- Golfer Benefits
WORCESTER, Massachusetts – The nicest day of the year so far will forever be a day to remember for Ami Gianchandani, a rising senior at Yale University.
With one qualifying spot into the U.S. Women’s Open at stake on a 70-degree and sunny day at Worcester Country Club, the Ivy Leaguer rose above the field of 32 in the 36-hole qualifier to punch her ticket to the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf in North Carolina.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Gianchandani, who birdied her final two holes to earn medalist honors. “I’m so thrilled to finally be going. I’ve been playing qualifiers like this since 12-13 and hoping every year I get better, and this year’s it’s finally happening.”
Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) a 17-year-old teenager from Westford, competed valiantly and held the lead for much of the afternoon round. In a playoff for the two alternate spots, she outlasted another Yale Bulldog, Kaitlyn Lee (Scarsdale, NY), to earn the first alternate spot.
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Worcester Country Club, which hosted the 1960 U.S. Women’s Open, was in pristine condition for the competitors who came from 10 different states and five countries abroad. And with the warm weather added in, it provided a marvelous venue for this qualifying event.
“Our superintendent Adam Moore and his team deserve all the credit for what they did to get this place ready,” said Andy Lane, the head golf professional at Worcester Country Club. “I think we’re ahead of the curve compared to some of our our neighboring clubs.
“We wanted the participants to really love their experience here and make it as memorable as it can be,” Lane added. “For our longtime members and all the way down to our youth golfers, everybody came out here to support the event, and it’s just exciting to host this.”
Gianchandani has played enough 36-hole days at Yale to know how to keep her eyes on the prize even when things might not be going well. After shooting 1-over 71 on the first 18, Gianchandani got herself to 1-under with just five holes to play. However, a double-bogey on the par-3, 4th hole, followed by a bogey on the par-3 6th provided her first tough stretch of the day.
But there was plenty of fight in the bulldog, as she bounced back with a huge 40-footer for birdie on the par-4 7th to move to 1-over. And she then solidified it with another birdie on the par-3 8th, her final hole of the day.
“I knew it was in me to do it, I just needed to execute,” said Gianchandani, the reigning New Jersey Women’s Amateur champion. “You know, it’s easy to get sloppy towards the end of a round, but I really wanted to stay focused until the end.”
And even when she clinched medalist honors, she caddied all 5 playoff holes for her teammate Lee. “It means everything,” Lee said. “My teammates are so great and I love every one of them. I’m so proud of Ami for qualifying.”
Simply put, Molly Smith loves tournament play. Despite falling short of the the guaranteed spot in the U.S. Women’s Open, Smith had another solid performance and was right in contention until the end.
Leading into this tournament, she won the Mass Mixed Four-Ball Championship for the Stone Cup with her father Phil on Monday; she played 27 holes on Tuesday; played 18 in Wednesday’s Mass Open Qualifier, where she came few strokes shy of qualifying; and then Thursday’s 41 total holes at Worcester.
“I’m just the big tournament person,” Smith said after the playoff for the alternate spot. “It’s definitely been fun to have a lot of starts this week and to have a lot of opportunities to play some really good competitors.”
As usual, Smith showcased her distance off the tee throughout the day, including an eagle on the par-5 5th, that got her to even par in the opening 18 holes. With 180 yards into the green, she hit 5 iron to the front and then made a 25-footer.
On the final 18 holes, Smith moved to 1-under overall with a birdie on the 9th, but she couldn’t find any birdies after that. Costly bogeys on holes 15 and 18 put her back to 2-over, and opened the door for Gianchandani to make a rally.
However, she adjusted for the playoff, which was a continuous loop of the par-4 18th. Smith decided to go 3-wood off the tee, and she found the green in regulation each time. However, Lee was able to match her the first four rounds. On the fifth, Lee missed the fairway and her approach found the front bunker.
From the bottom of the lip separating the two-tiered green, Smith hit a perfect stroke down toward the hole. She dropped into a squat as it approached the cup, and she pumped her first as it dropped down.
“That pin’s really tough there to get at because it slips way from you,” Smith said of the 18th. “I think that’s also why our playoff went five holes because it’s really tough. That’s a tricky green to read. But now I feel like I know that green like the back of my hand because I played it seven times.”
A total of 12 Mass Golf amateurs were in the field Thursday. Rounding out the top of the leaderboard was Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club), who shot 1-over 71 over the first 18 and finished the day 5-over to finish T4.
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QUALIFIER (Names; Cities)
Ami Gianchandani (Watchung, NJ); (E) 140
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Molly Smith (Westford, Mass.); (+2) 142
Kaitlyn Lee (Scarsdale, NY); (+2) 142
*Smith won playoff in 5-holes
This U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier was not only played by women, but there was female presence in preparing the course for 36-hole of competition Thursday.
Jade Moynihan enjoys spending hours upon hours outdoors. Her father works in landscaping, but she decided to take an opening at Worcester and learn how to use different equipment.
Even as a new hire, Moynihan said she’s been trained well and given a variety of tasks. Asked what her favorite thing to do on the course, “I love the mowing,” she said. “That’s my favorite part about it because we get to know the tees, approaches, and greens. We have different guys for the fairways and rough loop, but I like doing everything. They let me manage the clubhouse, too, and make that all nice and done up as well.
Moynihan said she plans to stay on full-time and will seek a pesticide license to use the club’s industrial sized sprayer for the greens and native areas.
“This job really has a lot of potential for to do other bigger things,” she said. “They like to help people out and help them do this.”
Moynihan wasn’t the only one lending a hand Thursday.
Josephine “Josie” Corridori carried the bag for Shannon Johnson, the 2021 Mass Golf Women’s Player of the Year and a 2019 U.S. Women’s Open participant. Corridori, a senior at Bartlett High School in nearby Webster, has been a caddie at Worcester Country Club since her freshman year of high school and has thrived ever since.
Despite being one of the few female caddies at Worcester, Corridori has earned some prestige of her own. In 2019, she was named the club’s rookie caddie of the year and last year was named the club’s overall caddie of the year.
“I just love this course and love the people,” said Corridori, a three-time club champion at nearby Green Hill Golf Course.
“She does it all,” added Andy Lane. “The members love her. We love her. She works as hard as anybody.”
Corridori wasn’t the only female caddy from Worcester out there as Kelly Krull was on the bag for Canada’s Nicole Gal, who finished T4 with a 1-over 71 over the final round. Krull has looped at Worcester for 10 years, following in the footsteps of her older brother who worked the bag room and later caddied.
Krull said she was inspired by the play Thursday. “It was really good golf,” she said. “It’s nice to see more women playing tournament golf, and everybody had a really good attitude.”
Founded in 1900, Worcester Country Club is one of the most storied layouts through the Commonwealth, both for men’s and women’s golf.
The Opening Dedication for the current site was held on September 29, 1914, and more than 2,500 people were in attendance as they enjoyed the company of William Howard Taft, the immediate past President of the United States. Taft, an avid golfer, had the honor of striking the first drive. The story is told that, like so many golfers after him, he succumbed to his golf nerves on that first tee.
Ten years later, Worcester became the first course to hold a qualifying round for the U.S. Open. The response to the course was so enthusiastic that Worcester was offered and hosted the 1925 U.S. Open. This event was won by Willie MacFarlane (the holder of 21 PGA tournament victories) in a 36-hole playoff over Bobby Jones.
In 1960, the U.S. Women’s Championship came to Worcester and Betsy Rawls overcame Mickey Wright and a strong field to narrowly capture her fourth national Open title. To this day, however, Ayres admits that Worcester is best known as the site of the inaugural Ryder Cup, in 1927. In this contest the United States team, captained by Walter Hagen, defeated Ted Ray’s squad from Great Britain 9-1/2 to 2-1/2. As such, Worcester is the only golf club to host the premier men’s, the premier women’s and the premier international tournaments.
The club was the first and is one of only three to host a U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and a Ryder Cup, hosting the inaugural edition of the international match in 1927.
Here is a summary of the major events that have been hosted at Worcester Country Club dating back to 1921:
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With a community made up of over 100,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities