- Golfer Benefits
ANDOVER, Massachusetts – A year ago at the Mass Mixed Four-Ball Championship for the Stone Cup, Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) had a birdie bid on the final hole that would’ve clinched the title for herself and her father Phil Smith (Vesper Country Club). That putt attempt came up short, but Phil was able clean up for par and give the duo a one-stroke win.
Molly had a similar opportunity facing a stacked field on a windswept Monday at Andover Country Club, only this time she executed to perfection.
With daylight fading on the second playoff hole, Molly sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to clinch a second consecutive title for the pair. They staved off challenges from James Pleat (Granite Links Golf Club) & Tracy Martin (Vesper Country Club) and 2020 champions Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich Golf Club) and Pam Kuong (Charles River Country Club), all of whom finished 5-under 67.
“I had left a lot of putts short today, especially going uphill, so I hit it extra hard, and it just caught the front edge and fell in so that was pretty cool,” said Molly Smith, after sinking the winning putt.
“I’m ecstatic,” added Phil Smith as the pair became the first team to repeat since Annette Giaotte & Brad Haven (2007&2008). “It’s a fun tournament. It was a tough day. We just kept plodding through it, and I couldn’t be happier.”
This year was the third time the Mixed Four-Ball was contested as a Mass Golf Championship, as the event was previously a tournament. A total of 70 teams competed Monday in the 99th overall playing for the Stone Cup. The format featured mixed pairs, with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 18.0 per player, playing four-ball stroke play from different tees (6,435-yards for me; 5,509-yards for women).
On Monday, Phil actually had a chance to put the pair over the top with a birdie putt on their final hole (9th), but it just came up short, leaving them at 5-under. Pleat’s birdie on the 16th and Kuong’s incredible up-and-down from the trees on the final hole (9th) moved their teams to 5-under.
The three teams in the sudden-death playoff started on the par-5 10th, with Phil Smith and Pleat hitting the green in two shots. Neither could make eagle, but had tap-ins for birdie. Clapp was able to chip down from the back of the green and make birdie to extend the playoff.
On the par-4 18th (396-yards/294-yards), both Smiths went left. Molly known for her distance of the tee, was trying to land her drive over the creek that separates the fairways. Her shot didn’t clear the creek, but she only had 70 yards in from the left side. Phil said from past experience, he prefers to play down the left side so he can hit driver into the 1st fairway instead of laying up in front of the creek. The strategy worked as Molly was the only player to hit the green in regulation.
“I decided to go down on my wedges and instead of trying to hit a punch, hit a more full shot,” Molly said of her approach. “I didn’t know if there were any balls on the green in regulation, but I knew that if I hit a pretty good shoot I would be in good position,”
Neither Kuong or Clapp hit the green in two, but Kuong hit a chip within 5-feet and had a short bid for par. Meanwhile, despite hitting iron off the tee, Pleat’s tee shot carried long and landed in the creek. On his third shot, he hit to about 10 feet and made the par putt to put the pressure on for the Smiths. But the defending champs were able to close it out.
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Winning back-to-back is difficult in any sport, but the Smiths said tackling Andover was much more challenging in its own right. “I thought the par-5s were harder so it was more difficult to make birdies,” Molly Smith said. “And the wind also played a huge factor.”
Smith, who last year played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur, is currently attending Venice High School, located on the west coast of Florida. Unlike past years, Molly has had the opportunity to compete in winter events, including her January victory in the AJGA’s Spot Hotel X Championship.
“It was an easy choice to go and try to play some golf this spring and then come back up here ready to go for the summer season,” she said.
In the Net Competition, Wendy Colby and Brett LaPerriere, of Haverhill Golf & Country Club, had the best net score by going 7-under. Colby had a net eagle with a birdie on the par-5 10th.
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), Joanne Goodwin (1955, 1978) and Jesse Guilford (1933) have also won, as have esteemed past players Edith Baker and Pippy O’Connor.
SMITH WEDDING REUNION: The first time Phil Smith and his wife Lynn Gervais Smith had an opportunity to play Andover Country Club was 20 years ago. Only problem is it happened to fall on their wedding day and they had to forgo the experience. The Smiths got married at Andover Country Club 20 years ago and in August will be celebrating their 21st anniversary. Phil Smith has since played Andover many times, and as he said Monday, “This is where it all began.”
INTRODUCING MR. & MRS. MERTES: Speaking of weddings, Michael Mertes and Jill Mertes, both of Crumpin Fox Club, were the newest married couple competing in the championship Monday. The newlyweds got married this past Saturday, and 48 hours later were on the course competing in a Mass Golf event. The couple competed last year as Jill Rogalski & Michael Mertes and finished in the top 15 at even-par 71 at Twin Hills Country Club. On Monday, they finished T27th at 4-over 76.
SWAN SYMBOLS: Anybody at Andover was likely to notice the regular appearance of swan symbols at Andover, whether it’s a weathervane or signage on the property. Yvon Cormier has implemented the swan theme for both the course and its properties, including the contemporary community of Swan Crossing. Wayne Lacroix, the superintendent for the past 31 years, said while there are no swans currently on the property, the club currently has a permit to have one and that perhaps they will get one to celebrate the centennial in 2025.
HOME CLUB DUO: Cindy Remis & Matt Remis were the lone representatives from Andover Country Club today and finished with a team score of 88. The Remis duo said Andover is tough but fair course that presents itself with scoring opportunities, but they said they were thrilled to see players from across the state experience the course.
TOUGHEST HOLE: The No. 1 toughest hole today was the par-4 6th, which is no surprise given it’s the No. 1 Handicap hole from men’s tees (No. 2 for women). With just two birdies and 22 pars, the stroke average for the competition was 5.30. Tee shots have to avoid a pond on the right and wetlands to the left and a creek between the fairways. The green is severely sloped left to right.
UP NEXT: The next Mass Golf Championship will be the Mass Senior Four-Ball from May 31-June 1 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow and Country Club of Wilbraham. The next Women’s Championship will be the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy from June 14-15 at The Ridge Club in Sandwich.
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