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HINGHAM, Massachusetts – Pam Kuong (Charles River Country Club) used pinpoint accuracy to find fairways and greens as she shot a 1-under-par 71 to win the Massachusetts Women’s Senior Amateur Championship for the second year in a row.
Kuong, the 2019 Mass Golf Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year, becomes the first person to repeat as champion since Karen Richardson did so in 2006-07.
“It’s hard to win one-day tournaments because people can get really hot,” Kuong said. “Clearly playing last week at Essex (County Club) and having a lot of reps, making a lot of putts gave me a lot of confidence. This is a tricky golf course, but as long as I stayed away from big numbers, I knew I’d be fine.”
The Women’s Senior Amateur championship was originally contested in 1946 and then known as the “Senior Bowl”. From 1980-2018, the minimum age of entry was 55, but last year it was brought back down to 50.
This year’s Women’s Championship format also updated to include just two divisions. Division 1 featured players with Handicap Indexes of 18.0 or lower, which was formerly contested for Class A & B Handicaps. Division 2 (formerly Classes C, D & E) includes Handicap Indexes of 18.1 to 36.0. The overall winners (gross) in each division took home the Senior Bowl, the Philbrick Trophy went to the low net score in each division, and the Gerry Baker Legends Trophy went to the low gross and low net for players 70 years and older.
Pam Kuong wasn’t originally scheduled to play in the Massachusetts Women’s Senior Amateur this year. Kuong, 59, was supposed to be competing in the British Women’s Senior Amateur this week, which was canceled this year due to COVID-19.
But coming off her runner-up finish last week in President’s Cup Flight of the 117th Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship at Essex County Club, Kuong was able to play the Women’s Senior Amateur Champion and earn her first Women’s Championship title of the year.
“It’s nice to have a tournament since that other tournament was canceled,” Kuong said. “Anytime you can win, it’s always a nice accomplishment, plus the field is strong. There are a lot of good players here.”
Kuong shot 1-under on the back nine with a birdie on the 15th, but she felt some pressure from playing partner Melissa Hem (Dedham C & PC), who coincidentally was the President’s Cup finalist last year. Hem made birdies on holes 13, 14 and 15 and made the turn at 3-under.
“I was short on a lot of my putts early on,” Kuong said. “And then when (Hem) made three straight birdies, I’m like ‘wow, I got to start getting more aggressive, but only on the putts.'”
Kuong said once she figured out the green speed differential from Essex to South Shore, she was more dialed in. She helped lock up the win on the 7th hole (16th overall), as she punched a shot uphill from the left fairway and got it to stay behind the pin, setting up roughly a 6-foot birdie putt, which she made. She also set up several other short putts and never had to three-putt the entire round.
“I put in a new putter, a Scotty Cameron, about five weeks ago,” Kuong said. “And so I finally feel like I’m getting the putter right. It allows my hands to fall more naturally, and I can square the putts better.”
Christine Gagner (Bedrock GC), the 2016 champion, finished runner-up at 3-over. Gagner made birdie four times, twice on the front and back nine.
Hem, meanwhile, four-putted the 1st hole (10th overall) and carded a 4-over 76 to finish third overall.
Denise Rondeau (LPGA Amateurs Boston) turned five birdies into five net eagles to take home the Div. 1 net title with net score of 6-under 66. After shooting 8-over on the front nine, Rondeau came in with a 1-over 37 on the back, carding gross birdies on holes 13, 15, 16 and 18, all net eagles.
Gagner and Rebecca Putnam (The Ridge Club) finished one stroke back with a net score of 5-under.
Donna Dileso (Meadow at Peabody), made it two legends titles this year as she started with a birdie en route to an 85 to win the Gerry Baker Legends Trophy, open to players 70 and older. Dileso, who just turned 70 this March, also won the Sydney Arnold Legend Trophy at this year’s New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
Lynne Brilliant (Presidents GC) finished three strokes behind Dileso but earned the Legends net title with an even-par 72.
When Jennifer O’Connor (Northern Spy GC) played South Shore Country Club with her husband a few weeks ago she shot a 98, and set a goal of just breaking that score in her debut at Monday’s Women’s Senior Amateur.
She accomplished much more than that. When she sank her final putt on the 18th green, she knew she’d put together a special round. Then she saw her actual score for the first time.
“To find that it was an 86 I just about fainted,” O’Connor said.
Not only did O’Connor reach the milestone of breaking 90 for the first time, she swept the gross and net titles in the Division. O’Connor made birdie on the ninth hole and despite a double bogey on the 10th and triple bogey on the 12th, she was able to collect herself and finish with a par on four of the last five holes to finish 11 strokes ahead of the rest of the division.
“After 12, I thought, ‘okay, step back and relax, take a moment and calm down a little bit,’ so that really helped,'” O’Connor said.
O’Connor attributes her improved scores to implementing mental exercises.
“I had a bad experience in the sand earlier this summer, so I spent a lot of time working on that, and it gave me some confidence,” O’Connor said. “And then I read reread a book called ‘Think Like A Champion’, which is this mental game of sports. That mental side is so important in golf so I spent a lot of time thinking about being positive and staying in the moment and being in the flow of the game and I’m just focused.”
Donna Mcarthur (Juniper Hill GC) was runner-up with a 97, carding a pair of pars on the back nine.
Donna Clark, playing on her home course, took home the Legends title with a 98, sinking a pair of pars to edge Jane Barrett (Groton CC) by three strokes.
Barrett, 83, the oldest player in the field, took home the Legends net title at 3-over.
“I had a wonderful group of ladies I played with, and we had a wonderful time,” said Barrett, who made her third appearance in the Championship Proper. “It’s a fun golf course. I enjoyed it very much. We hope to play it again.”
Happy Birthday: Tewksbury’s Maureen Sullivan started celebrated her 64th birthday at the golf course Monday. Sullivan, a member at Renaissance where the Championship was held last year, shot a 90 and shot bogey or better on the entire back nine.
Past champs: Monday’s field featured the past four champions in the field: Pam Kuong (2019), Natalie Galligan (2018), Barb Hecimovich (2017), Christine Gagner (2016). Galligan (Pocasset GC) made par on the first eight holes en route to a 4-over 77, and Hecimovich (Beverly G&TC) shot an 83. Mary Gale (Bedrock GC), who won it in 2010 and 2012, shot an 81.
The Record: Speaking of past champions, Nancy Black has won the most Women’s Senior Amateur titles of all time Her 13 wins spanned from 1971 to 1995.
South Shore Country Club was founded in 1922 and was built on 140 acres of farmland located across the street from West Hingham train depot.
The club started as a nine-hole course, designed by noted golf course architect Wayne Stiles and expanded to 18 holes in 1925. In 1962, a gallery of roughly 3,000 came to South Shore Country Club to watch Gary Player and Arnold Palmer play an exhibition in the third of their series of their 1962 World Tour matches.
South Shore continued to be operated as a private golf club until 1988 when it was purchased by the Town of Hingham and opened for public play. Today, in addition to golf, the club offers tennis courts, a bowling alley, a swimming pool and several dining and function rooms.