NEWTON, Mass., April 6 — It took all 18 holes, the entire afternoon, and the threat of nightfall, but Pam Kuong finally claimed victory over her mentor and Bay State golf legend Tara Joy Connelly at the women’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
- View photos of 2010 women’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship winner Pam Kuong, runner-up Tara Joy Connelly, and Presidents’ Cup victor Ann Sperandio
So close… Playing on her home course, Charles River Country Club, Kuong weathered a three-hour rain delay Thursday to birdie the par-5 18th for a 1-up win and her second state am title in three years. In doing so, she handed Connelly (Cohasset GC) another close loss in championship play to go with her 18th-hole defeat last year.
Just being in the final match seemed to surprise Kuong. “Tara told me Monday she would see me at 1 p.m. Thursday,” she said before setting out for her afternoon match with a woman she called her friend and mentor. “I said I’d come and watch her play and she said, ‘No, it’ll be you and me in the final.’”
Rematch. Sure enough, Kuong bested Kristen MacDonald (Thomson CC), 2 and 1, in her morning match. Connelly, for her part, earned a bit of payback by dispatching defending champ Mary Chamberlain (Cummaquid), 2 and 1, to advance to the afternoon’s final contest. Chamberlain defeated Connelly on the 18th hole last year at Vesper Country Club.
A closely contested match all day, Kuong took a 1-up advantage with a birdie on the par-3 ninth while Connelly struggled to a bogey. Then came the thunderstorms and downpours, halting play at 3 p.m.
Foreshadowing? During the three-hour break, Connelly worried about the quickness of some downhill putts on the slick greens. Indeed, the two-time state am champ could not corral her flat stick on the back nine, three-putting three times.
Connelly got off to a strong start with a birdie on the first to Kuong’s double-bogey. But, in a back-and-forth match in which neither competitor had more than a one-hole lead, Connelly could not capitalize on her length. She easily outdistanced Kuong by some 30 yards off the tee and carded four birdies to her opponent’s two on the front nine.
Local knowledge. Still, Kuong hung in there on her home course, knocking in putts while Connelly struggled on the greens. A three-putt on the 17th led to a Connelly bogey, while Kuong settled for par to capture the hole.
The final hole seemed to a microcosm of Connelly’s day-long struggles. With the match all square, and her ball lying just 15 feet short of the green and Kuong some 60 yards back on the par-5 18th, Connelly appeared to have the edge.
But, as the Boston Globe’s Michael Whitmer described it, Kuong hit her pitch shot past the hole and watched it spin back. Connelly, meanwhile, clubbed a less-than-stellar chip shot and had to two-putt just to par the hole.
As she had all day, Kuong mastered the putting surface, knocking her birdie putt in for the win.
Presidents’ Cup. Ann Sperandio (Lexington GC) beat Fairfield University teammate Elise Lemons (Cyprian Keyes GC), 1-up, to capture the championship in the Presidents’ Cup competition. Lemons was the first opponent to take Sperandio past the 14th hole.
While she had to play all 18 Thursday afternoon, Sperandio made them count. The soon-to-be college senior came back from two holes down with a birdie at the par-5 15th and a par at 16. A birdie at the par-3 17th gave Sperandio a 1-up advantage, which she did not relinquish.
Perhaps Sperandio had something to prove. After missing the championship flight by one stroke in Monday’s stroke-play qualifier, she seemed to be on a mission.
“I just had a bad day,” Sperandio said before Thursday’s final match. “Ever since then, I’ve just been on fire.”
Past winners. With her win, Kuong added to her first state amateur win in 2008 at Salem Country Club. Connelly, still trying to notch her third state championship title, could console herself with the probability that her semifinal win locked up her sixth consecutive Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM) player-of-the-year title. Connelly won the state am championship in 2003 and has six POY honors on her resume.
The last shall be first. Medalist winner and No. 1 seed Claire Sheldon (The Country Club) did not last long in match play. It took 22 holes, but Sheri Siegel (Oakley CC), the 31st and last seed, bounced the No. 1 seed, who fired a 4-under 70 in the stroke-play qualifier.
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