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HYDE PARK, Massachusetts – Following two rounds of match play held at George Wright Golf Course, the semifinal match ups have been set for the 115th Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship.
Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea GC) will face off against Jacqueline Gonzalez (Charles River CC) in the first semifinal match beginning at 8:20 a.m. Claire Sheldon (The Country Club) and Krystal Knight (North Andover CC) will follow at 8:30 a.m. All four competitors advanced through the round of 16 and quarterfinals which were held on Wednesday in Hyde Park.
The winners of the two semifinal matches will then compete – following a brief lunch break – in the scheduled 18-hole final match. In the event of a tied match, the winner will be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off.
Hole-by-hole scores and on-course updates will be made available online (MassGolf.org) and via social media (@PlayMassGolf) for the final Championship Flight match. Following the conclusion of the awards presentation on the George Wright Golf Course patio, the City of Boston will be sponsoring a live acoustic music show featuring Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ava Suppelsa (@AvaSuppelsa)
Below are highlights from the Championship Flight quarterfinal matches and match summaries from the round of 32.
Thorny Lea GC’s Shannon Johnson hasn’t been to the finals of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship since 2015, her first year playing in the longest running Mass Golf Championship in the state. The 35-year old is now one step closer to returning to that stage.
After defeating Elise Keane (Marshfield CC) in her morning round Wednesday, Johnson battled 2017 runner-up Angela Garvin (The Ranch GC) in the afternoon round, a match that was all square after nine but ultimately saw Johnson pull away in the second half, winning 2 & 1.
“To get back to the semis is huge,” said Johnson following her play Wednesday. “The last couple years I haven’t been so lucky to do it, but I’m playing pretty good golf so we’ll see how it goes.”
She fell down early in her match against Garvin, a University of Maryland commit, after a bogey on the first hole – the par-4 370 yard straightaway – but quickly brought the match back to even when she birdied the second hole.
The two swapped leads over the course of the next three holes, before the match went to all square after the 5th hole. It remained that way from the 6th hole through the 10th, which included a run that twice saw the two competitors card matching birdies on the same hole.
“We were even through nine, then we each made birdies on 10. She made a really good up and down,” said Johnson on her opponent’s ability to keep battling.
It was on the next hole where Johnson began to make her final push.
“On 11, Angela got into a little trouble. I hit a good drive and hit a pretty decent approach shot in,” said Johnson. “I thought it was a little closer from the fairway. She didn’t get back up and down. I was just trying to nestle it close, and it went in. I had about 106 coming in, so I hit gap wedge. It was a little thin. The winds were swirling, so it’s always tough to know exactly if you’re downwind or into. It was good.”
Johnson birdied the 11th to Garvin’s bogey to go 1 up, then on the 12th hole, Garvin double bogeyed to Johnson’s par to extend her lead to 2 up. On 13, Johnson enjoyed her biggest lead of the day.
“On 13, I finally hit the fairway,” recalled Johnson, something she said she had struggled with earlier in the round. “[Angela] ended up hitting hers in the hazard left, and I just hit a good wedge up to the green and two putted.”
Despite back-to-back bogeys by Johnson on the 14th and 15th holes that allowed Garvin to bring the match back within one hole, she made birdie on the 16th and 17th holes to finish off the victory.
Considering it was one of the first competitive rounds since last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship where she played nearly 36-holes of play in one day, Johnson said it’s great to be back into the position.
“The second day is always fun, trying to get through a couple matches. Angela is obviously a great player so I knew it was going to be a really good match going into it.”
Johnson will face Jamaica Plain’s Jacqueline Gonzalez in the semifinal match Thursday morning at George Wright Golf Course.
Ever since winning the President’s Cup during the 2013 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, Jamaica Plain’s Jacqueline Gonzalez has been working her way back up to the state’s top golf stage.
On Thursday, she’ll have a chance to make her hard work pay off. The Holy Cross Women’s Golf rising junior Gonzalez defeated Lunenburg’s Emily Nash, 3 & 1, in the quarterfinal round of the oldest Mass Golf Championship and will advance to tomorrow’s semifinal match.
“It’s awesome. I’ve never made it to the final day, so I’m just excited to play,” said Gonzalez, who had previously made it to the quarterfinal round, but had never advanced further.
On Wednesday, after defeating Sue Curtin in 18 holes in the morning round, Gonzalez trailed early in the match to Nash after Nash made birdie on the 1st hole. They both made par on the 2nd hole before Gonzalez brought the match to all square with a birdie on the par-5 3rd hole.
Nash regained the lead on the 4th hole, but Gonzalez birdied the 7th to bring the match back to all square again – a score that would remain intact until the 11th hole, when Nash made birdie to Gonzalez’s bogey.
Gonzalez, the reigning Mass Golf Father & Daughter Tournament champion, made a late push beginning on the 13th hole when her opponent bogeyed and never trailed again, going 1 up on the 14th hole and extending her lead to as many as 3 up by the conclusion of play.
“I sunk a really good putt on the par-3 14th hole and then just stuck a couple of wedges and was able to make a few birdies coming in, which is what really did it I think.”
Her birdie putt on the 14th hole pushed her lead to 1 up and after both she and Nash made par on the 15th hole, Tthe 20-year old Gonzalez recorded back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to close out the match.
The dream week continues for Claire Sheldon who won both of her matches to advance to the semifinals for the first time since she last won this event in 2012. Sheldon defeated another past winner – Pam Kuong – in the quarterfinals by a score of 3 up. Earlier in the day, she delivered a come-from-behind victory over high-school standout Gabrielle Shieh in the round of 16.
While excited to advance, the victory creates some welcome scheduling issues for the 2010 Harvard University graduate who is scheduled to get married this Saturday at her home club of The Country Club.
“It’s awesome,” said Sheldon. “The goal was to make it to Thursday. It makes for a complicated week for me as I am getting married on Saturday. But I think having there be an upside to winning and an upside to losing was really helpful. I just tried to play relaxed, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. It will be fun.”
A calm demeanor allowed Sheldon to weather through what was the closest match on Wednesday against Shieh, who on Tuesday ousted past champion Tracy Welch in the round of 32. During that round of 16 match against Shieh, Sheldon never led until the final hole of the match. After Shieh missed the 18th green with her approach left, Sheldon cozied up her birdie putt to inches to earn a conceded par and a 1-up victory.
“I still don’t know how I won that match,” said Sheldon. “I was down or even for most of it and I was just up at the right time. As soon as she hit it left, I said just put it anywhere on the green. Four is probably pretty good, and if you go to extra holes I like the first hole. It sets up well for me being a longer hitter. Then I hit a really good one. My distance control on putting … has been pretty good all week, so hopefully the green speed stays the same.”
Sheldon hoped to carry that positive momentum into her quarterfinal match against Kuong, who was coming off a 4 & 3 win in the round of 16 over defending champion Hannah Ghelfi. After going 1-down following a bogey on the par-4 3rd hole, Sheldon drew even with Kuong two holes later when she made a 38-foot downhill birdie putt.
Three holes later she converted on a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 8th hole to take her first lead. She would never trail from that point forward.
“It was huge, and that was the difference,” said Sheldon. “Two up it was like the two birdies. On five that was a crazy putt. It went up and then down, so I got a little lucky on that one. I think that I am reading them pretty well. It’s just a matter of continuing to hit it pretty well, and we’ll see what happens.”
Both players would match each other shot for shot through the next four holes. On the par 4 13th hole, Kuong sent her approach into the right rough and then watched as her chip rolled past the hole and off the green. Despite displaying an impeccable short game all match long, Kuong was unable to get up and down in this situation and was 2 down with five to go.
Sheldon refused to give Kuong any openings, and she eventually closed out the match on the downhill par 3 17th hole with a tee shot that found the green. Kuong missed the green short, and would have to eventually concede the hole and the match to Sheldon.
With 18 holes of stroke play and now three matches under her belt, Sheldon, who won this title in 2007 and again in 2012 but then did not compete again until last year when she advanced to the quarterfinals, realizes that her game must continue to get sharper heading into the final day.
“I need to straighten out the driver a little bit,” said Sheldon. “That is probably the thing that can help and hurt the most which is keeping the ball in play. Hopefully I can focus that in a little more. Yesterday I had a great day putting. Today I had moments of brilliance and a few tough putts. The pins were a little harder, and I read it wrong. I am going to look at the positive even though I missed a few short ones and focus on what I am doing and feel good about that.”
A positive outlook is something that comes easy for Sheldon this week. While most soon-to-be brides would be panicked about the pre-ceremony preparations, she is happy to look at the bright side of things.
“Playing is nice because it gives me a four-hour break from constantly checking the forecast to see what is going to happen on Saturday,” said Sheldon with a laugh.
Although many may not have recognized her name heading into this week, the entire local golf scene now knows the name of Krystal Knight, who has advanced to the semifinals and will now take on two-time champion Claire Sheldon.
“I don’t know why I have never played in this event earlier,” said Knight, who works at North Andover Country Club during the summer months. “I have always played in Challenge Cup events, and I am senior at Merrimack College. I had a really good fall and spring season there so it has jump started my summer.”
After cruising into the Championship Flight as a third seed, Knight has won all three matches by a score of 6 & 5, which means that she has not played past the 14th hole since Monday. On Tuesday, she knocked off MJ Wagner of Nashawtuc Country Club and then delivered a similar 6 & 5 result against Isabel Southard, a winner of this event in 2014 and 2015, in the round of 16 despite making double bogey on her very first hole
“Earlier this morning, I started off with a double, and I was I down so I get a little nervous, but luckily I brought myself back,” said Knight. “I think that just staying calm and taking the pressure off myself lets me hit those close wedge shots and not get so nervous and jittery around the greens.”
A fast start in her quarterfinal match against Megan Buck opened the door for another victory. Knight played her first four holes at 1-under par, made two birdies on the front and stuck her approach on the par 5 10th hole to inches for a conceded eagle putt. By that point, she was 6 up and needed just three more holes to close out the match and earn a spot in the semifinals.
“I started off good which was key,” said Knight. “Getting my drives in play, and getting close enough to the greens where I can hit my approach shot close and make birdie is key. I just need to give myself more opportunities to make birdie.”
While she may be a Mass Golf “rookie” on paper, Knight is playing like a veteran and has uncovered a key to her success come Thursday.
“I think that I have stopped trying to tweak my swing while I am playing competitively,” said Knight, who was named to the 2017-18 Northeast-10 All-Conference First Team. “I try to clear my head and not have too many swing thoughts and go shot by shot. I think that it has really helped me.”
Shannon Johnson made bogey on her very first hole on Wednesday morning and found herself quickly 1 down to Elise Keane. It was the first time that Johnson had fell behind in a match, but the status would not last long as Johnson would go on to play 2-under par golf through her next six holes to turn the 1-down deficit into a 3-up lead through seven holes. Keane made four straight pars beginning on the 8th hole and was able to cut into the lead. She was 2 down through 11 holes, but three straight bogies by Keane opened the door for Johnson who closed out the match on the 14th hole for the 5 & 4 victory.
It was the first match of the week that went to extra holes, but it took just one hole for Angela Garvin to defeat Anne Walsh with a five-foot par putt on the George Wright GC par-4 1st hole to claim a 19-holes victory and advance to the quarterfinals. It was a match that was a tale of two nines as Garvin had built up a 3-up lead through 10 holes on the back of six pars and one birdie made during that stretch. Walsh roared back during a four-hole stretch beginning on the 11th hole when Garvin struggled to make par. When Walsh made birdie on the par-3 13th hole, the match was all square. Walsh would win the very next hole with a bogey to claim her first lead of the match. Garvin quickly countered and the match would remain all square through 18 holes where both players had a chance for but missed par putts on the 18th green. On the 19th hole of the match, Garvin left her approach short but was able to chip to five feet. Although Walsh found the green with her approach from the right side of the fairway, her long putt from the back of the pitched green stopped short and she was unable to convert her par putt to extend the match.
In what was coined the “Battle of the Purple”, Sue Curtin and Jacqueline Gonzalez, a College of the Holy Cross graduate and current golf team member respectively, lived up to the match name with Gonzalez making a par putt on the 18th hole for a 1-up victory. During the early morning hours, Curtin won the match’s first hole and held a lead through the front nine where she played the first eight holes at 2-under par. Her approach on the par-4 6th hole hit the flagstick which led to a conceded birdie putt. She would make birdie on the very next hole as well. Although Curtin made bogey on the 9th hole, she regained a 2-up advantage with a birdie – her third of the match – on the par 4 11th hole. Three straight pars by Gonzalez on holes 12 through 14 allowed her to square the match. Both players would match each other with par on the 15th and 16th holes before Gonzalez was able to benefit from a double bogey by Curtin on the 17th hole to take what was her first lead of the match. On the 18th hole, Gonzalez left her approach short, but she was able to chip to five feet. Curtin, from just off the green, watched her 23-foot birdie attempt lip out. Gonzalez converted on her five-foot par putt to halve the hole and win the match.
Skylar Frankiewicz made bogey on her first two holes of the match and found herself 2-down to Emily Nash through four holes. Frankiewicz would make birdie on the 5th hole to draw within one, but Nash capped off a solid front nine by making six straight pars to play the side at even par. A birdie by Nash on the par-4 11th hole would give Nash a bigger lead which was further extended after a Frankiewicz double bogey on the 12th hole. Nash would eventually close out the match on the 15th hole with a birdie for a 4 & 3 victory.
In one of the closest matches from start to finish of the round of 16, Claire Sheldon was pushed to 18 holes by Gabrielle Shieh. Sheldon, who never led until the final hole of the match, cozied up her birdie putt on the 18th hole to inches to earn a conceded par and a 1-up victory. On the front nine, Shieh held a 1-up lead on three different occasions thanks to part to birdies made on the 2nd, 6th and 7th holes. Sheldon made six pars and one birdie (on the 7th hole) from holes 2 through 8 to keep pace with Shieh. A double bogey by Sheldon the 9th hole gave Shieh a 1-up lead at the turn. With neither player was able to make a birdie through the first five holes of that back nine, Sheldon took advantage of a bogey by Shieh on the 11th hole to draw even. The match would shift yet again on the 13th hole when Shieh won the hole with a par. Sheldon would equalize the match with a birdie on the par-5 15th hole. The match remained all square through 17 holes. Shieh’s approach to the 18th green landed left, and her chip rolled eight feet past the hole. Sheldon’s approach left her with a 32-foot birdie attempt from the back left of the green which she was able to leave just inches from the hole. Shieh was unable to convert her par putt which delivered Sheldon the 1-up win.
Pam Kuong made five straight pars to start the match and gain a 3-up advantage through five holes over the defending champion Hannah Ghelfi, who carded four bogies on her first six holes. Ghelfi was able to draw within one of Kuong by making three straight pars and then a birdie on the par 5 10th hole. Both competitors carded par on the 11th hole, but back-to-back double bogies by Ghelfi on the 12th and 13th holes allowed Kuong to build a 3-up lead that she would maintain until she closed out the match with a par on the par-5 15th hole. During that match, Kuong made 14 pars and one double bogey.
Despite making a double bogey on her very first hole, Krystal Knight carded par on her next three holes which allowed her to keep pace with Isabel Southard. Knight gained her first lead of the match with a bogey win on the 5th hole. She would play her next six holes at 2-under par with birdies made on the 7th and 10th holes to enjoy a 4-up lead. Southard halved the 11th hole, but she would then make bogey on the 12th and 13th holes to give Knight the 6 & 5 victory.
Hannah Blonder walked off the 1st green after making birdie with a 1-up lead over Megan Buck, but that would prove to be the only advantage she would hold as Buck roared back to claim victory. Buck played the front nine two shots better than Blonder to hold a 2-up lead at the turn. However, five straight bogies by Blonder to start the back nine proved costly. Buck increased her lead to 3 up with a par on the 10th hole and then extended her lead to 4 up with a birdie – her second of the match – on the 11th hole. The match would remain that way until Buck secured the win with a matching par on the 15th hole.
Quotable: Defending champion Hannah Ghelfi on the challenge of competing in this event: “Just looking at the tee sheets every day you see a lot of big names and so many past champions. It is intimidating for sure, but it’s also a tight knit group the ones who play in these events. That makes it fun, but it’s also hard because they are your friends. Match play is definitely mentally tough in this setting.”
President’s Cup Flight: The round of 16 and quarterfinal matches were held on Wednesday on the road to crown a 2018 winner of the President’s Cup Flight, which features those competitors who did not finish in the top 32 following Monday’s stroke-play portion of the event. Reigning Champion Elizabeth Corcoran (Oyster Harbors), who defeated Abigail Taney (Meadow at Peabody) on Tuesday in the round of 32, had her repeat title hopes dashed when she was knocked out in the round of 16 by Laura Jean Mann (Thorny Lea GC) by a score of 6 & 5.
Linda Goulet (Presidents GC) won two matches – including a round of 16 victory over top-seeded Rachel Bechard (Ludlow CC) – before being defeated by semifinal-bound Beatriz Santin (Wollaston GC).
Danielle Lee (International), a President’s Cup Flight quarterfinalist in 2017, won two matches on Wednesday including a 2 & 1 quarterfinal victory against Temple Mitchell (Whaling City GC).
The first semifinal match featuring Beatriz Santin and Danielle Lee will begin at 8:00 a.m., and will be followed by the second semifinal match which will see Kerry Dolan (Crumpin-Fox Club) face off against Laura Jean Mann (Thorny Lea GC). Mann claimed the final semifinal spot by winning on the first playoff hole against Melissa Hem (Dedham C&PC). It was the only quarterfinal match of the day to go beyond the 18th hole.
Past Champ In the House: While play was winding down at George Wright Golf Course on Wednesday, a former Mass Golf Champion had made his way to Hyde Park to take in some of the action and then sneak in a practice session as evening arrived. Ian Thimble, winner of the 2014 Massachusetts Open Championship, grew up down the street from George Wright GC and still calls the course his home even while he currently pursues his professional golf career. Thimble was also on hand earlier this month to watch the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, which was also held in Hyde Park.
Average Semifinalist Age: This year’s Championship Flight will feature four competitors with an average age of 26 and includes two mid-amateur competitors (Shannon Johnson – 35; Claire Sheldon – 30) and two collegiate players (Krystal Knight – 21; Jacqueline Gonzalez – 20).
For complete coverage of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, visit MassGolf.org or follow Mass Golf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @PlayMassGolf and by using the hashtag, #MassWomensAm.