MANCHESTER — The nerves never really set in.

She didn’t let them.

South Portland’s Alexa Rancourt began the final round of the Women’s Maine State Golf Association championship with a seemingly insurmountable 13-shot lead. Then she bogeyed the first hole. And double-bogeyed the second. Her playing partners, Kristin Kannegieser and Debby Gardner, each parred both holes.

“I had one moment on the third tee where I was like, ‘Wow, three shots, and they just parred,’ but I tried to push it away,” Rancourt said. “Golf is so mental, if you let those thoughts creep in, things that you don’t want to happen start to happen.”

A steady par on the next hole followed by a birdie at the fourth got things back on the right track, and Rancourt ran off four consecutive birdies on the back nine to run away with a 23-stroke victory over Gardner, earning her second consecutive WMSGA title.

“I made a really good putt on 10 to save par, and that putt gave me
confidence,” Rancourt said. “It was an uphill putt, and I jammed it
right in the back of the hole, and the shot I hit on No. 11 felt really
solid, and that birdie gave me even more confidence. Those two holes
boosted me a little, and then, just standing over the putts, I just
felt like they were going to go in.”

Rancourt stood on the precipice of a back-nine women’s record after going 4-under through five holes on the second nine, but a short but tricky No. 16 derailed those thoughts. Rancourt’s second shot, from the right rough, bounced off the green to the back right. Her third shot from an awkward stance bounded across the green and down the slop off the back left, and she duffed her chip from there. Eventually, she knocked the ball in for a triple-bogey seven.

“I made the wrong club slection there on my third shot and I paid for it,” Rancourt said.

She rolled in a birdie at the 18th to get back to level par on the day, and finished one under for the three-day tournament.

“With exception of those two holes … I feel like I played really, really, really solidly,” Rancourt.

The one piece of Rancourt’s game she felt had abandoned her in Round 2 was her putting. That changed with a simple stroke at the 10th.

“It came through on the back nine for me, finally,” Rancourt said. “Standing over every putt, I just felt like it was going in.”

It will have to next week.

Rancourt has qualified for and will play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, which starts Aug. 3.

“The putting, you have to putt well at a tournament like that,” Rancourt said. “Especially on the back nine, I felt like I was playing well, like I want to play next week.”

In what amounted to a race for second place at the WMSGA tourney this week, Kristin Kannegieser of Minot, the 2007 WMSGA champion who plays out of Martindale Country Club of Auburn,  was well-positioned to take runner-up honors until a bizarre situation at the par-5 fifth. After hitting her third shot left into the water hazard, Kannegieser struck a line-drive into the front bunker, where she lay in five.

After three attempts at the bunker shot, she declared the ball unplayable. A question arose about where to drop the ball. She played two different balls, and officials determined after reviewing the play following the round that the second ball she’d played was correct. It took three more shots to get the ball out of the bunker on that ball, and Kannegieser carded a 12 on the hole.

“It was one of those things, looking back at it, I wish I would have thought the whole thing through better,” Kannegieser said. “I should have just gone backwards out of the trap to begin with.”

Otherwise, she said, the round went pretty well. She finished with an 86 for a three-day total of 242, four back of Gardner in second, and one back of Ann Probert in third.

“It’s just great to be able to watch (Rancourt) play, though,” Kannegieser said. “She’s just incredible, on a whole other level, and it’s so good for young women in Maine golf to have someone like that to look up to.”

Leslie Guenther of Norway Country Club rounded out the top five, carding an 81 Wednesday for a three-day total of 243. Kate Merrill, a student at NYA placed seventh, while one-time top contender Whitney hand shot the second-low round of the day and moved up into a tie for eighth.

Heidi Haylock of Turner Highlands captured the low net prize at the tourney, with a 271-211 differential.

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