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BROCKTON, Massachusetts – Playing on the same course that has been home to both a U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and a U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion in the past two years, Thorny Lea Golf Club welcomed 28 competitors with championship aspirations of their own to the Brockton club, where two teams of two took the first step in making those aspirations a reality.
At Wednesday’s U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship sectional qualifier, the team of Shannon Johnson and Megan Buck combined to card a 4-under 66 at the course where they are both members to net medalist honors and a spot to the 2019 Championship Proper, being held at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, from April 27 to May 1, 2019.
They will be joined by the duo of high school juniors Gabrielle Shieh, of Carlisle, and Anne Walsh, of Jamaica Plain, who together fired a 3-under par 67 in the 18-hole qualifier to garner the second of two qualifying spots.
For Johnson and Buck, who will be making their second straight appearance in the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship after competing in the stroke play portion of the national championship earlier this season at El Caballero Country Club, the opportunity to return is an opportunity at redemption after failing to make match play.
“We’re obviously excited to be heading back to a USGA Championship,” said Johnson, who just two weeks ago was crowned the 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion. “In the Women’s Four-Ball Championship that we played in this year, we obviously didn’t play as well as we would have liked and I think that left a little sour taste in our mouths, so being able to qualify again is great.”
With both competitors fresh off match play appearances in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship in St. Louis, the pair continued to show why they are two of the top golfers in the Bay State when they played even par golf through each of the first seven holes before Johnson tallied birdies on both the par-5 8th hole and par-3 9th hole at Thorny Lea GC on Wednesday.
“I didn’t start out so well, and Megan played pretty solid golf on pretty much the whole front nine,” said Johnson following the completion of the round. “I finally was able to birdie eight and nine on my own. The course was playing very tough.”
Johnson knocked in an eight-foot birdie on the eighth hole for the team’s first birdie and topped that with a 20-foot birdie putt that she sunk on the ninth hole to move to 2-under at the turn.
“I think on the front nine, we were making fairly easy pars, but we just weren’t getting birdies and we were just telling each other we both needed to stay patient,” added Buck.
On the back nine, the two exchanged matching pars on each of the first five holes before Buck capitalized on two birdie opportunities to continue their ascension up the leaderboard.
Buck’s birdie putt on the par-4 15th hole was nearly 12 feet in length, while the 16th hole – also a par-4 – saw a five-footer that Buck was able to sink to bring the squad to 4-under on the day.
They made par on the final two holes to finish at 4-under 66 for the day.
For the team of Shieh and Walsh, two Massachusetts junior golfers, Wednesday’s U.S. Women’s Four-Ball qualifier was an opportunity to advance to their first Championship Proper together after finishing as first alternates one year ago.
“It means a lot to advance to the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball,” said Walsh, who recently switched schools from Boston Latin, where she was twice a runner-up in the MIAA Girl’s Championship, to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. “I am really happy that we were able to play together because I was definitely worried when I made that last-minute decision to go to school in Florida that we wouldn’t be able to play together.”
Shieh, a junior at Concord Carlisle High School, added, “I’m just glad, whether or not we qualified, that I was able to play with Anne before she goes down to Florida for the entire winter.
The duo, who first met competing together in a U.S. Kids Cup event when they were eight years old, saw Walsh tally a birdie on the first hole to quickly get under par before adding a second on the par-4 sixth hole, an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole and a fourth birdie on the 12th hole.
“I think my putting was really strong today, which is something I’ve been working on,” said Walsh, who advanced to the Round of 16 at this year’s Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship and finished runner-up at the Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship. “Then the eagle was fun because I landed it really far from the green actually, but it kicked off the downslope and rolled up, where I was able to hit a good putt.”
Shieh finished the scoring for the team with a birdie on the par-4 15th hole that pushed them to 3-under for the day after making the turn at 2-under.
With a lucky bounce off a tree on the 15th hole, Shieh’s goal was to simply advance the ball and make a bogey, but with the use of her 3-wood, she pushed it to the right of the green and was able to chip in for the birdie.
In addition to the teams of Johnson and Buck and Walsh and Shieh advancing to the next year’s U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship Wednesday, the team of Rebecca Skoler, of Needham, and Sophie Simon, of Potomac, MD., earned first alternate accolades after firing a 1-under 69 while Boston University teammates Abby Parsons and Zhangcheng Guo won a sudden-death to earn second alternate status.
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Mass Golf will provide coverage for its competitors playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship being contested from April 27-May 1, 2019. Visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf and #USWFourBall.