Shannon Johnson (Dave Colt photo)
HYDE PARK, Mass. (Aug. 2, 2018) – Mission Accomplished. Competing in her first Massachusetts Women’s Amateur final match since her runner-up finish in 2015, Shannon Johnson made birdie on the first hole of the final match and never looked back. She defeated two-time champion Claire Sheldon, 3 and 2, at George Wright Golf Club Thursday afternoon.
This victory marked the first career win for the 35-year old Johnson in what is Mass Golf’s longest running championship, and adds to a season that already includes wins in both the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy and the New England Women’s Amateur Championship.
“I was just trying to keep my head down, just keep plugging away one good swing at a time and I was lucky it turned out in my favor,” said Johnson, a 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinalist following her victory over Sheldon, who won titles in this event in both 2007 and 2012. “This is the one that has kind of eluded me. So, going in after the Ouimet, this is what I was solely focused on, not that we had a lot of turn around. I played really well on the last couple holes and that gave me some good momentum going into this and some good confidence boosters just mentally.”
Following her morning victory over Jacqueline Gonzalez, a rising junior on the Holy Cross women’s golf team, Johnson sank a birdie putt from 4 feet out to jump out to the early lead.
“It is always great birdieng the first hole,” Johnson said of her start. “You know that hole, the last two times I played I made bogey. It was nice to get off to a good start. I really had another look on No. 2, another look on No. 3, for me just getting the ball to the hole, they were just not getting in there, just my pace was off all day. It was good, just fairways and greens.”
After carding matching scores on both the second and third holes, Sheldon brought the match back to all square after she got onto the green in two and then two-putted on the fourth hole, while Johnson had trouble finding the green, ultimately missing a putt from 5 feet just left that would have saved par.
Starting on the sixth hole, however, Johnson, who plays out of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, shot par-par-birdie over the next three holes and quickly regained the lead, extending it to as many as 3 up through seven holes.
“My goal was to hit fairways and greens, eventually that is going to wear down your opponent. The second round, it is so hot out here you are going to get fatigued, and I was just trying to hydrate and keep going,” said Johnson on her stretch that helped her build a short lead.
The score would remain deadlocked as the competitors, ranked one and two respectively in the Championship match bracket , tallied par on each of the next four holes.
“The driver was a little bit left and a little bit right, and I took myself out of play a few times,” said Sheldon, who earlier in the day defeated Krystal Knight, a rising senior at Merrimack College, in the semifinals. “It just kind of did not add up today. It was not that bad, but it was not good enough for sure. Shannon did not make mistakes, I had to be able play well to beat her. It was a great victory for her.”
Johnson extended her lead to as much as 4 up when she pocketed her third birdie of the day after birdieng the par-4 12th hole, which was playing at over 400 yards Thursday. Thanks in part to a 25-foot birdie putt secured on the 12th hole – a straightaway par 4 with a large drop-off equidistant between the tee and the green, Johnson was able to increase her lead to its largest of the day.
“I kind of ran out of time,” said Sheldon. “I was really kicking myself with the bogies I made with the bogies late on the front 9, just to get down. I dug myself a hole that I could not get out of. I did not make any putts which didn’t help. Shannon played great, and I had to make birdies to beat her. So without the putts going in it wasn’t going to happen today. But it was fun.”
Johnson added, “I hit the ball probably the best I have all week. It was just good, really good tempo all day. Maybe the only one was maybe on 14, I just hit it a little chunky. But luckily I was able to get a good putt off the green. Overall just hit it in the fairway, hit in the green and try to make some putts, that is kind of all I was doing.”
Despite a bogey by Johnson on the 15th hole that cut the deficit to 3 down, the two made matching pars on each of the remaining three holes. Shannon Johnson sank her putt on the par-4 16th hole to secure the win.