Shannon Johnson (Dave Colt photo)
HYDE PARK, Massachusetts – For the second time in three years, Shannon Johnson faced off against Cheryl Krueger in her round of 32 match and for a second time she was successful in advancing to the next round. As the first match off in the morning, Johnson needed 14 holes before delivering a 5-and-4 victory and a berth into the round of 16.
“We faced each other two years ago in the first round too, so I told her that we had to stop meeting like this,” said Johnson with a laugh. “You never know what can happen in match play. You could come out and not get off to a very good start. She played great and played some good holes, and I was lucky to move on.”
Johnson got off to a fast start by winning four of the first five holes with par. On the par-3 fourth she hit it to 4 feet and then on the par-4 fifth hole she landed her approach to 8 feet. On both occasions, Johnson was unable to convert her birdie putts.
“That was the story of the day with every birdie putt,” said Johnson. “I hit the ball better today than I did yesterday I just didn’t really convert any birdie putts, which is fine. Everything was short. I don’t know if the greens got shorter or what but something with my speed was off. I was happy because I hit it much better today than I did yesterday. It was a good take away.”
Johnson first ran into trouble on the par-4 ninth hole when her drive sailed right, but she managed to halve the hole which gave her the cushion she would need heading to the back nine.
“I hit it a little right and I lost it in the trees right,” said Johnson about the ninth hole which she made birdie on during stroke play on Monday. “I didn’t even think it was an issue of not finding it and then I got up there and realized that I had to go back. I re-teed right down the middle and hit it to a foot for five. She hit short and didn’t get up and down, so we ended up pushing that which was good. That was a good momentum getter.”
Krueger was able to continue the match with a par win on the 13th hole.
“That hole has been a thorn in my side,” said Johnson. It’s a tough hole. I have hit it short both days and haven’t been able to get up and down, but she had two really got shots and a had a look at birdie and made par.”
Johnson closed out the match on the 14th hole thanks to an approach that landed 25 feet from the hole. Krueger’s approach was short and she was unable to get up and down to continue the match.
“Every time you come out here you learn something new,” said Johnson. “I am going to hit it further left on 9 tomorrow because there is much more room off the tee than you can see. There are a couple of little things that you can learn each time out.”
Johnson will next face the 16th seed, Elise Keane, who was a 5-and-3 winner over the 2018 Osgood Memorial Trophy winner ErinO’Hara by a score of 5 and 3.
In the Battle of the Ages, Emily Nash Bests Veteran Gail Regan
One of the youngest in the field took on one of the most senior competitors in the round of 32. In the end, it was 16-year-old Emily Nash who defeated Gail Regan by a score of 9 and 8.
“Today my putting was really good and it really helped me a lot,” said Nash. “I just played overall pretty consistent, I was just hitting fairways and greens. I think on the front I had two birdies and on the back I had one on hole 10.”
Nash opened her round of 32 match by winning the first three holes with pars. She then hit her 7 iron on the par-3 fourth hole to 10 feet and made that birdie putt. A bogey and two pars later, Nash stuck her 9-iron approach shot on the par-4 ninth hole to five feet to take a commanding lead heading into the back nine.
“This course is definitely tight, so hitting fairways is definitely kind of really important on this course,” said Nash. “Also the greens are definitely tough. I think I kind of got an eye for the greens now, so that is definitely helping me a lot. But I am glad I played a practice round Saturday because there are a few holes where it is blind so it helps to know where to put it.”
She continued her momentum by winning the 10th hole with a par. Even when she looked to be in trouble – like on the par 5 11th hole where she hit her drive left and then left herself with a long birdie putt – Nash found a way to convert. On that particular hole, Nash was able to close out the match by making that long 20-foot birdie putt.
“It was definitely important,” said Nash about advancing through the first day of match play. “Last year I played in this event at Myopia and I think in the first round I may have gotten knocked out by Katie Barrand, so definitely this round I wanted to get out to a solid start and wanted to score well. I think I was 2 under on the front, so I am glad I was able to keep that up.”
Nash will next face Skylar Frankiewicz of Stow Acres CC who was a 6-and-5 winner over Cynthia Friend of Oak Hill CC.
“The U.S. Challenge Cup has two match plays, one in the spring and one in the fall,” said Nash about her match play experience. “I played in the U.S. Girls’ Junior in California, and I didn’t make the cut to match play but I was kind of close. This is my first time since the spring where I have played really head to head match play. I think match play for me is better than stroke play, so I like being head to head.”
Defending Champion Fends Off Scala In Tight Match
It took a near perfect performance for Hannah Ghelfi to continue on in hopes of capturing her second straight Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship title.
As the 10th seed following the stroke-play portion of the event, Ghelfi drew a round of 32 showdown with Meredith Scala of Kittansett Club. It took Ghelfi 17 holes to advance with a 2-and-1 victory.
“This is probably one of the closest,” said Ghelfi. “I am really tired right now.”
Ghelfi jumped out to a fast start by making birdie on two of her first four holes. On those holes – the third and fourth holes at George Wright GC – she stuck her approach shots to eight feet and two feet.
“I think I had a bit of a hot start,” said Ghelfi. “Meredith was I think 2 or 3 over for the whole day. She played really well. It was a good battle, it was tough.”
After finishing second to Shannon Johnson at both the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy and the NEWGA Championship, Ghelfi has continued to see her level of play improve with each passing round. Today marked perhaps her best performance of the week as she finished with five birdies on the day, four on the front nine and one on the back nine.
“I was rolling putts well but every putt counted,” said Ghelfi. “Everything was stressful, so it was hard.”
After not having a chance to play a practice round, Ghelfi is becoming a quick study of the Donald Ross layout which she hopes will see her advance deep into match play over the next two days.
“I definitely am learning the course better,” said Ghelfi, who 4-over par 76 on Monday. “Course management was better, and I struggled with the woods but other than that I hit the ball pretty well. It was definitely better than yesterday.”
Claire Sheldon Continues to Roll Towards Saturday’s Nuptials
Life could not get much better for Claire Sheldon, who was one of the first competitors off the course on Tuesday following her 8-and-6 victory over Alia Godek of Agawam Hunt Club.
Sheldon, who is scheduled to be married on Saturday before she moves to Australia on Monday, made three birdies and six pars to play the George Wright GC front nine at 3-under 33.
“Life is good, and I am just relaxed and having fun,” said Sheldon. “Good things are happening, and I am just going to try and stay out of my own way.”
Sheldon closed out the match on the 12th hole with a par to defeat Godek, who was making her first ever appearance in the Championship Flight match play. Godek was one of six competitors who finished at 14-over par 86 and had to face off in a six-for-four playoff for the final Championship Flight spots on Monday afternoon. Godek claimed the 31st seed overall.
Sheldon, who won this event in 2007 and 2012 and advanced to the semifinals one year ago, will now face Gabrielle Shieh of Nashawtuc CC in the round of 16. Shieh was a victor over two-time champion Tracy Welch of Winchester. Welch won this event in 1998 and 2006.