Jo Smith

Jo Smith poses for a photo with her 2020 Montana Women's Senior Amateur Championship trophy on Saturday at Riverside Country Club in Bozeman. 

BILLINGS — An impressive three-year run at the Montana Women's Senior Amateur Championship continued for Jo Smith.

Smith, a Missoula Country Club member, fired a 4-over 75 in the third and final round of the 30th Women's Senior Am on Saturday at Riverside Country Club in Bozeman. She finished at 23-over 236 for the tournament, eight strokes better than second-place finisher Susan Bryant of Bozeman.

"It feels great," Smith told over the phone. "It was kind of a surprise. I was all over the map."

Smith's final margin of victory was not a foregone conclusion entering the last round. Her five-stroke cushion through one round shrunk to one after carding an 88 on Friday. She also led by one stroke entering the final round in 2018 at Missoula CC, and she won that Senior Am by one.

On Saturday, Smith took control of the tournament early with birdies on Nos. 3 and 4. Bryant, a Riverside CC member, sandwiched a birdie on No. 3 with two bogeys and two double-bogeys, leaving her eight strokes behind Smith through five holes. Bryant's final round score was 11-over 82.

"I was a lot more nervous going in to 2018 than I was today. That was a big one for me," Smith said. "This one was definitely a good time. You always want to win."

Smith's 75 was the second-best single-round score posted by any of the 62 Senior Am players, behind only her 73 in round one. Even Friday's 88 was not terrible considering it was tied for the eighth-best round that day. Friday's best score was 80 from Libby's Bobbie Lacklen, who finished the tourney tied for fourth with Hamilton's Julie Embleton at 35-over 248. The second round featured strong winds and tough pin placements, Smith said.

Carol Van Valkenburg, also a Missoula CC member, placed third at 33-over 246.

At last year's Senior Am in Billings, Smith finished tied for second behind Helena's Susan Court, who was ninth this weekend at 42-over 255.

Smith felt thankful that this year's tournament happened at all, considering the coronavirus pandemic. Montana reported a single-day record 224 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, including 46 in Gallatin County.

"2020 has been a different year, for sure," Smith said. "I'm really grateful for the game of golf."

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