Staci Aber Creech of Veazie survived a barrage of birdies by three-time champion Emily Bouchard, breaking it open with a steady hand over the final six holes to win her first state title in her initial attempt.

The women were tied through 12 holes of the third and final round, exchanging shot for brilliant shot, before Bouchard faded from contention on her home course at Biddeford-Saco Country Club.

Creech, 42, saved her best for last, shooting a sensational 2-under 70 for a three-day total of 6-over 222.

“I knew if I just kept making pars that would probably be good,” Creech said. “She’s the type of player who can get on a roll and make birdies, so I knew if she did that she would end up beating me. I just wanted to stay steady and make pars and not make any mistakes.”

Bouchard’s round ballooned to 75 after a sizzling 34 on the front nine.

She birdied six of the first dozen holes but was undone by five bogeys as well as double bogeys at 15 and 18.

“It was the most fun round of golf I’ve ever played,” Bouchard said. “Obviously I’m a little disappointed, but you can’t beat someone who doesn’t make mistakes. I did make mistakes. I threw six birdies at her, and she didn’t blink an eye. A lot of credit to her. She has quite the golf resume, so if I’m going to lose to someone, I enjoy that it’s her, for sure.”

Defending champion Leslie Guenther of Norway shot her low round of the week, 75, to finish third at 235, six shots behind Bouchard.

Bailey Plourde finished fourth and won the junior title with 238. Sarah Hansen was fifth at 240.

There was never a doubt, however, that Creech and Bouchard would settle it between themselves. Matching bogeys on the first hole led to another by Bouchard at 2, furnishing Creech a three-stroke cushion.

Back stormed Bouchard, beginning with her initial birdie at 3. Creech could have countered it but pushed a five-foot try to the right.

“I felt like I had a shot the entire time,” Bouchard said. “It’s never over until it’s over.”

Both players raised their level in the high-80s heat and humidity Wednesday. Bouchard opened the tournament with rounds of 78 and 76. Creech christened the tournament with a 75 before stumbling to a 77.

Bouchard began her run at the title with a seemingly impossible two-putt for par from the far back edge of the wildly sloping No. 5 green. Given the chance to watch Creech’s line on a narrow miss from 12 feet at No. 6, Bouchard drained her putt from half that distance and sliced her deficit to one.

On the seventh hole, Bouchard’s pitch hit Creech’s ball and pushed it closer to the hole. After a rules official made her replace it, Creech dropped the birdie, anyway. Bouchard pushed a two-foot bid wide, and the margin was two again.

Creech credited her measured approach to husband and caddie Karlton, who is athletic director at the University of Maine.

“I think I learned yesterday, because I did not put my shots where I needed to put them yesterday,” Creech said. “I put a lot above the hole, which Karlton helped me out with today. He reminded me to keep it below the hole.”

She was way beneath the pin, as in the bunker, at 8. A sand save for par protected the lead after Bouchard sank an eight-foot, downhill bender for another birdie.

Bouchard knocked in another from six feet at the par-3 ninth to pull even for the first time.

The game of can-you-top-this continued after the turn, with Bouchard three-putting 10 from the top shelf after her fairway wood from 180 yards sailed farther than she wanted. Creech landed her approach perfectly at the apex of the lower tier, received a generous roll toward the pin, and made par for the lead.

“She didn’t falter,” Bouchard said. “I give her all the credit in the world. She’s steady Eddie out there.”

Bouchard came about eight inches from chipping in for eagle at 11. Creech’s wedge was a near carbon-copy, but she couldn’t answer Bouchard’s tap-in.

Tied, again.

After Creech landed her approach to 12 a few feet from the cup, Bouchard dropped hers even closer, then turned to her playing partner and proclaimed, “This is fun.”

Creech agreed, laughed, walked to the green and made birdie. After first backing away from her putt, then smacking a troublesome mosquito to its death, Bouchard buried hers.

Hard to imagine at that point that it would be her last stand.

When Bouchard missed her approach to 13 and hit her ensuing chip too long, Creech needed only a two-putt to claim the lead for keeps. Another par at 14 made it a two-shot lead when Bouchard mis-hit from the rough and scrambled for bogey.

“The mistakes I made today aren’t what cost me,” Bouchard said. “The mistakes that I made Monday are what cost me. I wasn’t sharp on Monday.”

A short approach shot, another errant chip and a three-putt fattened the deficit to four at 15.

Creech birdied 18 to close it out.                

“That was a lot of fun,” Creech said. “She had a tough time coming in. I wish she could have stayed in it a little bit longer. She’s a good player. She hits it great, and obviously she has local knowledge.”

Erin Holmes (243), Laurie Hyndman (244), Melissa Johnson (245) of Auburn, Ruth Colucci (245) and Micki Meggison (247) rounded out the top 10.

Hyndman played in the final group but stumbled to an 86 after a pair of 79s.

“I was in it for 12 holes,” she said. “It’s great. I was thrilled to be here. I think I lost a little bit of my focus.”

There were several tournaments within the tournament as players competed in flights according to handicap.

Stephanie Rodrigue, 15, of Lewiston, won Flight 3 with a 263 in her first attempt at the women’s amateur. Prudence Hornberger of Turner Highlands finished second in Flight 2.

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