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SANDWICH, Massachusetts – It came down to the last group on the course, but a champion emerged Wednesday evening at The Ridge Golf Club in Sandwich. Playing in the Massachusetts Girls Individual High School Championship, North Reading’s Isabel Brozena, of Indian Ridge Country Club, shot 4-over-par 75 to earn state champion honors as well as a trip to the 2022 National High School Golf Invitational.
Playing at her home club, Sandwich’s Emma Abramson held the lead in the clubhouse at 5-over 76 for a while, but Brozena’s late surge edged her out. Abramson still earned a spot in the national championship, as did Needham’s Miriam Pearlstein (Needham), who shot 7-over 78. Pearlstein finished tied with Madalin Small (Newton), but due to Small turning 19 prior to the 2022 Invitational, the spot was awarded to Pearlstein.
Abramson, along with fellow junior golfer Keira Joshi, organized the event after the MIAA decided to only have team championships during the postseason. This event allowed individuals who weren’t on a full girls golf squad to compete and was open to all female golf competitors who attend a Massachusetts high school.
Isabel Brozena began Wednesday at George Wright Golf Course in Boston where she was competing in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Qualifier. Teeing off at 7 a.m. after her round was postponed on Tuesday, Brozena earned second alternate status through a playoff, but then immediately got in the car to head south for the next event.
Knowing a long day was ahead, Brozena made a point to pace herself over the course of the day.
“I just tried to stay focused throughout the whole thing, take it hole-by-hole, not try to rush through any shots,” she said. “I just took my time for everything and I didn’t want to go too fast because I had so many holes to play.”
Brozena, 14, who just wrapped up her first year at North Reading High School, shot even-par on the back nine and ended up moving to the top of the leaderboard.
“I definitely felt like I was hitting the ball well,” said Brozena, who made it to match play during the Mass Women’s Amateur last year. “I was hitting a lot of greens, making good putts, and I think I was just trying to stay in my mental mindset, just keep going, not trying to think about where all the other competitors were at.”
With at least one national championship spot locked up for the future, Brozena said she’s feeling confident about how her game stacks up with others.
“It feels really good to know that I went up against a lot of stiff competition on a really hard course and I was still able to pull through,” she said. “It just makes me really excited for what’s to come and for scores I can shoot in the future.”
Coming in just one stroke behind Brozena was Emma Abramson, who, like Brozena, began her morning in Boston participating in the qualifier.
“I woke up at 4:30 and hit balls at the back of the range as the sun was coming up at 4:45,” Abramson said with a laugh. “Drove over (to Boston), played 10 holes, then the long drive back. I think I pushed well and came alive at the end when I needed to.”
Abramson’s final stretch of golf included a 30-footer for birdie on the 16th, plus two par putts outside of 10 on holes 15-18.
“It was solid putting to finish up and I was happy with my finish,” she said. “I’d say I played pretty well. It was a pretty solid front nine, I missed a few little shots I wish I didn’t, but that’s okay.”
Beyond her own personal golf, Abramson was excited to see more than 30 girls from all across the state participate and for helping promote the women’s game on a competitive level.
“It shows we can all come together,” Abramson said of the field of 32. “I think girls golf is definitely a growing thing. There’s just growing and more love for the game.”
Playing for the first time ever on a challenging course, Milton Academy’s Miriam Pearlstein carded a 7-over 78 to earn her place in the national invitational. On a narrow course and lots of hazards and out-of-bounds area, Pearlstein decided to keep the driver in the bag.
“I really just stayed consistent with my drives throughout,” Pearlstein said. “I hit 3-wood off the deck, or 5-wood off the deck throughout the whole tournament and I was able to keep it consistent and in play. I think that was what really catered to both my success today and my ability to hit the greens and to make clutch pars.”
For Pearlstein, 15, the success was a form of validation as she spent the past few months fine-tuning her game and locking into the mental aspect of golf, and not just the physical demands of the sport.
“I had never thought, ‘Where do I want to hit this?’ before last year,” Pearlstein said. “I kind of just walked up and I hit it. I think one thing that grew my game a lot last fall was I went out with people who were better than I am and I just asked, ‘What were you doing, what are you thinking there.’ I was actually able to learn that golf is very mental and a huge strategy game. Starting to implement strategy into my game and my scoring has been huge because now I’m not just walking up to the ball and hitting it.”
She’ll eventual get to put those skills to the test at next year’s national championship.
“It’ll be amazing,” she said. “It would be such a great experience to go out there and to play and expand my knowledge of the course. To be able to learn and play with girls who are much better than I am. It’ll be a great learning experience, especially as a young high schooler.”
This year, 12-year-old Champa Visetsin (Sudbury) had the opportunity to do something most golfers will only dream of in their lives: she played at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Visetsin participated in the Drive, Chip, and Putt national finals and she ended up placing tied for seventh place.
Visetsin actually won the putting portion of the event for her age group in the 10-11-year-old girls bracket. She placed her first putt 1-foot, 6-inches from the cup, and drained her second attempt.
“Augusta itself, just being there, was a great opportunity and experience,” said Visetsin, who shot 12-over 83 on Wednesday. “It was something that I don’t think I would have been able to experience if I didn’t have golf.”
The experience was one that the Visetsin family will remember forever. “At the end of the day, you’re worshiping the grounds of Augusta,” said her mother, Latsamy, with a laugh. “My daughter is so humble. I think we were more excited than she was, quite honestly. Parents are usually more excited, she just took it in stride.”
Latsamy was proud of her daughter’s achievements, particularly the way in which she controlled her putting on the daunting 18th green. She also made sure to soak up the moment of being at Augusta with her family.
“For us, it was just being on that amazing golf course, where the green is like pure silk rug,” she said. “There’s no stain on our shoes, we’re walking the entire day, there’s nothing, it’s just magical. The service, everybody was just so friendly, it was amazing and we have her to thank. It was just fun.”
Abby Stone (Fitchburg) shot 12-over-par 83 during her round Wednesday afternoon at The Ridge Club, but her love for the game of golf has kept her tied to Mass Golf events. Last week, Stone volunteered at the Mass Open, which took place at her home club of Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg. Stone spent time doing live scoring and holding score signs for participants in the event.
She also got an up-close and personal view of an inspirational figure in the tournament: Seul-Ki Hawley, who made history by becoming the first woman ever to play in the Mass Open. Stone, as well as her mother Lauren, were both super excited about the opportunity to connect with Hawley and watch her play live in real time.
The connection between the two went beyond just watching from a distance. Following her rounds, Hawley connected with Stone and followed her on Instagram, as well as exchanged cell phone numbers so the two can stay in touch in the future moving forward. Hawley, as well as numerous other pros and amateurs that Stone interacted with, offered her tips on her game and ways to keep improving. Stone, who will be a junior next year at Fitchburg high school, will look to continue taking her game to new heights and now has an extra contact in her back pocket whenever she needs some advice.
Located in Sandwich, the Ridge Club has something for all of its members to enjoy – whether it be playing out on the links or beyond. The layout was designed by Robert Von Hagge, a native of Chicago who spent his life around the game of golf. He worked as a caddy, shop boy, maintenance crew member, assistant superintendent, and assistant professional all before turning 17.
Von Hagge would go on to design multiple courses, both in the United States and beyond, over the course of his life. His signature hole at The Ridge Club is the 17th, featuring an island green that is the main draw of the course. Beyond just golf, The Ridge Club features two full tennis courts available for members and guests, a pool complex and a clubhouse that can be used for dining, relaxation and to host gathering events.
The Ridge Club has hosted multiple Mass Golf events and qualifiers, including the 2019 Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship and the 2020 Fall Cup Championship.
Matt Baran, the Head Golf Pro at The Ridge Club, was excited about the prospect of having the girls on the course to play in this year’s individual state championship.
“Hearing that these girls weren’t going to be able to compete in the state championship, there wasn’t even a thought that we would try to host it and make it happen,” Baran said. “Especially for those seniors that wouldn’t be able to have this experience again.”
The Ridge Club has long been supportive of youth golf and female golf competition, so the fit to host the event was natural.
“I think girls’ golf has continued to increase,” Baran said. “We kind of have, I’d say, rich history in having some good girl golfers. Our club supports all junior golf, but it’s really good to see the girls get out there and play.”
In addition to hosting, Baran is also impressed with the level of play he says out on the course.
“I drove around today and to see some of the shots that they that they hit, and when I was when I was their age I was not hitting those shots,” Baran said. “To see how far they can hit it, how close they can hit it, and then obviously the short game being able to get up and down and making putts, it’s pretty impressive.”
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.