July 27, 2020 - At age 19, Christine Shao of Neshanic Valley already has her name etched on two New Jersey State Golf Association trophies.

On Monday, Shao, a rising sophomore at Columbia University, moved one step closer to a third championship as she shot one-under-par 71 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the 36-hole stroke play portion of the 95th New Jersey State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship at the par-72, 5,738-yard Morris County Golf Club in Morristown.

Following Tuesday’s round of stroke play that will determine the low 16 golfers, the Women’s Amateur will turn to match play with the round of 16 and quarterfinals on Wednesday and the semifinals and final on Thursday.

The Amateur is one of three championship being contested this week at Morris County. The 7th Women’s Mid-Amateur and 66th Junior Girls Championships are also being played as 36-hole stroke play events, with the winners to be decided on Tuesday. The Junior Championship was added to the week’s slate when the NJSGA was forced to maneuver its schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Mid-Amateur (ages 25 and older) and Junior golfers (ages 18 and younger) are eligible to advance to match play portion of the Women’s Amateur if their scores are within the low 16, and if they opted before the beginning of the championship to play in the Women’s Amateur proper.

Two shots behind Shao in the Women’s Amateur at 73 are Megan Meng of Royce Brook, Katie Li of Fiddler’s Elbow, Angelica Kim of Edgewood, and Katherine Lu of Forsgate.

Defending champion Noelle Maertz of Ridgewood shot two-over-par 74 to lead the Women’s Mid-Amateur (ages 25 and older), by two shots over former champion Samantha Perrotta of Old York.

In the Junior Girls Championship, for golfers 18 and under, Meng, Li, Kim and Lu are all tied at one-over-par 73. Jenelle Valera of Royce Brook and Eunice Kim of White Beeches are tied for fifth place at two-over-par 74.

“It means a lot to me to win New Jersey State Golf Association tournaments,” said Shao, 19, who rotated between the top two spots on Columbia’s golf team. “Winning NJSGA events means my game is solid and all the hard work is paying off.”

When Shao won the Junior Girls Championship in 2017, she shot 70-66-136 to win by three shots. The 66 on the final day tied a course record at Royce Brook Golf Course (West). Earlier that summer, she had won the NJSGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship with Pingry School teammate Ami Gianchandani of Watchung Valley. 

A conflict prevented her from playing in last year’s Junior Girls and Women’s Amateur Championships, and she is in contention despite an abbreviated collegiate season.

“I was unfortunate that my college season was cut short. We only had one tournament in Florida this spring,” said Shao, who is majoring in economics. “Once I was able to get back on the golf course at home, I worked a lot around the greens, on my chipping and putting.”

Shao’s first round on Monday included five birdies and four bogeys, including a three-putt bogey on the par-4 18th hole.

“All of my birdie putts were mid-range, about 10- to-15 feet. I made a lot, but I also missed a few… so I’m looking forward to doing better tomorrow.”

Maertz, 26, is one of the longer hitters in the field, but she knew beforehand to play it safe. She has reached the semifinals of match play on four occasions and would like to add the Amateur title to her Mid-Amateur crown.

“(Former champion) Tara Fleming told me not to overpower the golf course, so I hit a lot of irons off the tee. I’m going to be a little more aggressive with the par fives tomorrow.”


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