WATERBURY, Vermont - The greens at the Country Club of Vermont are known to throw quite the challenge at competitors who dare face them, but Massachusetts' Morgan Smith of Vesper Country Club stayed the course Tuesday to take an 8-stroke lead heading into the final round of competition at the New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
Smith finished with a 3-under 69 for the second day in a row to put her 6 strokes under for the championship, where she's also the only player who remains below par. Her second-round performance included 3 back-nine birdies, giving her a round-best 34 on the back half.
"I gave myself a lot of good looks, a couple that didn't land today but I did make some which is good," Smith said. "You have to be smart out there. You have to stay on your toes because one bad shot here, it gets pretty bad. You have to take your safer lines and play aggressive to those safer lines."
Massachusetts' Sana Tufail of Southborough Golf Club also recorded a 69 to tie Smith for the best round score, giving her a 9-stroke improvement between Days 1 and 2, the biggest chance out of all players at the top of the leaderboard.
"I think it was learning the course," Tufail said. "Damage limitation is definitely key, that you can pick up the birdie opportunities but sometimes if you're in trouble and you make a bogey, you just accept it and you move on."
Tufail now sits in fourth, 3 strokes back of Massachusetts golfers Shannon Johnson and Angela Garvin, who are tied for second at 2 over. Johnson was the only player other than Smith and Tufail to finish under par on Tuesday.
Catie Schernecker and Molly Smith, who are also Massachusetts natives, are in the hunt at 7 over through two rounds.
In the Tournament Division, leader Sue Curtin of Massachusetts' Boston Golf Club narrowly held off fellow Bay State competitor Pamela Kuong of Charles River Country Club to maintain her position atop the division by one stroke.
Curtin entered the day with a comfortable lead but spent much of the afternoon in a back-and-forth battle with Kuong, who shot a division-leading 3-over 75 during the round. After rolling in two birdies during the round, a double bogey on the 18th hole put Curtin at a 6-over 78 for the afternoon. Heading into Wednesday, Curtin is seven strokes above par, while Kuong is eight over.
Also knocking on the door are Connecticut golfers Debbie Johnson, who is 11 over par, and Jen Holland, who is one stroke behind Johnson. Holland has a six-stroke advantage over the next lowest-scoring competitors, Massachusetts' Melissa Hem of Dedham Country & Polo Club and Vermont's Becky Montgelas of Ekwanok Country Club.
Curtin and Kuong lead the Senior Division as well. At the front of the pack in the Legends Division are Elizabeth Walker of Vermont with a 25-over 169 and Kibbe Reilly of Rhode Island with a 26-over 170.