Stroke Play Medalist Molly Smith (Massachusetts Golf Photo)
DEDHAM, Massachusetts – After a difficult two days of stroke play, the remaining field of 32 match play contenders arrived to disarmingly benign conditions on Wednesday morning. However, the play was far from benign across 16-morning matches, then another 8 in the afternoon, with plenty of birdies flying and even an ace for Piper Jordan on No. 12, the Eden hole.
In many ways, Dedham Country & Polo Club is uniquely suited to match play. With its wild, sloping template greens, dramatic elevation changes, and uncomfortable tee shots, bogeys can be much easier to come by than birdies, and new theatrics loom around every corner.
Watching the scores tick up, and the cut line slide down the two-day stroke play leaderboard felt like a victory for the course. Many players appeared relieved to stop battling the golf course and, instead, shift their focus to a match play opponent.
Not so much for Molly Smith. “Instead of playing the person I’m playing, I usually try to play the course. Because I do feel like, if I can play well and hit good shots, I’ll have a pretty good chance to win some matches,” said Smith. Perhaps another bout with the course was more appealing to the only player to break par through the first two days.
After capturing Medalist Honors in stroke play with rounds of 75-68, five shots clear of the next closest competitor, Smith kept it rolling with a resounding 9&7 victory over Jillian Johnson in the morning, followed by a 3&2 win over Tate Hadges to advance to the final eight.
“I played a little bit better this morning, I think. I hit a good shot on one, parred one, and then birdied two. Hit it pretty tight there, which, I made bogies previously on that hole, so it definitely felt pretty good to be one-under or 1-up. And then I continued to just play solid golf the rest of the morning round. Sprinkled a few birdies in there, hit it pretty straight, didn’t really get into any trouble.”
Playing in the first match off and closing it out quite early meant a lengthy break before round two, but Smith was unbothered: “Coming in I knew we were gonna be waiting on that second match for a little bit, so just tried to chill out for a bit, forget about golf. There are some nice couches in there, they’re pretty comfy.”
Her round-of-16 match wasn’t quite as comfortable, nonetheless, Smith prevailed. “Definitely in the afternoon, I didn’t hit the ball as well. I tried to force a few things in the middle of the round that led me to lose some holes, but I was able to get back on track and finish it.” She needed only 28 holes to get through the day, as evidenced by the last of the afternoon matches teeing off while she did her post-round interview.
Entering 2023, Isabel Brozena had never advanced past the round of 32 at the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur. She broke through that glass ceiling with a morning 3&2 victory over Sofie Robinson, then followed it up by besting Madalin Small, 4&3.
Unlike Smith, Brozena admitted to playing her opponent rather than the course, “It’s kind of scary. There’s definitely some holes where you’re put in difficult situations, and you know, I just have to think that my opponent is playing the same golf course.”
While she may have approached her round more defensively in stroke play, Brozena seized on an opportunity to go on the offensive, “Obviously you’re playing the person, not necessarily the course, and so, sometimes you have to take more aggressive shots. But I’m just trying to keep my tempo smooth and consistent, and just try not to let anything slip, not let my opponent have a way in.
I think to really elevate my game I need to work on my approach shots because these greens are so difficult to hold. So just being able to place myself in the right spots, it’s going to make it a lot more difficult for my opponent and a lot easier for me.”
There was another major key to Brozena’s new-found match-play success. “My dad had to work the first two days and he was able to come out and watch some of it, but I told him, ‘if I make match play, you’re caddying. I’m not pushing this cart for 36 holes for like three days in a row,'” Brozena said, and she was relieved that he accepted the post (ed. note: it doesn’t sound like he had a choice), “He definitely helped calm me down and I had a lot more fun when he was around.”
Mya Murphy flourished in her first match play appearance at the Mass Women’s Am, felling two big names in Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Madison Smith.
Murphy was pleasantly surprised to find herself moving on to the quarterfinals: “I feel awesome. I mean, I’ve never made the cut here before, so I’m really excited. It was such an honor to play with both Megan and Maddie. Just striking the ball well and just wasn’t expecting it really. I mean, I fixed a few things on the range, so that helps. And I also had my dad on the bag, which also helped me a lot.”
At some point, it occurred to Murphy that she was enjoying the more do-or-die tenor of match play, “Actually, I was walking down, I don’t know which fairway it was, and I was like, ‘I like this. I can just hit right at the pin.’ So I kind of just play aggressive. I hit the ball pretty far, so that definitely gives me an advantage in match play. And just try and two-putt, try to get pars.”
Like Brozena, Murphy’s aggressive match play strategy paid dividends. As did their common strategy of putting dad to work, “It’s very hilly. Very hilly. A lot of fescue, that’s definitely the biggest two. The greens are rolling pretty fast–pretty hilly greens as well. A lot of hills, that’s for sure! I’m sure my dad was having fun pushing the bag.”View results for Massachusetts Women's Amateur