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WATERBURY, Vermont – After taking a big lead in Round 1, Morgan Smith (Vesper Country Club) never looked back at the New England Women’s Amateur Championship, coming away with the Championship and Junior Division titles at the Country Club of Vermont on Wednesday.
Sana Tufail (Southborough Golf Club) made a late move in the standings to finish as Runner-Up. Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club) captured the Senior Championship division and Tournament title with a 9-over 225.
Smith ended the event with a 7-under 209. She is the first junior to win the event since Rhode Island’s Anna Grzebian in 2003 and the first teenager to do so since Rhode Island’s Samantha Morrell accomplished the feat in 2010.
“It’s my first ever pretty big tournament win so I’m really happy,” Smith said.
Though she held a significant lead for much of the competition, Smith didn’t let the advantage alter her strategy.
“I just kind of stuck to the game plan of playing my own game,” she said. “Obviously going into today there’s a little bit more pressure since it’s the final day of the tournament and I had a bit of a bumpy start, but I was able to turn it around still play pretty good today.”
Smith’s Day 3 performance was highlighted by a string of three birdies on the front nine — capped off with an eagle on the par-4 7th hole — and two straight birdies on holes 17 and 18 to secure the win.
Tufail shot a 5-over 221 en route to her Runner-Up finish after surging on the back nine. She shot a 34 on holes 10 through 18, the best back-nine score of the day.
She again preached “damage limitation” as the key to her success throughout the championship, though she feels she had room for improvement on her play earlier in the event.
“I’m getting better the second and third rounds but I think it’s just being able to start off the first round better,” she said. “And again, that may be constant preparation, learning the course a bit better in the practice rounds, knowing where to be and where not to be, but I’m definitely very happy with the way my game is trending.”
Tufail tied with Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) for the second-best Round 3 score with an even-par 72, one stroke back of Morgan Smith.
Molly Smith’s 72, a five-stroke improvement from the second round, moved her into a tie for third with the University of Maryland’s Angela Garvin (The Ranch Golf Club) at 7 over.
The Legend Division champion was Vermont’s Elizabeth Walker (Dorset Field Club), who finished the championship with a 37-over 253. Vermont’s Reggie Parker (Ekwanok Country Club) made a valiant comeback attempt with an 82 in the round, the best mark in the division on Wednesday, but could not overcome a six-stroke deficit from the first and second rounds. Walker also defeated 2021 Legend Division winner Kibbe Reilly (Wannamoisett Country Club) of Rhode Island, who shot a 42-over 258 and finished third.
“It was great,” Walker said. “I’m excited to have been the best 65-and-over.”
Curtin said she “surprised herself” at the championship, which marked her return to competition after a bout with COVID-19 that forced her to withdraw from multiple events.
“I just really tried to be patient with myself and was really fortunate to end up on the right end of it,” she said.
After ending the first round on Monday with a solid lead, Curtin had to spend parts of Rounds 2 and 3 fending off Senior Division runner-up Pamela Kuong (Charles River Country Club) and third-place finisher Debbie Johnson (Oronoque Country Club) of Connecticut.
“I knew going into today Pam and Deb were going be really hard to beat,” she said. “They weren’t just going to hand this to anyone, especially [with] the number of times I’ve played against Pam. She’s such a good player and such a good competitor and she’s never going to let up. I went into today knowing that, I knew I had to work pretty hard for this and I think that’s what pushed me and I just really tried to stay as patient as possible.”
Kuong finished two strokes back of Curtin with an 11-over 227 after nearly making birdie on her final hole. Johnson finished tied with Connecticut’s Jen Holland (Lyman Orchards Golf Club) with 18-over 234s.
The low net score was shared by Johnson and Joanne Gagnon (Renaissance) at 6 over.
The championship proved to be a family affair with multiple pairs of siblings in the championship proper, including the Smith sisters.
“It’s a little weird,” Morgan joked, “but we have fun out there.”
The Smiths, who were in the same group for Round 2 after finishing within five strokes of one another on Day 1, also had family members supporting them out on the course.
Another pair of sisters who also made it through to the final day of competition were Maine’s Jade and Ruby Haylock (Turner Highlands Country Club). After each shooting a 167 through two rounds, they narrowly missed an opportunity to play in the same group in the final round.
“I was hoping to be with her so I can keep an eye on her and try and be right with her,” Jade said.
However, Haylock said they still had a good time playing in the championship together and trying to get a leg up on one another.
“We’re very competitive with each other,” she said. “I enjoy competing with her and when I beat her, it’s really fun.”
Smith joins a sizable group of golfers from the Bay State who have emerged victorious in the championship and captured a combined 29 titles for Massachusetts — the most of any state at the New England Women’s Amateur.
Notable champions include Westford native Pat Bradley, a 1991 World Golf Hall of Fame enshrinee, who won the championship in 1972 and 1973. Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame members Joanne Goodwin and Tara Joy-Connelly also won in back to back years (1957 and 1958 for Goodwin; 1995 and 1996 for Joy-Connelly).
Smith also defeated two previous champions competing against her in the Championship Division — 2020 winner Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Johnson, the back-to-back champion in 2018 and 2019. She played in the same group as Buck on Day 1, building up a 10-stroke advantage during the round, and the same group as Johnson on Day 3, when she finished 7 strokes ahead.
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