy each other’s company,” Langella added.
The two belong to different clubs and don’t play together often. But this year, Nessralla, a long time competitor in the Women’s Stroke Play Championship, convinced her sister to play in it for the first time and were paired together both days.
The result: Both came away with a victory.
Nessralla made her debut in the Tournament Division and won with a two-day score of 167, finishing fives strokes in front of Cathy Sessions (Sterling National) and Cathy Flatley (South Shore CC). Meanwhile, Langella shot the best net score (4-over 146) in the Tournament Division.
“I asked if we could possibly play together, and they made it happen,” Nessralla said. “So we were really happy that it was like she said we don’t get to play together that much anymore.”
The next Women’s Championship event is the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup, which will take place September 22-23 at Black Rock Country Club in Hingham. The event is open to players who have reached age 25 by September 22.
Sue Curtin (Boston GC), also a Mass Golf Board Member, is the defending champion. She finished 14th in the Women’s Stroke Play Championship.
To learn more about the Championship, CLICK HERE