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NORTON, Massachusetts – It’s been a successful summer of golf for Westford’s Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club). Smith, 16, is coming off a victory last week in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, she competed in the U.S. Girls’ Junior in Maryland, and she has been top-5 in a handful of Mass Golf and New England Golf Association events this season.
Now, Smith will get to shine on the biggest amateur stage of her junior golf career when she makes her first appearance in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. The Championship Proper is being played at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, from August 2-8, and Smith is the lone player from Massachusetts in the field. The competition will be held on the West Course (6,488-yards, par-72).
Smith is set to tee off at 8:03 a.m. Monday alongside Kyle Fraser from Texas and Aneka Seumanutafa, a standout at Ohio State.
Hanako Kawasaki, who is from Vietnam, is representing the Boston University women’s golf team. She qualified at Boston Golf Club in July.
Monday, Aug. 2 (18 holes, stroke play)
Tuesday, Aug. 3 (18 holes, stroke play)
Wednesday, Aug. 4 (Round of 64, match play)*
Thursday, Aug. 5 (Rounds of 32 and 16, match play)**
Friday, Aug. 6 (Quarterfinals, match play)**
Saturday, Aug. 7 (Semifinals, match play)***
Sunday, Aug. 8 (Championship match, 36 holes)***
*TV: Golf Channel, 2-5 p.m.
**TV: Peacock: 2-5 p.m.
***TV: Golf Channel, 2-5 p.m.
Prior to this year, Smith had never competed before in a USGA event. Now, she’s going to be teeing it up at her second one in less than a month. Smith went down to Maryland for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur alongside her older sister Morgan in July.
Though neither one made it into match play (Molly carded consecutive rounds of 83), Smith gained valuable experience in a USGA event. On her way back to the Bay State, she competed in a Women’s Amateur qualifier on July 15 at Knickerbocker Country Club in Tenafly, New Jersey, where she shot 1-under 71 to finish in solo second and grab one of four available qualifying spots.
Smith was originally supposed to attempt to qualify at Boston Golf Club, but the USGA allowed her to reschedule her round because she played in the Girls’ Junior and could not make the event at Boston Golf Club.
“I honestly didn’t have super high expectations going into that day because I didn’t swing my best at the [US] Girls’ Junior,” Smith said. “I wasn’t happy with how I scored, so I kind of went into that day with zero expectations.”
Smith was sharp late, birdieing the 15th, 16th, and 18th holes which helped push her into the Championship Proper. Now, she gets the experience of competing in another USGA championship layout, likely to be the most difficult yet.
“The USGA courses are a lot harder than the ones you play in regular tournaments,” Smith said. “The course in Maryland was honestly probably the hardest golf course I’ve ever played in my life. Now that I kind of know what to expect and know that sometimes bogeys have to be a good score, I think I can kind of go in with more experience in larger-scale events like that and I think that will be beneficial.”
Ahead of the Girls’ Junior, Smith had the goal of making it into match play. This time around, she’s just focused on putting her best foot forward in terms of her play on the course.
“Honestly, my goal is just to go out and play well,” Smith said. “The focus is just playing well because once you play well, then match play will come and everything else will come behind that. If I just swing pretty well, make some putts, don’t make any large scale numbers, then I should be in pretty good shape.”
Regardless of what happens, Smith is looking forward to the experience of another USGA event, is about more than just golf.
“It was really, really cool,” Smith said of the Girls’ Junior. “Obviously you want to go in and play against the best girls in the country and the best woman in the country and things like that, but the hospitality they had was just beyond great. It makes things outside of the golf that much greater and that much better.”
As the lone representative of Massachusetts, Smith will give it her best shot to represent the Bay State well and see if she can make it into match play this time around.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is among the most prestigious Amateur events the USGA hosts. The Championship Proper signifies the beginning of women’s competitive golf in the United States. The event joins the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open as one of the USGA’s first three championships.
The first U.S. Women’s Amateur was contested in 1895 and featured a field of just 13 players. Mrs. Charles S. Brown was declared the winner after shooting the best score in an 18-hole round. The following year in 1896, the competition changed from stroke play to match play, which is the format the event still holds to this day.
Over the years, the U.S. Women’s Amateur has seen a number of champions go on to have incredibly successful careers in the game of golf. JoAnne Gunderson Carner, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, holds the women’s record for USGA titles at eight, and five of those wins came in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
The event’s most recent champion was Rose Zhang, who defeated Gabriela Ruffels over 38 holes in 2020. That championship was held on the North Course at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland.