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SEEKONK, Massachusetts – It was fitting that Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook Country Club) was wearing her University of Virginia uniform when she won the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy for the first time on a balmy Tuesday at Ledgemont Country Club. Skoler became the first teenager to capture the title since Brittany Altomare won it in 2005. Altomare, an LPGA touring pro from Shrewsbury, also attended the University of Virginia and won the Baker by two strokes when she was just 15.
“We follow her all the time,” said Skoler, 19, who redshirted her first year at Virginia. “It’s nice to be here following in her footsteps.”
Skoler’s margin of victory was bigger, though, as she finished 6-under par with a two-day score of 70-70–140, besting the field by eight strokes.
Fellow teenager Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club), 16, who began the day one stroke behind Skoler, finished runner-up at 2-over total, following up a Round 1 71 with a 77. Allison Paik (Cape Club of Sharon), finished solo third at 5-over.
Barb Hecimovich (Beverly Golf & Tennis Club), the 2017 Mass Women’s Senior Amateur champion, took home the Tournament Division with a two-day score of 164, edging Mary Hunt (Gannon Municipal Golf Course) by one stroke.
Tuesday marked Skoler’s first victory in any event since the 2020 Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur in early August. After suffering an injury to her right hand, she took her first year off from competition at UVA to rehab and get her swing back to full function.
“I was just really happy and grateful to be out here competing this week,” Skoler said. “It gives me a lot of confidence for some more events in the next few weeks, so I’m really happy.”
Her training in college is beginning to show off as Skoler hit four more greens in regulation than the day prior and was in the fairway more often than not off the tee. After making a 25-footer for birdie on the 3rd hole, Skoler also made birdie putts on the 6th and 7th to stretch her lead over Smith. By the time they made the turn, Skoler had a five-stroke lead.
“When I originally hurt my hand, I was just doing short game for as long as I could for about two weeks so I focused a lot because putting was always a weakness of mine, and I’ve now made it a strength so it’s nice to see it coming into form,” said Skoler, who added two more birdie putts on the 16th and 17th.
While Smith wasn’t able to keep pace in Round 2, Skoler was complimentary of her playing partner.
“She’s a really great player, especially how young she is,” Skoler said. “She has a really bright future ahead of her, so I’m really excited to watch that.”
Skoler said she plans to play in several Mass Golf events this year, including the Mass Women’s Amateur taking place at Plymouth Country Club in August, right before heading back to college.
Barb Hecimovich didn’t have a great start to Monday’s opening round at the Women’s Stroke Play Championship. After carding a 7 on the par-3 sixth (her second hole of the day) she had doubts about how well she’d compete.
“I was like, ‘boy, I’m out of it,'” Hecimovich said. “But later on probably 9-10 holes in, I’m looking at the leaderboard I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m still in it.'”
After entering Round 2 tied with Mary Hunt, a birdie on hole 2 (their 11th overall) made the difference. After hitting onto the cart path, Hunt took relief in the rough and knocked it close enough where she made the birdie putt.
“That was that was clutch,” Hecimovich said. “It was a two-shot swing right there, so that was huge.”
Hecimovich said she appreciated playing with Hunt for both days as the two were paired together when Hecimovich won the Women’s Senior title in 2017.
“It was one of those situations where I think there were like six groups after me so I just kept waiting [thinking] somebody is going to come in lower and nobody did,” Hecimovich said. “I ended up winning so I told her yesterday, ‘you’re my good luck charm.'”
Hunt was able to edge Hecimovich by three strokes in the Net Tournament Division, while Mia Bardinelli (Brae Burn Country Club) had the best Net score in the Championship Division.
Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea GC), who last year won her fifth Baker Trophy, had too much ground to make up Tuesday, but still tallied a much-improved score of 72, following up Monday’s 81 to finish T4 alongside Morgan Smith (Vesper Country Club), Molly’s older sister.
Johnson’s has had a busy stretch of competitive amateur golf lately, competing down in Florida in the AGA Women’s Amateur and competing with top male amateurs at The Hornblower Memorial at Plymouth Country Club, the site of the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur. She shot a 75, missing the cut by two strokes.
“I played about as well as I could,” said Johnson, who first played in the Hornblower in 2018. “I definitely had a couple go my way. That’s a pretty beefy golf course, but it’s fun to play.”
Much like the AGA Women’s Amateur, when Johnson followed up a 78 and 77 with a final-round 70, she seems to be saving her best rounds for last.
“It’s like feast or famine with my golf game,” Johnson said. “The days my swing doesn’t feel good, I’m just trying to salvage my round as best I can. It’s a work in progress. At least I’m trending in the right direction, I just got to get a little more consistent.
Buck, the defending New England Women’s Amateur champion, also had a strong run in the AGA Women’s Amateur, holding a share of the lead through two rounds before finishing T4 alongside Johnson. Buck went the opposite way in the Women’s Stroke Play Championship, following up a first-round 81 with an even-par 73 in Round 2 to finish sixth overall.
Buck and Johnson, who finished 1-2 in the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur are expected to be back in the event this year.
A first for Ledgemont: Ledgemont CC has hosted several Mass Golf Championships and Qualifiers in past years, but this was the first time the club has hosted the Women’s Stroke Play Championship. The event, traditionally held on Cape Cod, was last held off-Cape in 2013 when Cohasset Country Club played host. The last time it was held outside of Eastern Massachusetts was 1998 when Country Club of Pittsfield played host.
Charlotte Cute: A young standout in the crowd was Charlotte Cute, a Fairfax, Virginia, native whose family has summered on Cape Cod for years, and this week made her Mass Golf debut. Cute, an incoming first-year at Merrimack College, didn’t get her start in golf until her dad encouraged her to try it and she started joined her high school team freshman year. She holds a handicap through joining the Youth on Course program, which offers youth 6-18 the opportunity to play at participating courses nationwide for $5 or less per round. One of those courses is Cranberry Valley Golf Course in Harwich, where she has played frequently. Cute, who finished T10 (81-78–159), said she enjoyed the challenge of playiing with defending champion Shannon Johnson and Morgan Smith, who she’d seen through Junior League and Challenge Cup events. Though she’s only in Massachusetts until July 3, Cute said her parents are moving to the Bay State full-time beginning in September.
Allison Paik: The 2020 Mass Girls’ Junior Player of the Year recently finished her first academic year at Columbia University. The Ivy League didn’t have varsity sports throughout the entire year, giving Paik an extra year of eligibility. For now, she’ll play summer golf, taking solo third this week with rounds of 77 and 74.
Orange Shirt Crew: Those at Ledgemont on Tuesday likely saw multiple players wearing bright orange shirts that would easily been spotted, even at dusk. The shirts were distributed by Sally Degan, a Mass Golf Board Member who is the Owner of SpaceCraft Architecture. Each shirt has the SpaceCraft Architecture logo on it, helping promote the company.
Up Next: The next Women’s Championship on the schedule will be the New England Women’s Amateur Championship, set to take place at Agawam Hunt in East Providence, Rhode Island, located just 4 miles east of Ledgemont. On July 7, the Women’s Four-Ball Championship for the Townshend Cup will take place at LeBaron Hills Country Club in Lakeville.
The Championship, which dates back to 1950, was called the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy until 2020 when the name was lengthed to include the event format. Competitors still affectionately call it “The Baker”, but either way, it was started by Edith Noblit Baker, one of the state’s most elite competitors who stands as one of only two players in Mass Golf history to have won more than two consecutive Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championships.
During the summer of 1950, Baker, who served as president of what was then known as the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM), officially introduced a new tournament called the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy with the clear purpose of “advancing the sociability of the game and a renewal of acquaintance.”
Baker’s vision coupled with hard work and a keen organizational and business sense help accomplished just that and the event has grown into one of the most competitive and popular stroke-play events on the Mass Golf calendar.
Joanne Goodwin and Tara Joy-Connelly hold the record with 7 individual titles each. Joy-Connelly will be inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame later this year. Goodwin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport. Made up of 90,000 golfers statewide, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Presently, more than two-thirds of the 360-member clubs are public-access facilities, while nearly one-half of member golfers are enrolled at public facilities. Mass Golf offers its members services including handicapping, event access, youth programming and exciting golf content.