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LONGMEADOW, Massachusetts – When it comes to any mixed team competition, you can count on Phil Smith (Vesper Country Club) and any one of his three daughters (Morgan, Molly, and Maddie) making a run at the title.
On picture-perfect Monday, the honors belonged to Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club), who hit a pair of crushing drives to help set up birdies on holes 14 and 16 and lift the family duo to their first Massachusetts Mixed Four-Ball Championship for the Stone Cup. Phil Smith tapped in to save par on the 18th as the team shot a 6-under-par 65 with seven birdies to win by one stroke on their first-ever trip to Twin Hills Country Club.
Finishing runner-up at 5-under 66 were Harvard University golfers Olivia Corderio (Belmont Country Club) and Anina Ku (Granite Links Golf Club), and Tracy Martin (Vesper Country Club) and James Pleat (Granite Links Golf Course), the 2020 New Hampshire Amateur champion. One behind them was last year’s runners-up Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club) and Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough Country Club), who finished 4-under with Chelsea Curtis (The Country Club) and Duncan Smith (Vesper Country Club).
This year was the second time the Mixed Four-Ball was contested as a Championship, as the event was previously a tournament. Monday was the 98th overall playing for the Stone Cup. The format featured mixed pairs playing four-ball stroke play from different tees.
Every time Molly Smith picks up her driver, there’s a piece of tape that says “grip it ‘n rip it”. When the pair needed it most, she was able to deliver by doing just that. Molly’s drives helped set up birdies on holes 1 and 2, and after pulling into a share of the lead at 5-under through 16 had her best drive of the day. Smith almost drove the green but landed in the rough. Despite, just landing inches away from a chip-in eagle, she tapped in to put the pair ahead.
“It’s fun; I like to hit it as far as I can and just go from there,” Molly said. “I actually thought my driver got better in the end.”
Added Phil, “It’s nice to play with a play with Molly’s caliber because I hit enough bad shots nowadays. I can still play a few holes, but you know she’s pretty much power or better on every holes from those forward tees, which is kind of comforting for me.”
After saving par on 17, the pair struggled, as many did, on the uphill par-3 finishing hole, with a multi-teared green that made par a great score on the hole. Unfortunately, Molly landed in the deep bunker to the right of the hole and was unable to get up and down for par. After Phil hit his 6-iron, his so-called weakest club, to about 35 feet left of the flagstick, he was able to roll it within 3 feet and tap in for victory.
“I was really wanting her to knock that ball on the green because I’m saying, ‘I don’t even know how to hit that shot,” Phil Smith said. “But it worked out OK.”
Phil Smith, the 2007 Mass Mid-Amateur champion, has now won six state Father Daughter titles with his daughters, with Monday’s win giving him seven total with his children. Naturally, there’s some light-hearted sibling rivalry. Morgan has won three Father Daughter titles with Phil, and while Molly has only won twice, Monday’s title brings them even once more.
But overall, the pair said they were more comfortable in the Four-Ball format compared to alternate shot used in Parent-Child Tournaments.
“I think it’s a little bit easier in the four-ball because like you get to play your own ball versus hitting wherever Phil puts me,” Molly said with a chuckle.
Despite not playing the course prior, the only trouble they ran into was a bogey on the 5th when Molly hit a shot into the hazard that she thought was rough. Other than that, it was another successful day on the course for the Smith family.
“Anytime you win a Mass Golf event, it’s a very special thing,” Phil Smith said. “I wouldn’t say it feels any different, but it is a different-style event.”
After winning the Tournament Flight gross title at the Mass Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup last September, Kym Pappathanasi (Tedesco Country Club) teamed up with Derek Weldon (Renaissance) to win the first-ever Net division title of the Mixed Four-Ball Championship, shooting 11-under 60. Pappathanasi posted a strong front-nine recording a net eagle on hole four, as well as net birdies on five other holes.
The momentum carried over to the back nine where she birdied her first three holes. Weldon recorded net Birdies on holes three and six, as well as another on whole 14 on the back nine.
Austin McCreary (Franklin Country Club) and Anna Casagrande (Northampton Country Club) were the runners-up shooting 9-under 62.
Oliver Cordeiro and Anina Ku will be seniors at Harvard University this coming fall as members of the men’s and women’s golf teams, respectively. For the pair, the day was an opportunity to compete after not having a normal schedule in the past year.
“I had a lot of fun,” Cordeiro said. “It’s fun to do team stuff. It’s kind of like being back at school, takes some of the pressure off, add some extra pressure if you would, but I think we both had a great time.”
Cordeiro and Ku have played with each other before, but this was the first time the two have done so in a competitive environment.
“We’ve played together, and we’ve played outside of that, but never in a competition or trying to do Four-Ball,” Cordeiro said. “In Four-Ball, you definitely have a different way of thinking. You get a little more aggressive where you should try to be more for the team when the other person might be out of play.”
For Ku, who had birdies on holes 5 and 14, this summer is the first time she will be staying in the local area, so she plans to compete in several more events. “We didn’t have competition this year, so I’m just trying to grab any opportunity to compete that I could, and then getting to do this was a really fun event,” she said.
“It’s good to get back to competing,” Cordeiro added. “We haven’t had an event since October of 2019, so it’s been a while since we’ve been ‘reppin’ the H’ out on the course, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Ryan Lawless and Brianna Butcher, both members of the Twin Hills Country Club, had a chance to compete together at their local course as part of the Mixed Four-Ball. The pair finished the day shooting a 1-over 72, including Lawless shooting a 35 on the front nine with two birdies.
For Butcher, the competition was her first with Mass Golf, as she just began playing the year prior.
“I thought that it was awesome; it was a great day,” she said, “I’m glad it was at a home course. Although nerves were there, I was comfortable. I knew that if I could just stay confident in my swing and hit them well I’d be alright. That happened to be the case today.”
Prior to taking up golf, Butcher was a Division I athlete, playing goalkeeper for the Saint Francis University (PA) women’s soccer team. The transition from the pitch to the links has been a seamless one so far.
“Bri, she’s pretty new to it, and just wants to get some experience,” Lawless said. “She’s competitive, wants to get better, and I thought this would be a great way to get that started. The course was awesome, she played the best round she’s ever had in her life, which is kind of awesome to do it at an event like this.”
While she’s still improving her golf abilities, Butcher still holds a competitive mindset that has not faded since her athletic career ended.
“I was a goalkeeper, so it is that same kind of focus which I think is why golf kind of fits well with my mentality, but it’s just a whole different game,” Butcher said. “You can only rely on yourself, and you just have to keep your head in it.”
Butcher plans to play in a few more events this summer, including the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur this August at Plymouth Country Club. Lawless, who played in the Mass Four-Ball the week prior, also expressed an interest in running it back together as a pair next year.
HISTORY OF THE STONE CUP: First held in 1924, the Stone Cup Trophy was originally donated in 1927 by Katherine Stone of Oakley Country Club. Stone won the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship in 1924 and also served on the USGA Women’s Committee. Past winners of the Cup include World Golf Hall of Fame member, Pat Bradley, who won the event in 1971. Mass Golf Hall of Fame Members Anne Marie Tobin (1987) and Joanne Goodwin (1955, 1978) have also won, as have esteemed past players Edith Baker, Jesse Guilford and Pippy O’Connor.
In past years, the event has used a match play format. It was rescheduled to October at The Cape Club in Falmouth.
HARVARD ON THE HORIZON: Another member of the Schernecker family will be gracing the prestigious Harvard campus in Cambridge later this year. Catie Schernecker, the daughter of Fred Schernecker, a Harvard graduate and now the Director of Harvard Golf, will play for the Harvard golf team beginning last fall. Catie Schernecker deferred admission last year and played on the Texas Junior Golf Tour, returning to the Bay State two days prior to the Mixed Four-Ball to play with her father.
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: Pam Kuong (Charles River Country Club) and Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC) were back to defend their title, and despite a rally on the back nine with three birdies from Clapp, they finished three strokes off the lead at 3-under 68.
FIRST TIME: The affable duo of Scott Baker (William J. Devine Golf Course) and Sally DeGan (LPGA Amateurs Association), who both serve on the Mass Golf Board of Directors, teamed up Monday, as Baker made his debut in Mass Golf competition, finishing 11-over. Baker’s business, RTD Logistics, has helped provide and deliver supplies to the City of Boston during the pandemic.
UP NEXT: The next Mass Golf Championship will be the return of the Senior Four-Ball on June 1-2 at Foxborough Country Club and Walpole Country Club. The next Women’s Championship will be the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy on June 7-8 at Ledgemont Country Club in Seekonk.
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