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MANCHESTER, Connecticut – It was a beautiful day in central Connecticut as Manchester Country Club (par 72, 6,130 yards) hosted the first round of the New England’s Women’s Amateur Championship. First played in 1957, the New England Women’s Amateur Championship is a 54-hole stroke play competition that is contested annually in one of the six New England states, with hosting duties rotating among the states every six years.
Last year’s championship winner, Morgan Smith (Vesper CC), opened her title defense with a strong 1-under 71.
“(I was) pretty steady today. Ball striking was good, putter wasn’t as good but I’ll work on it,” Smith said. After making a three-putt bogey on the par-5 fourth, Smith closed her round with two birdies on the back nine en route to a bogey free 34. She sits in second place behind her best friend and sister Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC).
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Molly, who recently qualified for the 2023 Mass Am, opened the championship with an impressive 3-under 69, with three of her five birdies coming in the final five holes. “If you asked me who my biggest competition is, I’d definitely say Molly, ” Morgan commented. “Her game is really solid and she’s playing some really good golf right now.”
2022 Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player and the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur Champion Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC) had a solid round of 1-over 73 to put herself in contention headed into the final two rounds. She sits at T3 with Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill GC), who also posted 1-over 73 thanks to an eagle on the par-5 14th. Rounding out the top five was Grace Farland (Marlborough CC) who had five birdies on the day. After the first round she sits at 2-over, five shots back of leader Molly Smith.
In the Senior Championship, Massachusetts golfers took the leaderboard by storm. Tara Joy-Connelly (Bay Club at Mattapoisett), a Mass Golf Hall of Famer, fired a round of even-par 72, highlighted by a bogey free 1-under front nine 35. Joy-Connelly holds a four shot lead over fellow Bay State natives Tracy Welch (Winchester CC) and Susan Curtin (Boston Golf Club), who both shot 4-over 76s. 2023 Mixed Four-Ball Winner Pamela Kuong (Charles River CC) sits five back at 5-over 77.
Manchester Country Club proved to be a challenging test as the Smith sisters were the lone two players in the field to post under-par rounds. As winds gusted in the afternoon, scoring became difficult coming down the stretch. The daunting par-3 18th, which hugs the Glob Hollow Reservoir only yielded two birdies the entire day and should provide some excitement on Wednesday afternoon.
HERE ARE THE RESULTS FROM EACH DIVISION AFTER DAY 1
1. Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC); 69 (-3 )
2. Morgan Smith (Vesper CC); 71 (-1)
T3. Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC); 73 (+1)
T3. Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC); 73 (+1)
5. Grace Farland (Marlborough CC); 74 (+2)
1. Tara Joy-Connelly, (Bay Club at Mattapoisett); 72 (E)
T2. Tracy Welch, (Winchester CC); 76 (+4)
T2. Susan Curtain, (Boston Golf Club); 76 (+4)
4. Christine Gagner, (The Tour); 77 (+5)
5. Pamela Kuong, (Charles River CC); 78 (+6)
1. Mary Gale, (Bedrock GC); 79 (+7)
2. Nancy Walker, (Connecticut); 85 (+13)
3. Hollis Barry, (Connecticut); 105 (+33)
4. Doreen DiPilato, (Green Hill Muni GC); 108 (+36)
1. Molly Smith, (Mount Pleasant GC); 69 (-3)
2. Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC); 73 (+1)
T3. Carys Fennessy, (New Hampshire); 75 (+3)
T3. Abby Zhu, (Indian Ridge CC); 75 (+3)
T5. Annie Dai, (Student Member/MIAA); 77 (+5)
T5. Kenna Roman, (Connecticut); 77 (+5)
Manchester Country Club opened in 1917 originally designed by two famous golf course designers from the early part of the 20th Century; Tom Bendelow and Deveroux Emmet. A redesign took place in 1935 by legendary architect A.W. Tillinghast.
Manchester Country Club golf course is a fine example of what is called “old New England design.” This means the natural character of the land has been used to advantage, not bulldozed away to fit an abstract concept. The course does not require great length or power, but can reward those assets when properly employed. Greens are generally small, contoured and well protected-often in subtle ways, allowing players with different skills to be challenged and competitive. The course sits at 6,167 yards with a rating of 69.7.