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COHASSET, Massachusetts – It has been a summer for the record books for Thorny Lea Golf Club’s Shannon Johnson and on Tuesday, despite the calendar recently switching to September and the beginning of the proverbial fall golf season, the Norton resident continued her spectacular play – shooting a 1-under par 71 in the first round of the 2018 Grace Keyes Cup to top the field of 19 in the Championship Flight.
That play, which has been constant all summer and essentially the length of her golf career here in the Bay State, was in full effect at Cohasset Golf Club, which is hosting its first Keyes Cup since 1974. Johnson made par on her first four holes, tallied two birdies and was 2-under par through 15 before one minor setback prevented an otherwise perfect round of golf at the South Shore club.
“It was a good start, and I hit the ball really well,” said Johnson, who is trying to get back in the win column this year after taking first place in 2016 and sitting out in 2017. “I had a lot of chances at birdie and towards the back nine, I started to hit my putts a little better so they were really close to going in.”
As the only competitor to finish the first round of this year’s championship under par, Johnson opened up play by making par on each of the first four holes before carding her first under-par mark on the par-4 5th hole – which plays at just over 300 yards from the elevated tees and sees a stream intersect the fairway approximately 65 yards shy of the green. It was there that the former Indiana Hoosier and Sioux Falls, South Dakota native Johnson was able to take her first stab at going low on the scorecard.
“It is kind of a shorter hole,” recalled Johnson on the layout of Cohasset GC’s 5th hole. “I think it is just over 300 yards away, so I hit a 200 yard club off the tee just to get in a good spot in the fairway and be long of the bunker. I just had a little – maybe 89 yards in – so I hit a low 54° then hit it very well that was about five feet short of the flag, so I rolled it in.”
From there, Johnson carded five more pars and arrived at the 11th hole tee box with an opportunity to go even lower on the day’s round. Playing as the longest par-4 on the course, her second shot on 11th missed an eagle by only a foot – allowing her to still card birdie and build on her early lead.
“I birdied on 11 and hit it to a foot,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of a tricky hole – kind of down and around and up. I had a really good number in and I just hit it well.”
Despite a bogey on the par-4 16th hole, the only one of the day for Johnson, the result of what she called an “awful approach shot” which led to her coming up short of the green and missing the chance at an up-and-down, Johnson was still able to regain her momentum and finish strong with back-to-back pars on the 17th and 18th holes.
“Being able to see [Cohasset GC] for the second time, get a little bit more familiar with where you want to be on the greens was the key today,” explained Johnson as she recapped her first day performance. “There are some spots that are better than others to be able to hit a good stroke and be aggressive. It’ll be fun tomorrow.”
Following her round-one performance, Johnson holds a three-stroke lead over Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC), who carded five birdies and finished the day at 2-over par 74. Reigning champion Sue Curtin (Charles River CC) finished one stroke back at 3-over par 75, and Wellesley’s Pam Kuong rounded out the top-4 on the leaderboard at 4-over par 76.
The second half of the 36-hole tournament will continue on Wednesday at Cohasset Golf Club with the 20-member Tournament Flight beginning play first followed up with the Championship Flight beginning afterwards. The first tee time is scheduled for 8:00 a.m.
While the likes of Johnson, Buck, Curtin and Kuong each topped the leaderboard of the Championship Flight field on Tuesday, it was a Parziale who led the charge in the Tournament Flight – which consisted of 20 competitors.
While no relation to Matt Parziale who has been dominating local and national golf headlines for the better part of the last year, Laura Parziale, of Cumberland, Rhode Island and Achushnet River Valley Golf Course, finished her first round with a three-stroke margin to hold the top spot in the Tournament flight for the 2018 playing of the Grace Keyes Cup. After starting play with bogeys on three of the first four holes, the 55-year old settled in nicely to card five straight pars to make the turn at 3-over par 39.
From there, Parziale, who last competed in the Women’s Senior Amateur Championship one week ago on her home course, added two more pars on the second nine – which consisted of five par-4’s, two par-3’s and two par-5’s. One of her two pars on the back nine came on the par-5 18th hole – a challenging layout that bends slightly to the left with an elevated green.
On the day, Parziale finished at 12-over par 84 and sees herself three strokes ahead of both Lauren Sexeny, of Wellesley Country Club, and Marilyn Carson, of Presidents Golf Course, who each carded 15-over par 87 marks on the afternoon.
The women’s championship, which was open to all competitors in the Class A-B handicap index, allowed participants the option to choose which flight they wanted to compete. The second and final round will begin on Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m.
There’s no question that golf is a major part of Shannon Johnson’s life. When she isn’t working as a sales representative at PING, she’s taking down the Massachusetts golfing competition like it’s her second full-time job.
This September, the Norton resident and reigning Massachusetts Women’s Amateur champion will see her golf schedule build tremendously as three of the four weeks throughout the month will see the 35-year old Johnson once again take on both the Bay State’s top competition, as well as the world’s top competition.
Starting Tuesday, Johnson kicked off her month of competitive play at Cohasset Golf Club for the Grace Keyes Cup – a two-day 36-hole stroke play event that Johnson won in 2016. Following this week, her competitive play, in regards to Mass Golf at least, will remain on the South Shore when she becomes the first women to ever compete in the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship – which is slated to begin next Wednesday, September 12, at Plymouth Country Club.
With both a state mid-amateur championship, followed by the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Norwood Hills Country Club (Mo.) on the horizon, Johnson hopes this week’s play will spur success to what lies ahead in the coming days and weeks.
“Coming out here and hitting the ball well was good for my preparation,“ said Johnson, who this year alone has also earned victories in the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy, the New England Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship and the Cris Eaton Foursome Tournament in addition to her first career state amateur title she claimed at George Wright Golf Course on August 2. “Obviously, you always want to play good in whatever tournament you’re playing in, but this will be great to get ready for Plymouth next week. That will be a great one, and I’ll really focus in on that as I get ready for the U.S. Mid-Am following that.”
Working in a position where her workload doesn’t build up until early October, when golf professionals begin looking towards next year’s product lines like Johnson’s PING sales, her schedule allows her to compete in events both on the local and national stage and more so now than previous years, her own golf schedule in September will be maxed out.
“Work wise, we’re gearing up for our big push of our fall runs,” explained Johnson on her work schedule. “Labor Day is really the first day that we can start going out. A lot of places, the pros are so busy and they don’t want to see you quite yet, so October gets really busy. Once I get back from the Mid-Am, it’ll be two months straight of work.”
After finishing the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship as the runner-up, and finishing as a semifinalist in 2017, Johnson is still reaping the benefits of her three-year exemption as she looks forward to traveling to St Louis for the 2018 edition, where she’ll be one of 18 competitors with an exempt status.
When she gets through the hefty September schedule, which could see her playing in as many as 11 competitive days in a span of 23 days, she’ll look to compete for one final go around in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball qualifier being held on her home course in early October.
“Megan [Buck] and I will play in the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball qualifier at Thorny [Lea Golf Club]. That’s on October 10,” said Johnson. “It’s at our home track, so obviously, we want to do well. When we get back, we’ll play a little more golf to try and stay sharp. Obviously, we want to play well there and to be able to play in Florida.”