SACO — The next big thing in Maine women’s golf has been tearing it up in Pennsylvania and North Carolina for more than 30 years.
Our list of top homegrown female competitors both rolls off the tongue and ends abruptly. The hall of fame sister tandem of Martha White and Pennie Cummings and 1990s phenom Abby Spector immediately spring to mind.
We never know who’s on the horizon, of course, but newly crowned Maine Women’s Amateur champion Staci Aber Creech could enjoy the view at the top for a while.
Creech, 42, was 3-for-3 in Women’s Maine State Golf Association tournaments before winning the top prize at Biddeford-Saco Country Club on Wednesday.
She also tied for third in the recent New England Amateur at Ledgemont Country Club in Seekonk, Mass., trailing only two college players from Delaware and Georgetown.
“Since 2008 I played in North Carolina state amateur every year,” Creech said. “Due to the area, you get a lot of college girls in that. Wake Forest, N.C. State, UNC, they’re all right in that area, and all those girls play.”
A four-year varsity standout at the University of North Carolina, Creech made the move north when her husband of 17 years, Karlton, was named athletic director at the University of Maine in February 2014.
It was a busy time that kept her away from anything but recreational golf for a year.
“We had a lot going on with the transition,” she said. “I’ve played competitive golf since I was 8 years old, so it’s not too hard to get back into it.”
Creech learned the game while tagging along with her older brother, John, in Greensburg, Pa. As a teenager, she was coached by Jim Ferree, a winner on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
After her career with the Tar Heels, Creech tried to make a career of golf. She was a member of the PGA of America and a club professional.
Those commitments took a toll in terms of both time and fun.
“When you’re in the golf business, you never play,” Creech said. “In hindsight I should have probably never tried that. I love the game just for the game, so not getting to play was tough.”
Creech went through the process of regaining her amateur status in 2008.
She taught elementary school for a time. Golf became a way of spending time with Karlton, who actively supports his wife’s avocation as her caddy in the tournament setting.
“We have a lot of fun with it. He does all the numbers so I don’t have to worry about any of that,” Creech said. “I just hit the shot. He gives me another opinion, just confidence that I made the right decision.”
The numbers at Biddeford-Saco were impressive, indeed.
Creech shot 2-under 70 in the final round to beat hometown favorite and three-time state champion Emily Bouchard by seven shots.
They were tied with six holes to play, but Creech’s impeccable short game was the difference. She had three birdies and one bogey in the championship round, overcoming Bouchard’s ability to drive the ball 30 to 40 yards longer on many holes.
“That’s nothing new to me,” Creech said. “I’m always the short hitter usually. I’ve dealt with that since I was young.”
Creech currently is pursuing real estate for an agency run by former Maine basketball star Emily Ellis.
She also has been named volunteer assistant coach of the new women’s golf team at Husson. Mike Dugas heads the upstart program.
The only negative spin on her new address: Not being able to play golf year-round.
“That’s OK, though,” Creech said. “It’s been a great transition, and we’ve loved it. We absolutely love Maine. It’s been a great decision to come here.”