Inclement weather at the Massachusetts Mid-Am (Dave Colt photo)
PLYMOUTH, Mass. (Sept. 13, 2018) – It took 24 more hours than originally planned, but the first round of the 35th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship was completed on Thursday at Plymouth Country Club.
Following that first round – which began on Wednesday at 9 a.m. and ended at 3:19 p.m. on Thursday after dense fog and then heavy rains caused two suspensions of play on Wednesday – the field was reduced to the low 71 scorers. Those competitors will return to Plymouth Country Club on Friday to compete in a second and final round of play set to begin at 7 a.m. off the first tee at Plymouth Country Club.
Due to the numerous delays – one of which kept play from beginning on Thursday until noon – tournament organizers made the decision to reduce the event from 54 holes to 36 holes. It marks the third time in 15 years that weather has forced a change in the original schedule.
This year’s 18-hole cut line fell at 7-over par 76. Friday’s field will include 68 competitors after three competitors withdrew following round one.
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After all scorecards had been signed on Thursday afternoon, the top of the leaderboard looked the same as it had 24 hours earlier.
Mike Calef, who was part of the second group to tee off on Wednesday morning, still holds a one-stroke lead with a score of 3-under par 66. It was a round that featured five birdies and two bogies and represents his lowest score ever posted at Plymouth Country Club.
“I hit it pretty solid from tee to green,” said Calef following his round on Wednesday. “I was in the fairway a lot and that means that you can get a little more aggressive with your second shots. If you are in the rough and it’s wet and it’s thick it is difficult… I hit a couple of sketchy shots because everything is wet, but I was pretty happy with how I played.”v
Sitting T2 at 2-under par 67 are Kyle Tibbetts and Matt Miller, while Rick Moreau and Derek Schug are T-4 at 1-under 68. Those top five competitors all completed their rounds on Wednesday.
“We never got rained on. We finished just before the weather came in,” said Miller, one of five Plymouth CC members to make the cut. “Obviously, it was a little softer out there so you get to be a little more aggressive into some pins. The greens I thought were still rolling nice. We are not used to the speed, but as the day went on, it got a little bit wet but never to the point where you felt really wet. We lucked out there.”
The biggest changes on the leaderboard came right below the top five.
Brendan Hester and Frank Vana, Jr., a past Hornblower Memorial and Massachusetts Mid-Amateur champion, respectively, moved into a tie for sixth place overall after posting scores of even par 69 on Thursday. They are joined in that spot with Nick Maccario and Glendon Sutton, who had posted their even-par rounds the day prior.
“It was good to get through the first round,” said Vana, who was 2 over on Wednesday but then made three birdies and one bogey on Thursday. “I was able to make a few birdies to get myself back into it and look forward to tomorrow’s round.”
Five competitors are in a log jam at 1-over 70. Included in that group is Herbie Aikens, the 2014 champion of this event, as well as Jack Kearney, one of only five competitors over the age of 60 who not only competed this week but made the cut.
“It is night and day from what we are used to playing,” said Kearney, who won the 2005 Hornblower Memorial Tournament. “For 20 years we have been playing this place where it is firm and fast, but the weather has caused some issues. The speed of the greens and the lack of bounces and roll have been the two big differences this week.”
Shannon Johnson Shines in Mid-Amateur Debut
For anyone that’s been paying attention to the Massachusetts golfing scene this summer, the name Shannon Johnson is one that ought to ring a bell.
The 35-year old Norton resident, who moved from South Dakota to the Bay State six years ago, represented Massachusetts by finishing as runner-up and then semifinalist in each of the last two U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships. This year, she hit the ground running with victories in several Mass Golf Women’s Championships, including the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy Championship, the Grace Keyes Cup Championship, the New England Women’s Golf Association Championship and most notably the Women’s Amateur Championship.
This week, however, the former University of New Mexico and Indiana University women’s golfer Johnson was competing in another local tournament – this time for the first time. Not only was Johnson, a former Anne Marie Tobin Player of the Year recipient as the state’s top female golfer, competing in the 35th edition of the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, but she also became the first-ever female in the 35-year history of the tournament to advance from qualifying to the Championship Proper – a feat she accomplished when she shot a 4-over par 75 at Sandwich Hollows GC site on August 27.
After only getting in eight holes Wednesday before a 19 hour and 31 minute delay saw the first round resume at noon on Thursday, Johnson knew that she would have to have a decent back nine in order to place amongst the top-70 and ties and advance to Friday’s final round.
She did just that.
“I came out this morning and had a 50-yard shot for my first shot in on nine. That was my third shot and I hit it to about three feet and made the putt, so that was nice,” she recalled when play resumed. “I hit a really good shot on 10 to about 15 feet or so and made it for birdie. It was a really good way to start the day.”
After starting the day at 3-over through eight holes, Johnson tallied seven pars and a birdie in her final 10 holes to finish the round at 4-over 73 and T27 on the leaderboard, with plenty of breathing room to ensure her return Friday.
With so much rain on the course over the past 24 hours, Johnson was not only battling some of the state’s top competitors in the field, she was also facing slower conditions on the greens that forced her to put more emphasis on placing her shots.
“I hit the ball really well today and still had three or four birdie attempts that I could have made and didn’t make,” she explained. “The course is definitely playing a little longer, even though we’re not playing the back tees, but because it is just so wet that the ball is just not going anywhere. Now, obviously with all the rain, it’s slowed things down and even the greens with the downhill putts that normally are lightning aren’t so fast. If you can hit good shots in, they weren’t rolling out so they were just hitting where they landed. It was fun. There were definitely going to be a lot of birdies out there today.”
After her made par and her birdie to begin the resumption of play, Johnson tallied five straight pars and nearly made it six when her par putt on the 18th hole just missed.
With her first round of the Mid-Amateur in the books and the knowledge that she’ll return on Friday, Johnson will look to build on her first round experience.
“It was good to get all the jitters out and get the feelings that you would at a big national event,” said Johnson. “I think I just want to have a little more confidence on the green. Just pick a line and trust it and hopefully get the speed a little more dialed in. Today, I just hit the ball well and that is all I can ask for and that’s what I want to do tomorrow.”
In the 9:00 a.m. slot Friday, she’ll be paired with Alex Jeffers and Jeff Weishaar.