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PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts – Although the month of September was ushered in under cold and rainy skies out in the Berkshires, Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) took on the unfavorable conditions to win her fourth Massachusetts Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
Trying to stay warm, dry and focused, Johnson, Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Pam Kuong (Charles River Country Club) exchanged the lead multiple times making for an exciting final round at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
“It was tough out there and the three of us did not have our A games,” Johnson said. “It felt like a pillow fight at times, but I was able to edge them out at the end.”
Entering the day sitting in solo second, Johnson got comfortable quickly with a birdie on the 405-yard par 5 first hole and proceeded to knock down a few pars to stay within striking distance of the lead. The shifting conditions and steady rainfall led to a softer course, which forced Johnson to become more cognizant of her game plan the remainder of the round.
“When you are wearing rain gloves all of the time, your feel on your approach shots isn’t the best and you need to do anything you can to scramble and make par,” Johnson said. “Luckily, I was able to get some good chips on the backside to give me a couple feet on most of them to make those putts and get out of the hole.”
Co-leaders heading into the final round, both Buck and Kuong created some magic of their own on the front nine to stay competitive, including a chip in birdie by Kuong on the par-5 second hole. Buck went shot-for-shot with Johnson off the tee, but the birdie putts would evade her for this round.
Both Kuong and Buck worked hard to find the right shots in the bag, but by the eleventh hole Johnson took hold of the lead. Getting a little more aggressive with some approach shots, Johnson knew that she could lean on her ability to get up and down with her strong putting.
“I’ve gone back and forth with a couple of putters this year, but lately I’ve been putting pretty well,” said Johnson. “This morning, I made a good first putt but was a bit shaky for a stretch, probably just some misreads, but down the backstretch I was able to make some good second come-backers just because the speed was off a little bit.”
This is Johnson’s fourth Keyes Cup victory and first back-to-back title after winning the event at Black Rock Country Club last year. Coming off of a qualifying round for the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship set to begin next week, Johnson is happy to head into the event with a win like this.
“This was a good win and I’m excited to play at Weston,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, I didn’t play in the Women’s Am there a couple of years ago, but Megan (Buck) is going to caddy for me because she has seen the course plenty of times. It is always fun to compete with the guys and see where your game is.”
Representing the host club, Diane Breen (Berkshire Hills Country Club), added some new hardware to her shelf with a win in the Tournament Division. Finishing her competitive rounds with a 36-hole score of 162, Breen dug deep in her final 9-holes to surge to a 9-stroke victory over her closest competitors, the 2020 Tournament Division winner Kim Pappathanasi (Renaissance) and Elizabeth Derwin (Brookmeadow Country Club).
“It was a bit unnerving at the beginning,” said Breen. “I made a couple of bad swings and I went into the locker room at the turn and told myself that I’ve played here a thousand times and to to treat this like the Club Championship. I was able to settle down after that.”
The Women’s Championship season is coming to a close with only one more event left on the schedule. Wyantenuck Country Club will play host to the Endicott Cup & Tri-State Matches, October 5-7.
Five Massachusetts women will be in action starting on September 10 for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, a national USGA event. The five ladies heading down to Alabama to compete are: Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club), Kristen Henderson (Bed Rock Golf Club), Pamela Kuong (Charles River Country Club), Danielle Lee (Renaissance), and Tracy Welch (Winchester Country Club).