- Golfer Benefits
LAKEVILLE, Massachusetts – For the second consecutive year, the duo of Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) outpaced the field to capture the Hannah D. Townshend Cup. The pair carded a score of 10-under-par 72, good for a three-stroke victory Wednesday at LeBaron Hills Country Club in Lakeville.
Christine Gagner (Bedrock Golf Club) and Rita Bedard (Bedrock Golf Club) finished tied for second but won the Net Division with a 12-under 60.
This year marked the second time the Townshend Cup was contested as a Mass Golf Women’s Championship. First held in 1930, the event had previously been a Women’s Tournament. This year, 104 players comprised 52 teams competing for the Townshend Cup.
Megan Buck and Shannon Johnson are no strangers to success. The duo won last year’s Townshend Cup and both are among the most accomplished amateur players in Massachusetts. Their performance Wednesday, which included five birdies from both of them, was just another addition to an already loaded resume filled with victories and accolades.
“It feels good to win it two years in a row,” said Buck, the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur champion. “In a way that adds a little bit of extra pressure coming in, but also confidence knowing that we did it last year and can do it again.”
After the round, Johnson attributed the win to the two playing within themselves and relying on their knowledge and cohesiveness to put together a strong performance.
“We didn’t try to play super aggressive off the tee,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, looking back on it, I think that probably kept us more in it because we were both able to hit approach shots onto the green and have two good birdie looks, rather than someone trying to take driver and drive the hole then possibly be out of it at the start.”
Buck and Johnson also excelled at picking one another up throughout the round. Buck got off to a torrid start with four consecutive birdies on holes 3 through 6. On the back nine, it was Johnson who heated up with birdies on the 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th.
“It was feeling pretty easy and then I went in a little rough,” Buck said. “That’s why this event is awesome. When you have a partner and can really lean on her while I’m out of the hole just standing on the sidelines nervous. She hits great shots on the green and made it look easy.”
“I think we play so much golf together at Thorny Lea, and we’ve played in the U.S Four Ball, this event, club events, so I think we know each other’s games so well,” Johnson said. “We can club off each other well, so I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage when we are doing some approach shots. We know how far each one hits it and we can kind of help each other from there.”
The duo certainly did just that on Wednesday and it allowed them to walk away as back-to-back Townshend Cup champions.
In the Net Division, Christine Gagner and Rita Bedard finished 12-under 60 for a comfortable win. Late in the round, the pair was looking solid. Gagner birdied hole 15 and Bedard birdied hole 17 to get them to 8-under in gross. However, a bogey on 18 cost them a stroke and ultimately opened the door for Johnson and Buck to surpass them. Bedard finished with five birdies, and Gagner added three of her own.
Gagner came close to winning again, as she won the Townshend Cup with Ann Rhieu back in 2007 at Haverhill Country Club.
Behind them, another pair representing Thorny Lea Golf Club grabbed a hold of second place. Courtney Lee and Laura Jean Mann paired together to have a strong round. Mann had five birdies and Lee had four as the success for Thorny Lea Golfers continued.
Allison Paik (The Cape Club of Sharon) and Emily Nash (Northern Spy Country Club) fired a 7-under 65 to tie for second place in the gross division Wednesday afternoon. Paik, a rising sophomore at Columbia University, and Nash, a rising junior at Elon University, have successfully teamed together in the past in four-ball play and Wednesday’s round was no different.
Paired with the winning duo of Buck and Johnson, the young golfers more than held their own.
“I think we were both hitting a lot of greens,” Paik said. “We had a lot of birdie opportunities. Any opportunity we had, we really focused on making putts. Playing with Shannon and Megan, they make a lot of putts and we kind of took that from them to try and make as many birdies as possible.”
Back in 2018, the two qualified for the U.S. Four Ball and their bond has continued to grow since then.
“We’ve kind of figured stuff out over the years,” Nash said. “Our thing is if one of us makes a birdie putt, even if the other one has a shorter birdie putt, we’ve been picking up the marker. We had to do that a lot today and I feel like it was good luck. We’ve had it in the past where we would both make birdies and then it would kind of go downhill from there. That was a good little thing we did today and it seemed to work.”
As the two continue to hone their skills in the summer while getting ready for their college seasons, events such as the Four-Ball present an opportunity to not only practice, but also learn. “Any mass golf tournament has a lot of great competitors and we love coming out here to compete,” Paik said.
“Every time I play with Shannon and Megan I pick something up,” she added. “Last year I had the opportunity to play with them multiple times at the New England Women’s Am and other events. Just watching their game, you learn so much from them. Any chance I get, I’m happy to play with them.”
Next week, sister’s Morgan and Molly Smith will be teeing it up at the 72nd U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship hosted at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Morgan, 17, will be teeing off on Monday, July 12 at 1:28 p.m. ET on Hole 1. Molly, 16, will start at 2:25 p.m. ET on Hole 11.
“I’m excited. I think it’ll be a great experience and I think I’ll learn a lot about golf in general and how to get better. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” said Morgan, who will also visit Georgetown University during the week as she explores collegiate golf.
“I’m very excited because the USGA events are ones that you set as a goal when you start the summer,” Molly said. “To be able to go and compete against the best girls in the country, it’s a really good opportunity. I’m very excited for that.”
The sisters will be joined by their parents Phil and Lynn, as well as their younger sister Maddie on the trip. “It’s very exciting,” Phil Smith said. “I think they’re both playing good. They’re ready to go.”
As for which girl he’ll watch on a given day and how he’ll decide it, that plan is still in progress.
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll watch one on one day, and the other the next day, maybe flip a coin. I like to watch an 18-hole round. It’s kind of hard to watch a little bit of both.”
Carla Fitzgerald (Country Club of New Bedford) and Nicki Demakis (Country Club of New Bedford) tied for 12th in the gross division shooting 4-over 76 on Wednesday at LeBaron. Their performance was solid, but they did not roll up to the event in the style they normally do.
Typically, when the pair arrives, they are easily recognizable. The reason being is more often than not, they arrive in their RV with their two dogs, Pumpkin and Pickles. The Massachusetts couple now reside full-time in Mattapoisett, but for years they would take their RV cross-country from their previous home in San Diego to travel the country and play a bunch of golf along the way.
The use of the RV became a necessity back in the early 2010’s because animals had been overheating and dying on long flights, thereby limiting the options for how Fitzgerald and Demakis could travel with their pets.
“We were like two weeks out from flying back with our two dogs at the time and Continental Airlines called and said, ‘Sorry, we’re canceling your pets flights,'” Demakis said. “We were like, what do we do? So, we went out and bought an RV. Everyone knew us because we pulled up in the Griswold mobile with the dogs and the generator going.”
Ever since then, the trips have become tradition. Fitzgerald estimated that they’ve made 24 trips across the country with stops in 46 of the 48 states, not counting Hawaii and Alaska. The last states to visit with the RV are Washington State and Vermont, both of which they are hoping to visit soon.
“We saw the country. Both being from Massachusetts, I lived in San Diego since 1987,” Demakis said. “I have a law practice out there, so it was nice to be able to see something other than New England and California. We golfed in Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, and Bandon Dunes a couple years ago.”
Fitzgerald hails from Canton, and Demakis is a Mattapoisett native. Despite the fact that they’re back in the Bay State full time now, they’re not planning to slow their travel plans anytime soon. One guarantee is anytime they fire up the RV, they’ll have their two Boston Terriers, 11-year-old Pickles and 9-year-old Pumpkin along for the ride.
Located in Lakeville, LeBaron Hills is among the newer county clubs to host a Mass Golf event this season. The 18-hole, links style golf course was designed by the firm of Cornish, Silva & Mungeam, Inc. and the course did not open until 2001.
LeBaron Hills also offers high level practice areas that include a 10 acre practice range, a 40-yard short game hole with a regulation green and bunker, and a 60,000 square foot putting green. Between the course and the practice accommodations, LeBaron Hills is a terrific spot for player’s to work on and test out their own games.
Tom Rooney has been the Golf Professional at LeBaron for 17 years and he thinks that the short game hole is one of the most unique and exciting elements at the club.
“You can hit a 20 or 30 yard pitch shot if you wanted to,” he said. “You can practice out of the fairway and out of the rough, or even the real tall rough you can practice out of. It’s used a lot. In fact, we’re constantly clearing the balls off the green.”
In addition to the practice areas, Rooney warns that the LeBaron course may not be everything it appears to the naked eye and makes for a quality challenge for all golfers.
“It’s funny, you look at it and think it’s wide open,” Rooney said. “Once you play it, you find out it’s not so wide open. Some of the holes like 2, 6 and 7 are fairly tight, there’s water and penalty areas and so forth. With the fescue (grass) it now narrows up the golf course. In the spring and the fall when the fescues down, it plays a little bit easier, but then of course the wind and weather kind of levels it out.”