DORSET – The first — and only — birdie Andrea Brown made this week materialized when she had no more chances left.
The veteran split the par-5 18th fairway with her tee shot, laid up smartly to a comfortable spot about 35 yards from the pin and pitched the ball to within four feet of the cup. When the putt dropped, she marked the moment with a fist pump.
The birdie didn’t win her the Vermont Women’s Amateur crown. But it ensured she had a chance — even if she didn’t know that at the time.
“I had no clue,” Brown said. “Sometimes that’s better.”
The finish propelled the 53-year-old into a playoff duel with 19-year-old Julia Dapron that took five holes before Brown shook free with a smooth, two-putt par to seize her second state title on Wednesday beneath blue skies at Dorset Field Club.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Brown, who also won in 2004.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s probably the most important tournament I’ve ever played in.”
It was the first time that the Vermont State Women’s Golf Association’s marquee event came to Dorset, the oldest continually operated golf course in America, dating back to 1886.
Brown’s 16-year wait between trophies is one less than record champion Holly Reynolds’ 17 years between title No. 5 and No. 6.
“My game has been pretty steady. One of my biggest assets is my short game — I’m not a long hitter at all,” Brown said. “Julia and many of the other girls out here outdrive me by 40 or 50 yards sometimes. I’ve learned to not let that intimidate me because I know I can make it up around the greens and with my putting.
“I stay inside myself and don’t try to hit it too hard.”
Brown and Dapron, who also birdied the 18th hole in regulation, finished knotted at 158, 14-over for 36 holes after heavy rains forced the cancellation of the second round on Tuesday.
“I wanted to win a lot, because it’s my home course, but I honestly wasn’t really expecting it so runner-up is just as good for me,” said Dapron, a Dorset member now playing for Stonehill College.
Burlington Country Club’s Carson Laderoute finished four shots back in third after fashioning a 6-over 78 on Wednesday — the low round of the day. First-round co-leader Mia Politano of Ralph Myhre took fourth, six shots off the pace.
“I didn’t expect myself to be in that position after that first day and having the day off to think about that in between … I tried my best not to but it definitely put an extra spin on it you don’t normally have,” said the 17-year-old Politano, a senior-to-be at Otter Valley. “Today I just never really got into the same groove I had before, never got anything going.”
Rebecca Montgelas of Ekwanok snagged fifth, followed by a five-way tie for sixth that featured Reynolds, Williston’s Ann O’Day, Green Mountain’s Lindsay Cone, Rutland’s Keely Levins-Culligan and Stowe’s Jena Wood.
Eight players began the day within six shots of Brown and Politano — until Brown’s smooth front nine, a 1-over 36, left them even further adrift. Dapron, weighed down by a pair of double bogeys, was six shots back at the turn.
That changed rather quickly, however, when Dapron stuffed a wedge to 2 feet for a birdie on the 10th hole and then snagged an eagle at the par-5 11th hole. She toured the homeward nine in 1-over 38 while Brown found par fleeting to close in 44, saved by the clutch birdie at the last.
“The 18th hole I played great both days and I basically played it identically all three times (today) — I hit the same driver, same second shot, same third shot,” Brown said.
The 2004 champ stayed sharp for the extra holes, which featured two replays of 18 before heading to Nos. 1, 2 and 3. On each, she had a putt for birdie that would’ve closed out Dapron on the spot.
The first two jaunts up 18 saw Brown burn the edges with a 15-footer from the fringe and then a 7-footer. For the latter, Dapron had tried to reach the green in two but left herself with a short-sided chip that yielded a two-putt par from 20 feet.
“Andrea is so consistent and such a great golfer, I knew I was going to have to make a birdie because she was going to keep making pars,” Dapron said.
Brown kept the upper hand with sharp approaches at the par-4 first hole, scaring the flagstick on the way by the cup, and at the short par-3 second. Only a convincing up-and-down by Dapron kept the match going.
The fourth playoff in tournament history turned decisively at the par-4 third when Dapron left her second and third shots short of the surface. Brown, pin-high 20 feet left of the cup, knew what she had to do and executed. An 18-inch par putt did the trick.
“I just wanted to make sure I had an easy tap-in putt for my par,” Brown said.
“That’s the longest playoff I think I’ve ever been in,” Brown said. “Julia’s a great player. We were head to head — I wasn’t sure when it was going to end.”
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