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WATERBURY, Vermont – The greens at the Country Club of Vermont are known to throw quite the challenge at competitors who dare face them, but Morgan Smith (Vesper Country Club) stayed the course Tuesday to take an 8-stroke lead heading into the final round of competition at the New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
Tournament Division leader Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club) narrowly held off Pamela Kuong (Charles River Country Club) to maintain her position atop the division by 1 stroke.
Smith finished with a 3-under 69 for the second day in a row to put her at 6 strokes under for the championship, where she’s also the only player who remains below par. Her second-round performance included 3 back-nine birdies, giving her a round-best 34 on the back half.
“I gave myself a lot of good looks, a couple that didn’t land today but I did make some which is good,” Smith said. “You have to be smart out there. You have to stay on your toes because one bad shot here, it gets pretty bad. You have to take your safer lines and play aggressive to those safer lines.”
Sana Tufail (Southborough Golf Club) also recorded a 69 to tie Smith for the best round score, giving her a 9-stroke improvement between Days 1 and 2 — the biggest change out of all players at the top of the leaderboard.
“I think it was learning the course,” Tufail said. “Damage limitation is definitely key, that you can pick up the birdie opportunities but sometimes if you’re in trouble and you make a bogey, you just accept it and you move on.”
Tufail now sits in fourth, 3 strokes back of Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Angela Garvin (The Ranch Golf Club), who are tied for second at 2 over. Johnson was the only player other than Smith and Tufail to finish under par on Tuesday.
Catie Schernecker (The Country Club) and Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) are also in the hunt at 7 over through 36.
The field was cut to the low 50 players and ties after the end of the round on Tuesday, with a pro-rated number of players from each tee set — one for the Championship Division, the other for the Tournament Division — making it to the final round. 22 players move on from the Championship Division, where the cutline fell at a 28-over 172. 29 advance in the Tournament Division after shooting a 34-over 178 or better.
The Overall Champion, Runner-Up and Junior Champion will be awarded tomorrow from the Championship tee set, while the Senior and Legend Champions will be awarded from the Tournament tees.
Curtin entered the day with a comfortable lead but spent much of the afternoon in a back-and-forth battle with Kuong, who shot a division-leading 3-over 75. After rolling in 2 birdies during the round, a double bogey on the 18th hole put Curtin at a 6-over 78 for the afternoon. Heading into Wednesday, Curtin is 7 strokes above par, while Kuong is 8 over.
Also knocking on the door are Connecticut golfers Debbie Johnson (Oronoque Country Club), who is 11 over par, and Jen Holland (Lyman Orchards Golf Club), who is 1 stroke behind Johnson. Holland has a 6-stroke advantage over the next lowest-scoring competitors, Massachusetts’ Melissa Hem (Dedham Country & Polo Club) and Vermont’s Becky Montgelas (Ekwanok Country Club).
Curtin and Kuong lead the Senior Division. At the front of the pack in the Legends Division are Elizabeth Walker (Dorset Field Club) of Vermont with a 25-over 169 and Kibbe Reilly (Wannamoisett Country Club) of Rhode Island with a 26-over 170.
Smith jumped out to a 4-stroke lead on Day 1, ending the round with a 3-under 69 as the only competitor to finished below par. After recording a string of three bogeys midway through the front nine, Smith came back on the back nine and made birdie on holes 12, 15 and 17 down the stretch to take the lead.
“I thought I played very well today,” Smith said after the first round. “It’s a tricky golf course with fast greens. You have to miss in the right places and get the ball on the right tear of the greens or it’s very tricky. I swung well and hit a couple key shots and I made a good amount of birdies which helps.”
Smith was the top finisher out of eight Massachusetts golfers who occupied the top eight spots on the leaderboard after the first day of competition. Trailing just behind Smith were Garvin with a 1-over 73, Smith’s younger sister Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) with a 2-over 74, and Johnson with a 3-over 75.
In the Tournament Division, Curtin took a 4-stroke lead after the first 18 with a 1-over 73. The mark is the lowest over-par score recorded on Day 1 of the championship by a senior competitor since at least 2018. Curtin edged Kuong and Connecticut’s Jen Holland (Lyman Orchards Golf Club), who both finished 5-over through the first round.
The New England Women’s Amateur was first contested in 1957 at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford, Connecticut, when Joanne Goodwin emerged victorious to capture her first of two back-to-back wins in the championship.
The desire to form such an event dates back to November 1956 when the New England Women’s Golf Association formed with the intention of forming an amateur championship in the region for women. Cris Eaton was the one to make it happen the following year, which she did by contacting the state golf associations in each of the six New England States and arranging a meeting between the association presidents and a representative from each.
The championship, which is now run by the New England Golf Association, is contested annually in a New England state, with hosting duties rotating among the six states.
The New England Women’s Amateur returns to the Country Club of Vermont for the first time since 2016.
The Club is located in Vermont’s Green Mountains, set in the valley between the Worcester and Mansfield mountain ranges and offering a scenic view of Camel’s Hump.
The 18-hole course was designed by Canadian architect and amateur golfer Graham Cooke in 1998. In addition to having a front nine “reminiscent of the Irish Links,” it’s known for its “bent grass greens, tees and fairways framed by blue grass rough and outlined by native fescues,” according to the Club’s website.
The Club has since added amenities to suit club sports, including clay tennis courts, and established member leagues and tournaments. It also hosts its signature Couching Lion Invitational, which first began in 2001.
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.