VASSALBORO — Greely’s Rachel Smith signaled the start of play as she took a rules official’s offer to blow the starting horn for the shotgun start for the MPA Individual State Championships. Then she had one of the closing putts of the day as she captured the girls’ individual state championship with a 6-over 78.
Smith gave her playing partner, Leavitt’s Ruby Haylock, plenty of chances to steal the trophy out of her grasp, but Haylock finished in second at 9-over on Natanis’ Arrowhead course.
Smith wasn’t focused on Haylock’s score.
“On my scorecard, I kept track of Norah (Zhai of Fryeburg), I didn’t keep track of Ruby,” Smith said. “I knew Ruby and I were close the entire match, but I didn’t keep track of anyone.”
Smith’s troubles began on the par-5 17th, her 13th of the afternoon as she put the ball in the hazard on her second shot. After taking a drop, she pulled a 7-iron left and found herself behind a tree. She didn’t put the 7-iron back in the bag, nor did she throw it in the hazard, but rather she used it to bump and run the ball onto the green. She then three putted.
After the hole Haylock was within striking distance, two shots behind Smith. Smith’s approach on the 18th hole missed the green and she thought the ball rolled into the pond. The golf gods gave her a pass, not quite the “collect 200 dollars when passing go” pass, but a pass nevertheless. The ball stopped in a pile of mud on the embankment of the hazard. She decided to to play it and landed just off the green past the hole 15 feet away. She saved bogey.
Haylock, who reached the green and had 50 feet for birdie, also made bogey.
“I definitely struggled with my putting today,” Haylock said. “I think I kind of made up for it with my iron shots.”
It was the last real chance for Haylock to chip away at the deficit. Smith did find trouble on the third hole — the 17th of the day — when her tee shot barely missed the fairway and found a gully in a yellow stake hazard. She took a drop, chunked her approach, and her fourth shot rolled within two feet where she saved bogey.
“I worked on my short game a lot this past week with my coach Abby Spector because I knew that was going to make or break this (chance to win a high school title),” Smith said.
Haylock made par to cut the deficit to three.
On the duo’s second hole of the day, Haylock made a double bogey after her second shot found the woods. Visibly frustrated, Smith who pulled her aside to calm her down.
“She was yelling at herself under her breath, I took her aside, I took her by the shoulder,” Smith said. “I looked at her and I told her, ‘You are a great player,’ that it was the second hole and she had 16 holes to go.”
Haylock was appreciative of what Smith did.
“We are definitely good friends, I think we will be for a while” Haylock said. “I think for her doing that, makes me more proud of her for winning.”
Coming in third was Leavitt’s Morgan Dutil who was 11-over for the day. She credited her putting for the third place finish.
“Getting on the greens in regulation helped a lot,” Dutil said. “Being able to make putts was one of my biggest skills.”
Spruce Mountain’s Haley Turcotte finished 13th at +24.
Maine State high school golf championships. Ruby Haylock, from Leavitt, follows her tee shot on the 13th hole. (John Ewing/Portland Press Herald)