Bailey Plourde of Newcastle and Samoset Resort watches play with her caddy, Hans Stromberg, on the 17th green during the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship at Rockland Golf Club on Monday. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald Photo)Erin Holmes of Cumberland and Val Halla Golf Course, right, hugs Elizabeth Lacognata of Scarborough and Falmouth Country Club after completing 18 holes in the first round of the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship at Rockland Golf Club on Monday. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald Photo)

ROCKLAND — With the three-time reigning champion living in another state, the Maine Women’s Amateur championship is up for grabs this week at Rockland Golf Club.

More specifically, Staci Creech’s move to Colorado has left the title wide open for one of Maine’s many talented young players. And youth owned the first day of the tournament Monday, as teenagers grabbed four of the top five spots.

“I think it’s the younger girls’ time,” veteran Kristin Kannegieser of Martindale Country Club said. “And it’s wonderful. I think we’re seeing the resurgence of young girls in Maine.”

She added: “They have nerves of steel, they hit the long ball. … They’re awesome.”

Eighteen-year-old Bailey Plourde and 17-year-old Jordan Laplume are tied for the lead with rounds of 3-over-par 76.

Plourde, who plays out of Samoset Resort, has won the junior championship at the Women’s Am, and was the runner-up to Creech the past two years. On Monday, Plourde was 4-over par on the front nine and took one stroke off on the back nine.

“The back, definitely, was a lot better,” Plourde, who just completed her freshman season at Centre College in Kentucky, said. “Making putts, hitting greens, which is most important. But the front, I wasn’t hitting greens, I wasn’t hitting fairways.”

Laplume, out of Dunegrass Golf Club, had the best front nine in the tournament at 3-over, then played even on the back.

“Coming to (No.) 10, I said, ‘OK, new nine. The back nine’s a little bit easier, let’s try and get more birdies,'” Laplume said.

Laplume, who placed third in 2017, actually played 1-under over the final 11 holes. She was 4-over after seven holes, then birdied nine. On the back nine, she had seven pars to go with a birdie on No. 14 and a bogey on 18.

The front nine was harsh on most of the field, and many golfers were left playing catch-up after the first hole.

“The holes are tighter, and if you’re not in a good spot then you just really got to play some smart golf,” said Lewiston High School standout Stephanie Rodrigue, who had a double bogey on the first hole and a bogey on the second hole.

Thirteen-year-old Ruby Haylock of Hartford, who is based at Turner Highlands Country Club, bogeyed the first hole, but rebounded to be at 4-over after nine holes — thanks to a birdie on No. 9 — one of the best front-nine scores of the day.

Haylock said that putting might be the reason so many players had rough starts.

“I feel like the greens were a little more challenging,” Haylock said.

Haylock is tied for fourth with 2017 MPA state champion Elizabeth Lacognata (Falmouth Country Club) at 7-over par 80.

“I was going for 80 to 82,” Haylock said.

Ahead of Haylock and Lacognata in third place is Winthrop’s Carolyn Langevin (Portland CC), 52, at 6-over.

Kannegieser is in a three-way tie for sixth at 8-over, along with Mara Tiger and Ruth Colucci.

“I was either crushing my drives or I was pulling them left, behind a tree, in the rough,” Kannegieser said. “You know, two steps forward, three steps back. I’d make a birdie, then I’d give it back up again.”

After her rough start, Rodrigue scored an 82 and is in ninth place at 9-over.

“I had a birdie on the front nine, so that kind of kept me going, and then two birdies on the back nine. So that kept me pumped up,” Rodrigue said. “I know that it’s only the first day, I have two days left. I’m happy with my score. We’ll just see the next couple days what I do.”

Missing the champ

Creech’s absence might open up the Women’s Am, but the young players miss having her around.

“For me, I like the competition,” Lacognata said. “I like playing with players that I know have more experience than me because that’s what makes me a better player.”

Putting maestro

Kannegieser said that one of the things that made Creech so good was her putting.

Kannegieser’s son, Will, qualified for the U.S. Amateur last week. Kannegieser once told her son that Creech was the best putter she’s played with. He was skeptical, until he played a round with Creech.

“After the round, he’s like, ‘You’re right, she’s the best putter I’ve ever seen,'” Kristin Kannegieser said.

Other local scores

Turner Highlands had more players competing, six, than any other course. Along with Ruby Haylock, Mia Hornberger was 14-over after the first day, followed by Karen Richardson and Prudence Hornberger at 21-over, and Morghan Dutil and Jade Haylock at 32-over.

From Martindale, Melissa Johnson came in at 17-over, Danielle Rock at 26-over, and Neila Nelke at 41-over.

Springbrook Golf Course members Debbie Murphy and Rachel Newman posted scores of 22- and 28-over par, respectively.

Up next

The Women’s Am continues Tuesday and Wednesday. There is no cut, so all 61 players get to play all three days.

Jordan Laplume of Old Orchard Beach and Dunegrass Golf Club tees off at the 17th hole during the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship at Rockland Golf Club on Monday. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald Photo)Defending senior champion Kristin Kannegieser of Minot and Martindale Country Club watches her putt on the 18th green during the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship at Rockland Golf Club on Monday. (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald Photo)


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