SACO — Women’s amateur golf history in Maine is marked by two distinct eras.
The sister act of Martha White and Pennie Cummings dominated for decades. For a shorter time, but with few significant challenges, Abby Spector stood alone at the top.
Emily Bouchard has flaunted the game and the disposition to join that select group ever since she arrived on the scene. With three consecutive state titles to her credit from 2011 to 2013, all won in her early 20s, Bouchard left no doubt about her credentials.
Life often seemed to get in the way, however. Bouchard embraced her longtime role as a coordinator and instructor with the Maine State Golf Association junior program, but it often prevented her from getting on the course to sharpen her own game.
And now, new career interests may stifle the Bouchard dynasty before it has an opportunity to grow. After her recent runner-up finish to Staci Creech in the Maine Women’s Amateur at Biddeford-Saco Country Club, Bouchard, 25, dropped a bombshell that resonated more loudly than any of her booming drives.
“This very well could be my last tournament in Maine,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard spent much of the spring and summer teaching driver education while pursuing opportunities in her newest passion, air traffic control.
She landed that dream job with the Federal Aviation Administration. The down side for family, friends and fellow golfers is that the assignment is much like a military deployment. Bouchard won’t get to choose the when, the where, or the how long.
“I’m going to be getting out of here pretty quick,” she said.
The change in Bouchard’s life was sudden.
Keeping the nation’s skies safe didn’t develop as a dream until 2011, around the time when Bouchard was shooting a first-round 66 and breezing to her first Maine championship at Penobscot Valley Country Club.
“Not until I was 21, actually,” Bouchard said. “A good family friend introduced me to it and I got hooked.”
Waiting was the hardest part, as the lamentation in the old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song goes.
It had one positive impact on Bouchard’s possible final summer in Maine, though. She enjoyed something that hadn’t been part of her life for many years — relatively unlimited time to pursue her favorite hobby.
Bouchard’s hopes of winning a fourth championship evaporated on the final six holes after she pulled even with Creech. She couldn’t blame those few errant shots and missed putts on inactivity or unfamiliarity with the layout. Biddeford-Saco is her home course.
“I played a lot of golf this year, actually” Bouchard said. “My scores Monday and Tuesday (the first and second rounds) were higher than I’ve ever shot here all year. I made some mistakes out there and it cost me. I was in some spots that I’d never been.”
Creech won the tournament by seven shots, but that didn’t tell the story of what was one of the best battles for women’s amateur supremacy in recent memory.
The new champion from Veazie tried to protect her lead with par after par while Bouchard stayed aggressive and reaped six birdies through the 12th hole of the Wednesday finale.
“I’ve had more (birdies) before in my life. What more can you do, you know? I felt motivated. Every time I made a birdie and I snuck closer, I never took the lead, but when I was tied I had a fire under me,” Bouchard said. “It’s unbelievable. I was very much looking forward to playing (Creech), for the sake of motivation and competition.”
If this was indeed Bouchard’s last hurrah in the Pine Tree State, our golf community loses out on what could have been a fabulous, friendly rivalry.
“We pushed each other. You just compete. Competition is good. It builds the game. It motivates you,” Bouchard said. “Golf is a fun game, don’t get me wrong, but what fun is it if you don’t come out and compete? You’ve got to have something to drive you.”
Bouchard said she made tentative plans with Creech to team up in the future, perhaps even trying a USGA national two-ball event together.
That doesn’t sound like the strategy of someone who plans to put away the clubs anytime soon, which is terrific news.
“When you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” Bouchard said. “I’ll play the game. It’s a lifelong thing. Whether I compete there or not, we’ll see. It depends where it is. Wherever the FAA sends me. I don’t choose. I could end up anywhere.”