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HYDE PARK, Massachusetts – Mission Accomplished. Competing in her first Massachusetts Women’s Amateur final match since her runner up finish in 2015, Norton’s Shannon Johnson made birdie on the first hole of the final match and never looked back, defeating two-time champion Claire Sheldon, 3 & 2, at George Wright Golf Club Thursday afternoon.
This victory marked the first career win for the 35-year old Johnson in what is Mass Golf’s longest running championship, and adds to a season that already includes wins in both the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy and the New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
“I was just trying to keep my head down, just keep plugging away one good swing at a time and I was lucky it turned out in my favor,” said Johnson, a 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinalist following her victory over Sheldon, who won titles in this event in both 2007 and 2012. “This is the one that has kind of eluded me. So, going in after the Ouimet, this is what I was solely focused on, not that we had a lot of turn around. I played really well on the last couple holes and that gave me some good momentum going into this and some good confidence boosters just mentally.”
Following her morning victory over Jamaica Plain’s Jacqueline Gonzalez, a rising junior on the Holy Cross Women’s Golf team, Johnson sank a birdie putt from four-feet out to jump out to the early lead.
“It is always great birdying the first hole,” said Johnson on her start. “You know that hole, the last 2 times I played I made bogey. It was nice to get off to a good start. I really had another look on 2, another look on 3, for me just getting the ball to the hole, they were just not getting in there, just my pace was off all day. It was good, just fairways and greens.”
After carding matching scores on both the second and third holes, Sheldon brought the match back to all square after she got onto the green in two and then two-putted on the 4th hole, while Johnson had trouble finding the green, ultimately missing a putt from five feet just left that would have saved par.
Starting on the sixth hole, however, Johnson, who plays out of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, shot par-par-birdie over the next three holes and quickly regained the lead, extending it to as many as 3 up through seven holes.
“My goal was to hit fairways and greens, eventually that is going to wear down your opponent. The second round, it is so hot out here you are going to get fatigued, and I was just trying to hydrate and keep going,” said Johnson on her stretch that helped her build a short lead.
The score would remain deadlocked as the competitors, ranked one and two respectively in the Championship match bracket , tallied par on each of the next four holes.
“The driver was a little bit left and a little bit right, and I took myself out of play a few times,” said Sheldon, who earlier in the day defeated Krystal Knight, a rising senior at Merrimack College, in the semifinals. “It just kind of did not add up today. It was not that bad, but it was not good enough for sure. Shannon did not make mistakes, I had to be able play well to beat her. It was a great victory for her.”
Johnson extended her lead to as much as 4 up when she pocketed her third birdie of the day after birdying the par-4 12th hole, which was playing at over 400 yards Thursday. Thanks in part to a 25-foot birdie putt secured on the 12th hole – a straightaway par-4 with a large drop off equidistant between the tee and the green, Johnson was able to increase her lead to its largest of the day.
“I kind of ran out of time,” said Sheldon. “I was really kicking myself with the bogies I made with the bogies late on the front 9, just to get down. I dug myself a hole that I could not get out of. I did not make any putts which didn’t help. Shannon played great, and I had to make birdies to beat her. So without the putts going in it wasn’t going to happen today. But it was fun.”
Johnson added, “I hit the ball probably the best I have all week. It was just good, really good tempo all day. Maybe the only one was maybe on 14, I just hit it a little chunky. But luckily I was able to get a good putt off the green. Overall just hit it in the fairway, hit in the green and try to make some putts, that is kind of all I was doing.”
Despite a bogey by Johnson on the 15th hole that cut the deficit to 3 down, the two made matching pars on each of the remaining three holes. Shannon Johnson sank her putt on the par-4 16th hole to secure the win.
In President’s Cup Flight action, Kerry Dolan (Crumpin-Fox Club) needed 19 holes to defeat Danielle Lee (International). Dolan trailed Lee, who last year advanced to the quarterfinals, through the entire front nine. In fact, Dolan made bogey on three of her first four holes and was 2 down through four holes. She would battle back by making four straight pars to draw even through eight holes. A par by Lee on the 9th hole gave her a 1-up lead, but Dolan responded quickly by carding birdie on the par 4 11th hole. Dolan would extend her lead to 2 up on two different occasions – after the 12th and 14th holes – but each time Lee had an answer. In fact, Lee made a key par on the 17th hole when she was one down to head to the 18th tee all square. Both competitors match each other shot for shot on the 18th hole, before Dolan would seal her victory on that first extra hole.
It has been a banner year for Dolan’s household. Earlier this summer, Dolan’s wife, Meg Watson, captured the Tournament Division title at the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy.
The President’s Flight featured those competitors who finished outside the top 32 following Monday’s stroke-play round. Those competitors were seeded one through 32 and competed in match play beginning on Tuesday morning.
Click on the @PlayMassGolf Twitter Thread for the Hole by Hole Descriptions of the Championship match for the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship
The final #MassWomensAm match is underway. It's Shannon Johnson vs. Claire Sheldon for all the marbles!
Follow along with live scoring!
— #MassGolf (@PlayMassGolf) August 2, 2018
Norton’s Shannon Johnson advanced to her first Championship match since 2015 after defeating Jacqueline Gonzalez, 5 & 3, in the semifinal round of the 2018 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship at George Wright Golf Course Thursday morning.
“It’s super exciting,” said Johnson, who will be making her first trip to the championship match in three years. “I played a steady round of golf this morning. Nothing too flashy. I think Jackie started to get a little tired with a couple wayward shots that kind of opened the door at the end.”
She added, “I was just hitting the fairways, hitting the greens. It was a pretty boring round of golf, but I got it done.”
After the two remained all square through the first five holes, Johnson took the first lead of the match on the sixth hole, when she made par to Gonzalez’s bogey. They carded matching scores on each of the next three holes. Gonzalez bogeyed the par-4 11th hole and had back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes. Johnson’s birdie on the 15th closed out the match.
Despite not advancing to the championship match, Gonzalez said she was happy with the way she performed this week. It was furthest she had made it in the annual tournament dating back to 2013, when she won the President’s Cup.
“I’m proud of how I played the first few rounds and making it to today,” said Gonzalez, a rising junior at the College of the Holy Cross. “Shannon is a very tough competitor so it was a good match and I held it together for a little while.”
She added, “I learned that I have it in me to play well and to win. I think I hit some shots that I know I can hit, but haven’t actually done in competition, so I think my game has come a long way.”
In the second semifinal match Thursday morning, Cambridge’s Claire Sheldon defeated tournament newcomer, Krystal Knight, 3 & 2, setting up the opportunity for Sheldon to pick up her third overall title and her first since 2012.
“It’s awesome,” said Sheldon following her morning round. “I kind of can’t believe I’m here and that this is happening. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like I’m playing golf and somehow I’m here Thursday afternoon.”
After shooting matching scores on the first two holes Thursday, Sheldon fell into an early deficit due in part to a streak of three straight bogeys from holes three to five. Sheldon made par on the par-4 sixth hole to Knight’s bogey and birdied the seventh hole to bring the match back to all square.
A double by Knight on the 11th hole and bogey on 12 gave the lead back to Sheldon. She birdied the par-5 15th hole to build her largest lead of the day at 3-up and parred the 16th hole to win, 3&2.
“The birdie on 15 was huge,” said Sheldon following her victory. “We both left the door open on a couple holes. Krystal played really well. I knew that it was going to take playing well to come out on top. I was lucky. Not quite sure how I made it through this one, but I’m thrilled to moving on.”
For Knight, a rising senior at Merrimack College playing in her first Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, this week’s championship was another opportunity to develop her game.
“It was a good experience,” said Knight. “I never get to play match play, so it’s good to switch it up.”
She added, “All three days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – I was hitting a lot of greens and two-putting or one putting. Today, I didn’t hit barely any greens so I think was my downfall. It was a little up and down for a while, but Claire played very good. She deserves it.”
City of Thanks: Immediately following the conclusion of play, the champions, finalists, spectators and officials enjoyed a special awards ceremony on the George Wright Golf Course patio. On hand to congratulate the competitors were top City of Boston officials including Chris Cook, Commissioner of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department, and Dennis Roache, Director of Administration for the Boston Parks & Recreation Department, as well as Boston City Councilor Timothy McCarthy. Scott Allen and Len Curtin, Head Golf Professional and Golf Course Superintendent, respectively, at George Wright Golf Course were also on hand Thursday as they were all week.
Celebration Time: Once the awards celebration concluded, the patio was filled with music as the City of Boston sponsored a free acoustic music show featuring Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ava Suppelsa (@AvaSuppelsa). Special thanks to The Wright Grill and the Coleman family for providing exceptional food and beverage and service to competitors and spectators.
Future Site: Competitors can now look forward to the 2019 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, which will be held on August 12-15, 2019 at Weston Golf Club. It will mark the seventh time in event history that Weston Golf Club has hosted this event. The club had previously opened its doors to the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship in 1925, 1928, 1939, 1948, 1975, and 2011.
Mid-Amateur Debut: With the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship not scheduled until September 22-27, Shannon Johnson has a break in her schedule and will compete in a qualifier for the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship being held at Sandwich Hollows GC in Sandwich on August 27. She is only the second female to compete in a non-Women’s Championship this season. Earlier this season, Abigail Taney (Meadow at Peabody), who advanced to the round of 32 in the President’s Flight bracket, failed to qualify for the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship.
Keyes Up Next: The next opportunity for top female amateur competitors to compete on the Bay State stage will be on September 4-5 at Cohasset Golf Club when Mass Golf will host the Grace Keyes Cup. Open to all Class A competitors (i.e. golfers who have a Handicap Index not exceeding 18.0), registration can be done online at MassGolf.org.