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)