Amy Kennedy knew she didn't have her best golf game on Thursday.
But, as she came to realize, at this point in her career, not having her A-game is still enough to win her the Women's York County Amateur Golf Association title.
She did so by outdueling longtime friend and WYCAGA legend Connie Shorb, claiming a 2&1 victory at Out Door Country Club to win her third straight title and eighth all time. She's won four of the past five crowns.
"It makes me feel good, of course," Kennedy said about winning, despite not playing her best. "As my husband would say, 'It's ugly. You just have to deal with it.'"
There wasn't much Kennedy could say that was overly complimentary about her game on a day when she had to battle soggy and slow conditions, but she did battle. Rarely did she allow Shorb any openings, and even if she did, she came up with at least one good shot that would salvage a tie on the hole.
That was best exemplified on the 17th green, the final hole of the day for the two competitors, when Kennedy hit a tee shot into the par-3 green that looked destined to stick within feet of the front pin location. However, the ball caught the backside of a front, greenside bunker, lost all spin, and shot directly forward, rolling through the green and into the rough. Knowing that all she needed was at least a tie on the hole to win the match, Kennedy came up with two of her best shots of the day, knocking a pitch shot to about eight feet and then holing the putt to tie the hole with a par and seal the victory.
"I elected to take a more aggressive club, a smaller club, because I didn't want to be wimpy and hit extra club and end up in a problem where I was off the back of the green," she said about her approach into 17. "I was very proud that I hit that club and hit it well and it was tracking right toward the hole, but anyway, getting that up-and-down, that was my favorite part of the day."
Getting the win on that hole halted any momentum Shorb gained on the previous hole, when she won the par-5 16th, just her second of the day, to extend the match to the 17th. Yet, even on the 16th, it took a Kennedy double bogey to keep the door open for Shorb, who admitted that she was fortunate that Kennedy didn't bring her best stuff. Otherwise, it would've been a one-side affair.
"I would've liked to shown up with a golf game," Shorb laughed, but admitted in all seriousness: "I haven't played and it really shows up when you're playing in competition because you have a tendency to fall back on bad habits."
Kennedy starts fast: After both golfers tied the opening hole with bogeys, Kennedy carded the only birdie of the day between the two by holing a remarkable shot out of a green-side bunker on the par-3 second to grab an early 1-up advantage. She quickly pushed her lead to 2-up with a par on the fourth hole and carried that into the par-5 seventh, where Shorb finally won a hole with a par. The two then played the final two holes in even par to make the turn with Kennedy clinging to a 1-up advantage.
Kennedy immediately regained her 2-up lead with a nifty up-and-down on the par-4 10th, and at that point, she was content in continuing to tie holes with Shorb, which the two did over the next three holes. Kennedy pushed her advantage to 3-up on the 14th hole after stiffing her approach shot to about 10 feet and then two-putting for par, while Shorb three-putted from about 30 feet. At that point, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Kennedy would win the tournament, despite a late charge by Shorb to extend the match to the 17th, the first time all week that she had to play past the 14th hole.
Chasing Shorb: Kennedy and Shorb are without a doubt the two premier female golfers on the York County amateur scene, now with a combined 39 WYCAGA titles between them. Normally, they'll play together as partners when playing in club tournaments at The Country Club of York.
They both admitted it was fun to play a competitive, but relaxed round between each other. Their individual rivalry took a year off in 2015 when Shorb elected not to play because of a personal issue. Even though Shorb is more than five decades removed from her first WYCAGA title back in the early 1960s, anytime she tees it up, she enters as one of the favorites. However, over the last few years, she's had to take a back seat to Kennedy, who's in the midst of her own dominance of the local women's golf scene.
As for Shorb's record of 31 tournament wins? Even with her recent stranglehold on the trophy, Kennedy knows that mark is well outside her reach.
"I think that's not happening," she said. "I don't think anyone will ever get there."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org