Maine Jr. Amateur Golf: Rodrigue, Bryant are ready for championships

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Stephanie Rodrigue may be playing some of the best golf of her life.

The Lewiston sophomore has won a number of Maine State Golf Association Junior Tour events this summer, and may be peaking just in time for this week’s Maine Junior Amateur Championship.

“It’s been a good summer,” Rodrigue said. “I’ve been playing almost every single day. The only time I’ve taken a week off is because I went to a concert. So I’ve been playing every single day that I can.”

Rodrigue is one of two local high school girls competing in the MSGA event Wednesday and Thursday at Toddy Brook in North Yarmouth. St. Dom’s sophomore Janelle Bryant, of Gray, is also in the 15-17 age group and should contend. Rodrigue finished fourth last year in the 13-14 group, while Bryant missed the tourney a year ago.

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“It has been a while,” said Bryant, who last played in the junior amateur in 2013. “I’m excited to be able to play in it this year. I was kind of disappointed because I missed it last year, but the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships were my priority.”

Erin Holmes, of Cumberland, was second in the 15-17 age group. She’s back this year. Many in the 13-15 division are playing in the older group this year. Cape Elizabeth’s Lauren Schonewolf won the tourney last year in the 13-14 age group while Bailey Plourde of Newcastle was second. Old Orchard Beach’s Jordan LaPlume was third. Plourde is out of state this week and not competing, opening the door for other competitors.

“I feel pretty confident,” Rodrigue said. “Hopefully, I can do well. “It feels good. Two days, I’m usually pretty good with that stuff, getting to know the course. I just played at Toddy Brook (Monday).”

Rodrigue competed in an NEPGA Pro-Am Monday. Her team, including Fox Ridge pro Bob Darling, finished second. Rodrigue has also won a number of MSGA Junior Tour events this summer, making her that much more excited about what she might be able to do this week.

“I feel ten times more prepared,” Rodrigue said. “I have the right things to focus on and worry about. I feel better prepared. I definitely feel ready.”

After doing well as a freshman at Lewiston last fall, Rodrigue has set her sights on the upcoming fall, and her success this summer is showing results.

“I was the No. 2 player last year at Lewiston,” Rodrigue said. “Hopefully, the way I’m playing right now, I can step up my game and be No. 1 this fall. That’s my main goal right now.”

Bryant also feels greatly improved from when she played in the Junior Amateur two years ago. She’s done well this summer also, finishing right behind Rodrigue in a number of events. She’s finished second numerous times and had some third-place finishes as well.

“I definitely feel like I’ve improved a lot since two years ago,” Bryant said. “I’m excited to see how I do. It’s a different course than the last time I played in it, so it will definitely be something different.”

Bryant and Rodrigue were both the top females on their high school teams and each shot 92 in the state championships last fall. Bryant says she’s been using the summer to tinker with her game and gear up for the fall season also.

“This summer has been alright,” Bryant said. “I have good days and bad days, but summers for me are mainly about improvement than worrying about my scores. I’ve just tried to focus on my own game and see where it goes.”

The tournament atmosphere this week provides an added challenge. There’s more pressure and a need for better focus than any casual summer round. Some good competition and a chance to fare well, only adds to the excitement.

“I know all the girls,” Bryant said. “We’re all friends. It’s good competition, but it’s definitely fun. We keep each other going.”

Rodrigue will tee off Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m. with Holmes and Schonewolf.  Bryant will follow in a group that includes LaPlume and Rachel Smith.

“It’s definitely a different type of play,” Bryant said. “This one is different playing a two-day tournament. You can kind of play the first day and then the second day, you know what you have to do — depending on if the first day didn’t go so well or if the first day went great. For the summer, it’s probably one of the most important tournaments.”

The two-time defending champion in the boys’ 15-17 age group, Will Kannegieser of Minot, is no longer eligible for the Junior Amateur, but two of the players who challenged him in recent years are competing. Bangor’s Drew Powell was second last year, by two strokes. Scarborough’s Drew Kane was third. Mac Kim, from Paris, was 10th last year and eighth in the states. He’s in the third morning group Wednesday. Rockland’s Nick Mazurek, who was second in the state behind Powell, is in the fourth group.

In the boys’ 13-14 age group, Topsham’s Caleb Manuel was eighth last year. He’s paired with Windham’s Evan Glicos, son of Martindale pro Nick Glicos. Glicos was second in the 12-and-under group last year. Portland’s Jeremy Baker is in the second group. He also finished in the top 10 last year, taking sixth.

kmills@sunjournal.com

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