- Golfer Benefits
SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts – Morgan Smith (Vesper Country Club) was not about to be denied. After an emotional roller coaster year in 2021 when she faced rejection and frustration, the Westford teenager worked tirelessly in the offseason to improve her game and prove skeptics wrong.
In 2022, she’s come back stronger than ever, and on a gorgeous, sunlit Friday morning at The Orchards Golf Club, Smith pulled off one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship.
Squaring off with University of Virginia standout Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook Country Club) in the 18-hole championship match of the 119th Mass Women’s Amateur, Smith never led until the very end. But a series of gutsy shots helped her win the final three holes. That stretch included a near ace on the par-3 17th and a clutch par on the 18th to capture the milestone victory over Skoler, 1-up.
“I had every single school that I wanted to go to last year tell me no and then they picked apart my golf game,” said Smith, an 18-year-old Westford Academy graduate who will begin a postgraduate year at Phillips Exeter in the fall. “I think I really had to dig deep into what I want for my future, and I want to be a great golfer. That’s what I want.
“I focused on that love of the game,” she continued. “I came out here and proved myself. My parents are a big part of that. They pushed me to continue to believe in myself. Obviously Rebecca is a phenomenal golfer, and she led the match the whole day, so to be able to close it out, it’s just awesome.”
The victory also comes 50 years after another Westford native — World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley — won the 1972 Mass Women’s Amateur.
Standing on the par-5, 16th fairway, Morgan Smith had a ride-or-die decision to make. Smith was 2-down, and Skoler was in the fairway laying two. Needing about 200 yards to clear the creek that guards the green sloping back to front, Smith decided to hit a fairway wood, and it easily cleared the hazard, settling on the right rough. Skoler’s pitch shot fell off the front, and she was unable to save par, cutting the deficit to 1 with two holes to play.
“I thought I had to make birdie at that moment to continue the match and potentially win the hole,” Smith said. “It was a little right, but it got over so that was good.”
On the 155-yard 17th, Smith hit her best shot of the day, pulling a 5-iron and striking it perfectly. The gallery watching from down by the green shouted “go in” as the ball bounced on the left side and retired less than 2 feet from the cup for a conceded birdie. Skoler missed her target wide left and wasn’t able to chip in for birdie, bringing the match to a tie.
“I was going for the pin, we were not leaving this short, there was no time for mistakes, and that was probably one of the best shots of the day I hit,” Smith said. “It was really close to going in. I heard my dad [Phil] screaming so it was pretty funny.”
Playing the 18th for the first time since Tuesday, Smith stuck with her driver, hitting a perfect cut off the tee and down the middle. That left her with an iron into the two-tiered green, with the flagstick on the lower left side, and she left it about 35-feet from the cup.
Skoler’s drive landed into the right fairway, but her approach drifted right and into the rough. Skoler hit an excellent chip about 5 feet past the cup. Smith then stepped up confidently with her long putter and got it inside foot for a conceded par. Skoler’s putt to extend the match then missed left, and Smith mouthed “oh my god,” to her youngest sister Maddie in partial shock.
“This will be my favorite one to date,” Smith said of the victory.
The major turning point happened on the 10th. After Smith’s putts on the 7th and 8th just fell short of dropping, she got a 20-footer in the cup on the par-3 10th, just the 8th birdie that was made the entire week.
“It completely changed everything,” Smith said. “I very well could have been 3-down. Rebecca is a very, very good putter so I didn’t want to leave any chances. I wanted that putt to drop, and it kind of gave me a little bit of control that I didn’t really have on the front so that was good.”
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) August 19, 2022
Skoler had a series of spectacular shots that kept her in the lead early. Her tee shot on the par-4 6th sailed right and into the penalty area, forcing her to take a drop in the right rough. With the flagstick tucked in the lower-left corner, Skoler stroked it perfectly about 5 feet left of the hole, and she made it for par to go 2-up after Smith three-putted, and she took that lead into the turn.
With Skoler 1-up through 10, the pair tied the next three holes, and on 14, Skoler had another incredible scramble. After hitting her tee shot wide right, Skoler was able to land her second in front of the green, and make the 30-foot birdie putt to tie it with Smith.
“I thought I had lost the hole,” Skoler said about the 6th. “I had a lot of errant shots, but the way I scrambled I’m really proud.”
Skoler then won the 15th with a par, as Smith missed the green in front and was unable to get up-and-down, setting up one of the most memorable finishes over the remaining three holes.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) August 19, 2022
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Stroke Play: 71-69–140 (1st place/medalist)
R32: Def. Amy Lyon, 5&3
R16: Def. Chelsea Curtis, 5&4
Quarterfinals: Def. Megan Buck, 3&2
Semifinals: Def. Catie Schernecker, 3&2
Finals: Def. Rebecca Skoler, 1-up
Here are some other tidbits from the championship match of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship.