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SOUTH YARMOUTH, Massachusetts – The first Mass Golf Women’s Championship of the season officially kicked off on Monday with the playing of the first round of the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy at Bass River Golf Course. The two-day, 36-hole event features both a Championship and Tournament Division.
A morning shotgun on Monday will be followed by a final 18 holes on Tuesday to determine the overall and divisional champions. Hannah Ghelfi, the reigning Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Champion and member of Pocasset Golf Club, currently leads the Championship Division with a first-round score of 1-under par 71. Shannon Johnson of Thorny Lea Golf Club is just one back at even par 72.
The low gross winner from the Championship and Tournament Division will have their names engraved on the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy, while commemorative bracelets will be given to the winners of both the net and gross flights for each division.
Highlights from the first round of competition are below.
After what has been a whirlwind month of travel, Hannah Ghelfi, the reigning Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Champion, is enjoying a home game this week as she competes for the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy.
“It would be pretty cool,” said Ghelfi, a rising junior at the University of Michigan about the prospect of winning a second career Mass Golf Championship. “I have played in it a bunch of times, and I have never really done that well. To get over that hump would be great. There are so many really good golfers who have won it, and it’s a cool event.”
A resident of East Falmouth, Ghelfi was happy to have this women’s championship season kick-off event hosted just a short drive from her home. After all it was just one month ago that she packed up her apartment at the University of Michigan for summer break. And this past Tuesday, she returned home from a 10-day trip to Europe with her mother.
“It was a fun trip,” said Ghelfi, who was a 2018 Academic All-Big Ten selection for the Wolverines. “It is really nice to have it on the Cape for sure.”
Given her hectic travel schedule of late, Ghelfi was unable to fit in a practice round at Bass River Golf Course but that did not keep her from posting the only under-par round of the day on Monday. She finished with a score of 1-under par 71 which included an opening birdie on the 184-yard, par 3 1st hole.
“I felt like I got a little lucky there,” said Ghelfi. “I hit a high fade on the first tee. It was probably too much club had I hit it like I would have wanted to, but it was a good way to start.”
Ghelfi made a 15-foot birdie putt on that first hole. With gusting wind picking up as the round went on, Ghelfi went on to card bogey on the 3rd and 4th holes before making a 30-foot birdie putt on the 290-yard, par 4 6th hole to get back to even par.
“Putting was definitely the strong point of my game today,” said Ghelfi. “I didn’t put anything too close today. All of my putts were 15 feet out at least and maybe longer.”
Ghelfi would make the turn at even par 34. At the time, she held a two-stroke lead over Johnson with whom she was paired with on the first day of competition. The overall lead quickly shifted after Johnson made birdie on three of her first four holes on the back nine.
A hot putter shifted momentum yet again in Ghelfi’s favor. After landing her tee shot just off the green on the 138-yard, par 3 14th hole, the 21-year-old Ghelfi made an 18-foot birdie putt to put her 1-under par for the event. She would go on to finish her round by making four straight pars to secure a one-stroke lead heading into Tuesday’s final round.
“The wind was tough to manage, but if you kept the ball in the fairway it was pretty scoreable,” said Ghelfi.
Following Monday’s round, the field was re-paired according to score which means that Ghelfi and Johnson, much like they did on Monday, will be paired together on Tuesday along with Pam Kuong who stands in third place overall.
“It is always good to play with Shannon,” said Ghelfi. “I just try to watch her. Her tempo is so good, and I hope that some of it rubs off on me. We were going back and forth during the round. She would birdie, and then I would birdie. It was fun and it’s always good to play with her.”
The winter is typically a time for work and a break from golf for Shannon Johnson, but that was not the case this past “off season”.
Johnson, the defending and three-time winner of this event, had to find creative ways to train for the season in order to properly prepare for the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, an event which she qualified for back in October but competed in this past April.
“Having to practice all winter was interesting. I normally don’t have to do that,” said Johnson, who competed in that USGA Championship Proper with fellow Edith Noblit Baker Trophy competitor Megan Buck. “I am usually hitting off mats once a winter, but this year I was hitting off a ton of mats trying to get ready. My game is a lot further ahead this time of the year than it normally is because of that.”
Johnson’s championship form was on full display on Monday as she rebounded from a 2-over par 36 start on the front nine by making birdie on three of her first four holes on the back nine.
“I struggled on the front side and couldn’t get any putts to fall so I made a couple of bogies,” said Johnson. “Ten is a short par 4, and I made birdie there and made a good par on 11 which is a really tough hole. I birdied 12 and 13 which were the two par 5s. One was into the wind and one was downwind.”
The only miscue on Johnson’s scorecard from that point on was a bogey on the 337-yard, par 4 15th hole as Johnson finished with five pars, three birdies and one bogey for a back-nine score of 2-under par 36. She even had a chance to draw even with Ghelfi but left short what she called a “make-able” birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“You had to pick your battles on certain holes,” said Johnson. “The ones into the wind where you are going straight into it you were just trying to walk out with a par which was good. Some of the ones downhill and the side-wind holes… those were the ones you were trying to stick them in there to try and get a birdie. It was tough. I think that at one point into the wind it was at least 30-yard wind into. That is three clubs difference and it’s hard to trust it, but at the end of the day you just hit the shot.”
If Johnson is victorious on Tuesday she will become only the fifth player in event history to capture more than three Edith Noblit Baker Trophy titles. Those who have accomplished that feat to date include: Gene McAuliffe (1954, 1960-61, 1968), Joanne Goodwin (1955-59, 1971-72), Nancy Black (1950-51, 1963, 1967) and Tara Joy Connelly (1997, 2006-08, 2010, 2013-14)
Competitors may affectionately call it “The Baker”, but those familiar with golf history understand that the formal name of Edith Noblit Baker Trophy has a deep and important meaning here in the Bay State.
Its namesake was a visionary who found a way to bring the camaraderie of golf together with its competitive spirit.
This annual two-day event, which dates back to 1950, was the brainchild of Edith Noblit Baker, who was one of the state’s most elite competitors who stands as one of only two competitors in Mass Golf history to have won more than two straight Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championships.
A five-time winner of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, Baker first won the title in 1925 before capturing three-straight titles from 1927 to 1929. Her final championship win came in 1932. It would be 18 years later when Baker would make another mark on golf history.
During the summer of 1950, Baker, who served as president of what was then known as the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM), officially introduced a new tournament called the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy with the clear purpose of “advancing the sociability of the game and a renewal of acquaintance.”
“Edith Noblit Baker was a trailblazer who understood how important golf was to bringing people together,” said Cathleen Beach, Mass Golf’s Director of Women’s Events & Player Development. “She wanted to create an event that allowed women to compete yet also enjoy time together.”
Baker’s vision coupled with hard work and a keen organizational and business sense help accomplished just that and the event has grown into one of the most competitive and popular stroke-play events on the Mass Golf calendar.
“Besides the [Massachusetts Women’s] Amateur Championship, the Baker is the next toughest tournament that we get to play in,” said Shannon Johnson, the defending and three-time champion of this event. “There is a ton of history, and so many great players have won this event. Luckily with my schedule I am able to work it in every year. It really brings out the best college kids around as well as the best amateurs and mid-amateurs. It’s a lot of fun.”
Contested during the early summer months, the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy – to Johnson’s point – continues to feature the state’s top competitive female golfers who participate in two days of 18-hole stroke play. The list of past champions looks like a “who’s who” of the top players to ever come out of Massachusetts.
Joanne Goodwin, who was inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame in 2012, holds the record for most titles. She captured the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy seven times from 1955-59 and then in 1971 and 1972. The only other competitor to match that mark was Tara Joy Connelly, a former member of Cohasset Golf Club who now resides in Florida. Joy Connelly won this event in 1997, 2006-08, 2010 and 2013-14.
Other notable past champions include: Jeanne-Marie Boylan (1975, 1978), Noreen Friel-Uihlein (1979, 1981), Anne Marie Tobin (1989), and Marion McInerney (1995). Most recently, Johnson has won the past three titles, including the one in 2016 which was the same year that she was the runner-up to Julia Potter in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
“This event crowns the top golfer without question,” said Beach. “If you look at the field we draw the top amateurs including the collegiate stars who are coming off their spring seasons.”
To Beach’s point, the timing of the event – always held in the summer – allows for those college players to return home to compete. Accessibility for players during the summer months was one of Baker’s priorities along with the traditional post-golf meal.
“The meal following the first round was almost as important as the timing and format,” said Beach, who worked with the Bass River Golf Course staff to provide what was a Cape Cod themed lunch following Monday’s 18-hole shotgun. “She felt that it was supremely important for the players to come together and enjoy each other’s company following golf.”
One of the unique features of the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy is that it features Championship and Tournament divisions. At the time of registration, competitors are able to select which division they would prefer to compete in for the 36-hole event.
Here is a summary from the Tournament Division.
Following 18 holes, the top six competitors in the Tournament Division are separated by just three strokes.
Catherine Webster (Nashawtuc CC) was low scorer at 11-over par 83. Donna Deliso (Sagamore Spring GC), Riki Allen (Beverly G&TC) and Meg Watson (Crumpin-Fox Club) are T2, while Daria Insalaco (GC at Turner Hill) and Kerry Dolan (Crumpin-Fox Club) are three back of the pace.