- Golfer Benefits
SANDWICH, Massachusetts – After the first round of competition at the Women’s Stroke Play Championship, five-time winner Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) is in the hunt yet again after cruising to an event-leading 2-under 69.
Renaissance’s Kym Pappathanasi leads the Tournament Division with a 7-over 78.
“I felt pretty good about my game,” Johnson said. “Definitely tee to green I hit it pretty well, a couple of squirrelly shots here and there but I was able to get up and down a good amount of times. When I did kind of miss a green, my putter was working really well and I was able to roll in a few birdie putts down the stretch.”
Yet, she says she doesn’t feel additional pressure to bring home the title after having done so multiple times before — including four consecutive years from 2015 to 2018.
“I just treat it as any other tournament, not necessarily thinking about how many times I won it, but it’s always great to win a Mass Golf event and this one just with the history,” she said.
Close behind is 2021 Stroke Play Champion Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook Country Club), who shot a 1-under 70 after overcoming a series of bogeys to start the back nine.
“I feel like I left a lot out there today but this course is definitely tough,” Skoler said. “Course management is key out here and there is definitely an advantage to knowing the course, so I am looking forward to playing it again.”
Like Johnson, Skoler isn’t especially concerned with the thought of becoming a repeat champion.
“It would definitely be nice to win again but I don’t really feel any extra pressure,” she said. “I just came off of a semester of high pressure and intensity so I am really just trying to enjoy myself out here and have fun.”
The only other competitor to shoot at or below par was Emma Abramson (The Ridge Club). Abramson finished with a 71, including four birdies, on her home course. Catie Schernecker (The Country Club) and Kaitlynn Washburn (Scituate Country Club) tied for fourth with 73s through 18.
Abramson is more than familiar with the course as a club member, Sandwich native and third-year golfer at Sandwich High School, where she even attended morning classes before heading to the championship on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was great to score well on my home course,” she said.
Being near home allowed her to have family and friends attend her round, including having her father caddy for her after she caddied for him at a different tournament last weekend.
“It’s just good for confirmation, he knows my swing well and knows how I play so he’s good for a confidence boost,” she said.
Round 1 was also an opportunity for her to redeem herself after she wasn’t pleased with her performance the last time she played in a championship at the Club.
“It’s great to see the improvement over a couple years and what that can do for you,” she said.
Pappathanasi secured the Tournament Division lead on her final few holes, edging Gina Gallagher (Marlborough Country Club) — who finished with an 8-over 79 — by one stroke. Gallagher shot a strong 36 on the front nine, including making birdie on holes 4 and 6, while Pappathanasi recorded a 37 on the back nine.
Barb Hecimovich, last year’s Tournament Division winner and the 2017 Mass Women’s Senior Amateur Champion, sits in third with a 9-over 80.
Rounding out the top five finishers are Joanne Catlin (Oak Hill Country Club) with a 10-over 81 and Christine Gagner (The Tour) with an 11-over 82.
Though the Women’s Stroke Play Championship trophy is commonly referred to as “The Baker,” there’s a much more important backstory to the trophy’s namesake than its nickname might suggest.
The trophy is named for Edith Noblit Baker, who stands as one of just two women to win more than two consecutive Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championships and also served as president of the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM). One of her accomplishments at the helm included introducing the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy tournament with the goal of “advancing the sociability of the game and a renewal of acquaintance.”
Joanne Goodwin and Tara Joy-Connelly, both members of the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame, are tied with seven Baker Trophy wins each.
Of late, Johnson leads competitors with five wins. Her most recent win came in 2020 at The Club at New Seabury. Skoler won the event last year and was the first teenager to do so in 16 years.
The Ridge Club is hosting the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the second time overall and for the first time since 2002, when Kelly Robb walked away with the Baker Trophy. Some notables about the Club:
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.
With a community made up of over 100,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.