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HINGHAM, Massachusetts – The heavy morning rain didn’t stop play at Boston Golf Club in Hingham on Monday. Despite the conditions, play went on with three spots on the line at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship being played next month at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, from August 2-8.
Hanako Kawasaki (Vietnam), a rising senior for the Boston University women’s golf team, earned split medalist honors shooting an even-par 71. Bridget Ma (Windmere, FL) also shot 71, while Tracy Lee (Republic of Korea), of the University of Wisconsin, grabbed the last spot in the Championship Proper, shooting 1-over 72.
Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) finished one stroke off the cutline at 2-over 73 and took the first alternate spot. Despite starting with a double-bogey, Johnson made birdie on the fourth and made par on her final 13 holes.
Coming into Monday’s round, Hanako Kawasaki said she wasn’t feeling prepared. She hadn’t been able to get in a practice round, and all she had was notes from one of her teammates. Despite that, she fired an even-par score and a guaranteed spot next month in New York for the Women’s Amateur.
“I was kind of confused with tee shots, but I was just so confident,” Kawasaki said. “I was just bombing all my drives down the middle and it all worked out.. The fairways aren’t too tight, but if you hit it too far water comes into play. I didn’t really know there was water, so I just confidently hit it down the middle which would give a wedge in, or a short club, which is obviously easier to pin. I had a really nice ball-striking day.”
Kawasaki had four birdies during the round and played consistently, helping her move to the top of the leaderboard. Playing at Boston University (BU) under Coach Bruce Chalas, success has come to the Vietnam native with frequency during her collegiate years.
In 2019, she was named the Patriot League Golfer of the Year and Rookie of the Year, as well as being named a member of the All-Patriot League First Team. More recently in 2021, she was again named to the All-Patriot League First Team and also earned the honors of Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Academic All-Patriot League.
Monday was the first event with tournament chances at stake that Kawasaki has played in America that wasn’t for BU. Boston has been the only place she’s known in the country and her first time stepping foot into the U.S. was to move into BU as a freshman.
“It’s all thanks to Coach Bruce,” Kawasaki said. “He just found me from Vietnam. BU is an amazing school academically and athletically, so it was a perfect fit for me. He was so kind to recruit me and since I’ve been to BU my golf has improved tremendously to another level.”
A native of Ho Chi Minh City, Kawasaki started playing golf at the age of 12 because it was a popular family activity By the time the round finished Monday, it was around 4 a.m. back home in Vietnam. Her parents will have a nice surprise in the morning when they wake up to the news that their daughter is heading to a USGA Championship.
“It wasn’t really in my goal to win,” Kawasaki said. “My goal was to shoot a respectable number, but I didn’t think that I had it in me to pull it off. I’m really, really happy.”
Bridget Ma earned a split of medalist honors with Kawasaki on Monday. Ma had four birdies, including two late on the 15th and 16th holes to move into a tie for the top spot. Finishing in solo second place and grabbing the last spot above the cut line was Tracy Lee. Lee, who just finished her senior year with the Wisconsin Badgers women’s golf team, had four birdies during her round.
QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Hanako Kawasaki (Vietnam); 71
Bridget Ma (Windmere, FL); 71
Tracy Lee (Republic of Korea); 72
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Shannon Johnson (North Easton, MA); 73 — 1st Alternate
Alexis Florio* (Cranston, RI); 74 — 2nd Alternate
*Won in a playoff
IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is a preparatory boarding school that is home to about 1,300 students. The school is most well regarded for attracting athletes and being a football, basketball and baseball powerhouse. A number of well-known names across the sports came out of IMG.
In addition to those sports, the school also offers state-of-the-art training for golfers. Nelly Korda, arguably the best female golfer in the world today, trained at IMG in her younger years. In 2019-2020, a Massachusetts golfer joined the ranks of those who trained at IMG.
Kaitlynn Washburn (Scituate, MA) spent a postgrad year at IMG following an extremely successful four-year run at Scituate High School. While at Scituate, Washburn was a three-time Patriot Ledger Athlete of the Year for girl’s golf, two-time team MVP and All-Star, a member of the Boston Herald All-Decade Girls Golf team, and a Massachusetts Girls High School Sectional Champion.
Following that run, Washburn elected to spend a year at IMG with an eye towards playing Division I golf for a school in the south. While touring academies, Washburn met PGA Advanced Fellow Professional and former tournament player Kevin Craggs. The two hit it off and had been working together as Washburn looked at post-grad options.
During her search, Craggs was named the Director of Golf at IMG Academy and after that, her decision on where to go was an easy one.
“It’s so nice,” Washburn said of IMG. “Everybody there is trying to get better at their sports, so you’re surrounded by that everywhere. They have all the best facilities. For me, you go out and play and you have coaches on the course to help you and then also just clean up short game. The facilities and everything are amazing there. It’s so nice.”
At IMG, golfers get customized technical instruction, course management training and players are put on performance programs to increase core power, flexibility and focus. In addition to their 18-hole course, the school has state-of-the-art training facilities for students to take advantage of and work with coaches.
“You kind of get what college is going to be like,” Washburn said. “You wake up and go to workouts, then you go to practice, then you have school in the afternoon. They have anything and everything that you need: Nutrition coaches, mental coaches, all that kind of stuff is there for if you need it.”
The decision paid off as Washburn ended up playing golf at Division I University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Though she did not make the cut on Monday for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Washburn has a bright future as a collegiate athlete.
This year, the U.S. Women’s Amateur is being held at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York from August 2-8. First played in 1895, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is the beginning of competitive golf for women in the United States.
The first Championship Proper included a field of just 13 golfers. Mrs. Charles S. Brown shot the low mark at Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead and was named the first-ever United States Champion for lady golfers.
That event was held as a stroke-play format, but the year after in 1896 the event switched to match-play and has remained ever since. JoAnne Gunderson Carner holds the women’s record of eight USGA Championship victories, a mark only bested by Bob Jones and Tiger Woods, who have each won nine on the men’s side.
In 2020, Shannon Johnson was the lone player from Massachusetts in the field for the event. Johnson got in via an exemption after she qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Johnson shot an 81 and 80 in her stroke-play rounds and did not make the cut into match-play.
The inception of the Boston Golf Club began recently in 1998. John Mincek was the original craftsman behind the course. His vision for the golf course was a minimalist design where the course naturally fits in with the land that it is designed on.
Rob Ketterson, a partner of John, wanted to ensure that Boston Golf Club would maintain attributes similar to the elite clubs in Great Britain and Ireland. Between Mineck’s vision and Ketterson’s ideals, the concept for Boston Golf Club was a place where high-level golf could be played while maintaining the original ideals of the sport from the time it was first created.
Gil Hanse was the architect tasked with actually putting together the course in Hingham. Hanse’s design of BGC was one of the earlier courses he did in what has become a notable career in the industry. In 2016, Hanse and his business partner Jim Wagner were selected to design the Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course.
The Boston Golf Course logo, a red and white striped flag, pays homage to some of the history in Boston. The Sons of Liberty, as they coined themselves, were a group of people in Boston who organized events such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
Those events were what led towards a movement for independence and ultimately, the American Revolution. In the 1700s, when the “true born” Sons of Liberty wanted to gather together, they flew a flag from the Liberty Tree near Boston Common.
That flag was the very same red and white flag that now stands as the logo for Boston Golf Club and is considered by historians to be the oldest surviving red-and-white stripe design that eventually inspired the concept of the American flag.
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