MANCHESTER, Connecticut – The game of competitive golf is an amazing sport. On the course, competition fuels players and pushes them to win, regardless of who’s in their way. Off the course these same players can be seen having a post round meal with chatter and laughter filling the table. This paradigm could not be more present than at Manchester Country Club for the 2023 New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
Online: Results | New England Women’s Amateur Homepage | Photos
Friends, family members, and staff huddled around the 18th green as dark clouds began to roll in. They weren’t going anywhere, not if the Smith sisters were still on the golf course battling each other for the title. The two stood on the tee tied for the lead at 3-under par. Morgan Smith (Vesper CC), with the honor, confidently hit her approach on the green while sister Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant) missed long and left.
After Molly sank a must-needed eight foot bogey putt, Morgan stood over her three foot par with a chance to become a two time New England Women’s Amateur Champion. This scenario seemed unlikely earlier in the day as Morgan saw herself five shots back after the sixth hole. But she was determined and continued to hang in and play steady golf.
A pivotal point in the round occurred on the challenging uphill par-4 13th. Down by three on the tee, Morgan birdied while Molly bogeyed and walked off the green just one shot back with five holes remaining. The two matched pars on the next three holes as Morgan started to run out of holes to make a charge.
On the par-4 17th both players bombed their drives to within wedge range. Molly hit an incredible shot that bounced off the pin and rolled eight feet away. Following an improbable shot by her sister, Morgan proceeded to respond by throwing her wedge to 10 feet and converted the birdie putt to tie as they approached the last hole.
After stalking her putt from every angle, Morgan continued to go through her routine as she lined up the putt to win. She stood over the ball, glanced at the hole, took her long putter back, and stroked the ball into the center of the cup to successfully defend her title.
The crowd applauded and cheered as Morgan took a step back to take in what she accomplished. The two sisters shook hands with playing partner Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC), who finished solo third in the championship with a three day total of 218, and walked off the green towards the scoring tent.
Molly had a great week of her own as she captured the Junior Championship by a comfortable four shot margin over Guleserian. She’ll look to continue her good play this summer as she’ll break history by becoming the first female golfer to tee it up with the men at the 115th Mass Am at Essex Country Club on July 11.
Tara Joy-Connelly (Bay Club at Mattapoisett) began the day with a two shot lead over playing partner and friend Susan Curtin (Boston GC). Joy-Connelly made the turn with a four shot lead, but that got cut in half as she made consecutive bogeys on holes 10 and 11 while Curtin played steady and made pars. The two battled it out coming down the stretch and Joy-Connelly stood on the 16th tee with a three shot lead with three holes remaining.
After crushing her drive down the fairway, she knocked her approach shot underneath the hole 30 ft away. With the flagstick in, Joy-Connelly gripped her putter and rolled her putt up the hill. The ball began curving to the left as it reached it’s apex and gently kissed the flagstick as it dropped into the hole for a birdie.
Curtin was the first person to acknowledge the fantastic shot.
Joy-Connelly proceeded to knock in another mid-range putt on the 17th hole for back-to-back birdies which put her up comfortably with one hole remaining. Joy-Connelly, Curtin, and fellow playing partner Tracy Welch (Winchester CC), who finished solo fourth with a three day total of 232, all hit their tee shots on the dance floor at the par-3 18th. As she lined up her putt, fellow competitors and friends also lined up adjacent to the 18th green to watch. Eyeing a birdie-birdie-birdie finish, she left her birdie putt just short, and walked up to tap in for par and a seven shot victory.
Mary Gale (Bedrock GC) took a six shot lead after the first day and never looked back. She opened with a 79, the only sub 80 round recorded in the Legend Championship, and proceeded to go wire-to-wire to claim the 2023 New England Women’s Amateur Legend Championship. Gale finished the tournament with a three day total of 246 and an eight shot victory over Nancy Walker (Connecticut).
A WEEK TO REMEMBER
Great golf was played this week at Manchester but it was overshadowed by the friendship and support demonstrated by the competitors, volunteers and staff. After each day, players were seen eating together and laughing as they caught up and enjoyed each other’s company. This week served a friendly reminder that although winning tournaments is fun and exciting, so is getting to compete and forming lifelong memories with lifelong friends.
Round 3 Leaderboard (By State):
T5. Yvette O'Brien, (Greenwich CC); 225 (+9)
T12. Cindy Cao, (USGA/CSGA GC); 234 (+18)
T12. Kate Hong, (Greenwich CC); 234 (+18)
T19. Caroline Petchark, (Great Neck CC); 238 (+22)
T19. Zorah Williams, (Stonington CC); 159 (+22)
1. Morgan Smith (Vesper CC); 213 (-3)
2. Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC); 214 (-2)
3. Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC); 218 (+2)
T5. Shannon Johnson, (Thorny Lea GC); 225 (+5)
T5. Annie Dai, (Student Member/MIAA); 225 (+5)
4. Carys Fennessy, (Cochecho CC); 219 (+3)
T26. Delaney Nadeau, (Cochecho CC); 243 (+27)
T9. Morgan Macleod, (Wannamoisett CC); 230 (+14)
34. Anna Gardner, (Sakonnet GC); 259 (+43)
MANCHESTER, Connecticut – Smiles, laugher and high fives were present throughout the day at Manchester Country Club during round two of the New England Women’s Amateur Championship. Overnight rain bled into the early hours of Tuesday, making the course longer and more challenging. But that didn’t damper the mood for players, especially those paired with close friends and old rivals.
Online: Starting Times & Scores | New England Women’s Amateur Homepage
The star studded Senior Championship field did not disappoint on Tuesday as only two shots separate leader Tara Joy-Connelly (Bay Club at Mattapoisett), and defending champion Susan Curtin (Boston GC) with one round to go. Joy-Connelly, who held the overnight lead, shot a 3-over round of 75 while Curtin fired 17 pars against one bogey to post 1-over 73.
“Had an awesome pairing today, an awesome day and we’re looking forward to tomorrow,” said Curtin. “The New England Senior Women’s Championship is our biggest regional event that we can play in locally so it’s a really important event for us to compete against each other.” she added.
Rounding out the group was Tracy Welch (Winchester CC) who has significant game of her own as she’s competed in numerous USGA Championships, including making it to the round of 16 in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Welch backed up her 76 yesterday with another 76 today. She sits five shots back but is well aquatinted to the fierce competition. “We competed as juniors so we’ve been doing this for like 40 years,” Welch noted as she laughed with Joy-Connelly.
Friendship and camaraderie were on full display on Tuesday.
“That’s always the thing I love. Seeing my friends and competing against each other,” Curtin commented. “And I think there’s something really special about the senior division, (in) this stage in life we’re doing this for fun. There’s a lot more friendship and camaraderie that comes along with it, which I always enjoy,” the defending champion summarized.
The three friends will battle it out again tomorrow as the they sit atop of the Senior Championship leaderboard. But right on their heels is Mass Golf’s defending Senior Amateur Champion Pamela Kuong (Charles River CC). Kuong’s group consisted of fellow Massachusetts natives Christine Gagner (The Tour), and current Legends Championship leader Mary Gale (Bedrock GC). Their group was full of cheering and laughter as the three friends enjoyed their Tuesday morning playing together.
“We’ve been playing this for as long as I can remember and it’s something we look forward to every year. It’s nice to see the other state people as well. It’s great event,” Gale commented.
Gale played solid yesterday and she was thrilled to post 79, where she feels like her game is at. “Today ball striking was really good, my putting, I don’t know what happened,” she mentioned. “I had a lot of 30 and 40 footers and started three-putting…once you start doing that you start getting tentative out there.”
After her round Gale was back on the practice green putting in work. She plopped a couple of balls and began hitting a few eight footers with her good friend Gagner watching. Although they compete on the course, their camaraderie was exhibited as Gagner gave some pointers and cheered her friend on as she honed in her stroke. Gale will look to use these pointers as she tries to go a wire-to-wire for the Legends Championship tomorrow.
This small act of companionship best summarizes the feelings of the New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
“Since we’ve played with lot of the same people from different states we’ve become friends with a lot of the players. When we go to national tournaments it’s a little collective group of people cheering for each other from New England,” Kuong commented.
In the Women’s Championship, the Smith sisters continued to do their thing as the pair fired matching 2-under 70s. Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant) carded a bogey free round en route to her 70, while sister Morgan Smith (Vesper CC) notched four birdies in her last 11 holes, including a bogey free 3-under 33 to close her round strong. Molly sits atop the leaderboard with a two shot lead over Morgan, and a five shot lead over Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC) who posted a 1-under 71 in the second round. Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea GC) also posted a 1-under 71 to climb up the leaderboard into solo fourth with a two day total of 146. Rounding out the top five is New Hampshire native Carys Fennessy (Cochecho CC) with a two day total 148.
DEFENDING CHAMPS ON THE PROWL
Last years defending champions Susan Curtin and Morgan Smith are vying for a repeat performance. Both players sit two back of the leaders in their respective championships. Curtin, the 2022 Senior Champion, looks to continue her momentum from today and challenge good friend Joy-Connelly tomorrow to reclaim her title. Morgan looks to become a two time New England Women’s Amateur champion but will have to go through her sister and best friend Molly in order to do so. With back to back par-5s on holes 14 and 15, and a tough closing par-3 18th, the finish at Manchester Country Club should provide an exciting finish.
A cut was made after the conclusion of day 2.
Round 2 Leaderboard (By State):
8. Yvette O'Brien, (Greenwich CC); 152 (+8)
T13. Cindy Cao, (USGA/CSGA GC); 157 (+13)
T16. Kate Hong, (Greenwich CC); 159 (+15)
T16. Zorah Williams, (Stonington CC); 159 (+15)
23. Caroline Petchark, (Great Neck CC); 161 (+17)
1. Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC); 139 (-5)
2. Morgan Smith (Vesper CC); 141 (-3)
3. Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC); 144 (E)
4. Shannon Johnson, (Thorny Lea GC); 146 (+2)
6. Annie Dai, (Student Member/MIAA); 150 (+6)
5. Carys Fennessy, (Cochecho CC); 148 (+4)
15. Delaney Nadeau, (Cochecho CC); 158 (+14)
T13. Morgan Macleod, (Wannamoisett CC); 157 (+13)
T33. Anna Gardner, (Sakonnet GC); 168 (+24)
MANCHESTER, Connecticut – It was a beautiful day in central Connecticut as Manchester Country Club (par 72, 6,130 yards) hosted the first round of the New England’s Women’s Amateur Championship. First played in 1957, the New England Women’s Amateur Championship is a 54-hole stroke play competition that is contested annually in one of the six New England states, with hosting duties rotating among the states every six years.
Online: Starting Times & Scores | New England Women’s Amateur Homepage
Last year’s championship winner, Morgan Smith (Vesper CC), opened her title defense with a strong 1-under 71.
“(I was) pretty steady today. Ball striking was good, putter wasn’t as good but I’ll work on it,” Smith said. After making a three-putt bogey on the par-5 fourth, Smith closed her round with two birdies on the back nine en route to a bogey free 34. She sits in second place behind her best friend and sister Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC).
Molly, who recently qualified for the 2023 Mass Am, opened the championship with an impressive 3-under 69, with three of her five birdies coming in the final five holes. “If you asked me who my biggest competition is, I’d definitely say Molly, ” Morgan commented. “Her game is really solid and she’s playing some really good golf right now.”
2022 Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player and the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur Champion Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC) had a solid round of 1-over 73 to put herself in contention headed into the final two rounds. She sits at T3 with Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill GC), who also posted 1-over 73 thanks to an eagle on the par-5 14th. Rounding out the top five was Grace Farland (Malbourough CC) who had five birdies on the day. After the first round she sits at 2-over, five shots back of leader Molly Smith.
In the Senior Championship, Massachusetts golfers took the leaderboard by storm. Tara Connelly (Bay Club at Mattapoisett), a Mass Golf Hall of Famer, fired a round of even-par 72, highlighted by a bogey free 1-under front nine 35. Connelly holds a four shot lead over fellow Bay State natives Tracy Welch (Winchester CC) and Susan Curtin (Boston Golf Club), who both shot 4-over 76s. 2023 Mixed Four-Ball Winner Pamela Kuong (Charles River CC) sits five back at 5-over 77.
Mary Gale (Bedrock GC) holds a six shot lead in the Legends Championship as she was the lone player to post a sub 80 score. Nancy Walker (Ellington Ridge CC) closed her round out strong with a rare birdie at the par-3 18th to post a score of +13 (85). Hollis Barry (Fox Hopyard GC) and Doreen DiPilato (Green Hill Muni GC) sit in third and fourth respectively, with scores of 105 and 108.
A DEMANDING FINISH
Manchester Country Club proved to be a challenging test as the Smith sisters were the lone two players in the field to post under-par rounds. As winds gusted in the afternoon, scoring became difficult coming down the stretch. The daunting par-3 18th, which hugs the Glob Hollow Reservoir only yielded two birdies the entire day and should provide some excitement on Wednesday afternoon.
Round 1 Leaderboard (By State):
T9. Kenna Roman, (Shuttle Meadow CC); 77 (+5)
T9. Zorah Williams, (Stonington CC); 77 (+5)
T12. Yvette O'Brien, (Greenwich CC); 78 (+6)
T15. Cindy Cao, (USGA/CSGA GC); 79 (+7)
T20. Kate Hong, (Greenwich CC); 80 (+8)
1. Molly Smith (Mount Pleasant GC); 69 (-3 )
2. Morgan Smith (Vesper CC); 71 (-1)
T3. Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC); 73 (+1)
T3. Lillian Guleserian (Blue Hill CC); 73 (+1)
5. Grace Farland (Marlborough CC); 74 (+2)
T6. Carys Fennessy, (Cochecho CC); 75 (+3)
T15. Delaney Nadeau, (Cochecho CC); 79 )+7)
T44. Alexis St Laurent, (Ridgewood CC); 90 (+18)
T48. Nicole Butkus, (Abenaqui CC); 91 (+19)
T21. Morgan Macleod, (Wannamoisett CC); 81 (+9)
T39. Anna Gardner, (Sakonnet GC); 88 (+16)
T39. Jazz Bruce, (Links at Lang Farm); 88 (+16)