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NORTON, Massachusetts – Mass Golf Members who qualified for either the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball or the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball are figuring out what to do next after the USGA announced last month that both events would be canceled and not rescheduled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Women’s Four-Ball was originally scheduled for April 25-29 at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Florida, while the U.S. Four-Ball was originally scheduled for May 23-27 at Philadelphia (Penn.) Cricket Club.
After five years of trying to qualify, Westford Academy sisters Morgan Smith, 16, and Molly Smith, 14, finally earned an entry into their first USGA event by winning the Women’s Four-Ball qualifier at Franklin CC in October.
“Molly and I were looking forward to the opportunity to play with some of the best women amateur golfers in the country,” Morgan said. “We have worked really hard on our games with the hopes of having the opportunity to showcase our skills at a national level.”
Leading up to the Four-Ball, the sisters were planning to train in Florida for a month, but other events, such as the Scott Robertson Memorial Tournament and several AJCA, have also been called off.
There is still hope for both that there will be a high school spring season. Schools in Massachusetts are closed until May 4, the earliest date the MIAA said the spring season could begin. Morgan finished runner-up in the MIAA Spring Golf State Championship last year.
“We certainly understand, based on the COVID-19 Pandemic, this needed to be done,” said Morgan, who, along with Molly, play out of Vesper CC, Long Meadow GC and Mount Pleasant GC. “We are also very concerned about our family and friends during these scary times.
“In the meantime, Molly and I will continue to play and practice as much as we can.”
Susan Curtin (Boston Golf Club) and Chelsea Curtis (George Wright GC) also qualified for the Women’s Four-Ball, but with non-essential businesses in Massachusetts closed until May 4 (including golf course operation), both women have put golf on pause.
Curtin said she would’ve appreciated a postponement over cancelation that would’ve given the qualifiers a potential opportunity to compete.
“It is totally understandable the USGA had to make some hard decisions,” said Curtin, who won the 2019 Grace Keyes Cup. “I know personally and speaking to other competitors that we just wished the decision-makers would have considered postponing until 2021 so all qualifiers would have had the opportunity to compete.
“For all the mid-amateurs who qualified this year, we’re balancing work, family and all those other things, so to lose your opportunity, it hits hard.”
Curtis and Curtin prepared together by playing the International Four-Ball in Florida back in February. The pair fired a 1-under 71 in the final round, but now Curtin said instead of playing more golf in preparation for the Four-Ball, she’s limited to staying in shape and stretching from home.
Curtis, a former champion of the Mass Women’s Amateur and New England Women’s Amateur, said she’s hoping for a chance to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship later this year. Other than that, she said she’s looking forward to playing in as many Mass Golf events as possible.
Curtin and Curtis are among those who have considered taking any entry fees that are refunded from canceled events and putting the money toward a good cause.
The same goes for Ryan Whitney (Old Sandwich GC), a former NHL pro and now Barstool Sports podcast host. Whitney, a Scituate native, was supposed to play in the Four-Ball with Duxbury’s Andrew Diramio (Marshfield CC). Though he has played in Mass Golf events since 2015, this was the first time Whitney qualified for a USGA event.
Whitney was also disappointed with the USGA’s decision to cancel the event outright. But shortly after, he received a text from Bobby Leopold, a Rhode Island amateur and fellow Four-Ball qualifier, asking if he wanted to get people to donate their $150 entry fees for a good cause.
“For me, it’s looking for people who are going through a lot right now. You’re just thinking about ways to help,” Whitney said. “It can show the USGA, it’s not about the money, we just want the chance to play.”
Leopold decided on a fundraiser for No Kid Hungry, an organization working to end child hunger in America. According to the fundraiser website, “Currently, 1 in 7 children in America is facing hunger. Given the number of school closures across the country and the economic hardship many families are facing, the number of hungry kids is likely to increase significantly.
“When you think about school being canceled for a lot of kids, that’s sometimes the one meal they get, so we thought (this fundraiser) made sense,” Whitney said.
Whitney and other Barstool online platforms have been promoting this fundraiser. As of Thursday, April 9, $2,700 had been collected. The fundraiser has a goal of $10,000, but Leopold said he’d happily accept donations from anybody, including from those who paid entry fees to other events that get canceled.
“The goal is to do something good in a bad situation,” Leopold said.
For now, the schedule for local golfers is in flux based on the fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation across the country.
However, Curtis said this whole situation has made her grateful for other things.
“If missing golf tournaments is the worst thing that happens to me, then I’m lucky,” Curtis said.
Next year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is scheduled for May 22-26, 2021 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, while the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball is scheduled for April 24-28, 2021 at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.