Lewiston’s Stephanie Rodrigue tees off on Tomahawk No. 1 during the state team golf championships at Natanis Golf Club in Vassalboro pm October 8, 2017. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)
LEWISTON — For all the avenues playing golf has opened for Lewiston High School’s Stephanie Rodrigue, this one might be the best so far.
And it will certainly be the warmest.
Rodrigue confirmed with her pen Tuesday what she already knew in her heart: She’ll continue to play golf at the collegiate level, and will do so on scholarship after signing a National letter of Intent to attend school at, and play golf for, the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina.
“I knew I wanted somewhere warm,” Rodrigue said, laughing at her own criteria for selecting a school.
“I also knew, just talking to the coach, I felt really comfortable with him, and with the program,” she said.
Rodrigue has been a catalyst for the Lewiston golf team for four seasons. In Maine, the boys and girls play together in team competition, and split for the individual state tournaments. Rodrigue this year finished tied for fourth place in the MPA girls’ championships with an 82. As a junior she finished in 11th position, and tied for ninth as a sophomore.
She also won the inaugural Junior Golf of Maine girls’ championship in 2016, and has been at the forefront of the recent swell of girls taking up the game at the tournament level across the state.
“It’s really an honor to think that I have been part of this group coming through,” Rodrigue said. “If it helps that younger girls can get into the game by seeing what we’ve all done the past few years, I think that’s great.”
Despite her success, Rodrigue will also be among the first to deflect direct praise.
“She’s been such a solid golfer for us all four years,” Lewiston High School coach Tom LeBlond said. “She was part of that wave of young women taking up the game at a younger age, and now you see it more and more across so many teams.”
In many cases, the girls on a Maine high school teams have been relegated to the JV level, or to one of the lower spots on the varsity ladder. But Rodrigue has been at or near the top of the Devils’ lineup consistently.
“She’s been a spark plug for us, for sure,” LeBlond said. “She’s one of the better golfers we’ve had, period, the past few years, and certainly one of the most consistent.”
When she started looking for schools, Rodrigue first looked to the South.
“I knew I wanted it to be warm,” Rodrigue reiterated. “I was looking at schools in Florida, and the Carolinas. This one actually came together pretty quickly, to be honest. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks.”
After a lengthy video session with the coach at Mount Olive — and plenty of research — Rodrigue made up her mind.
“I just felt really comfortable, I knew it was the place for me,” she said.
This past fall, the Mount Olive women’s golf team finished in the top half of all four tournaments in which they participated, and the school has been among the top five in the Conference Carolinas Tournament each year since 2008-09.
Rodrigue said she’s even befriended a couple of future teammates.
“It’s just exciting,” Rodrigue said. “I’m just so humbled by it all. I’m excited to start that next chapter.”
Lewiston’s Stephanie Rodrigue follows through on her drive off the 7th tee during a golf match this past August against Oxford Hills at Martindale Country Club in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Lewiston’s Stephanie Rodridue sits between her parents, Rick and Terry, as she signs a national letter of intent to play golf at the University of Mount Olive, on Tuesday at Lewiston High School.