As some of the state’s top golfers competed in the Maine Women’s Amateur golf tournament in Kennebunk this week, the state was mourning the passing of one of its legendary players and pioneers.

Martha Page White died on Monday at the age of 76 at Market Square Health Care in South Paris. The Maine State Golf Association held a moment of silence for her at the awards ceremony following Wednesday’s final round of the Amateur.

Kristin Kannegieser of Minot, who finished third, was a close friend of White’s, said White taught her not only how to play the game but how to respect it.

White was clearly in her thoughts in the final round.

“With every shot,” Kannegieser said Wednesday. “I kept asking her to help me. She was such an inspiration.”

White was born in Lewiston and began her golf career as a child at Martindale Country Club in Auburn with her younger sister, Pennie (Cummings). Both would go on to become two of the most accomplished golfers in the state’s history.

White was 15 when the when she participated in her Women’s Maine State Golf Championship in 1957 and played her way into the match play finals. One year later, she won the first of her record 13 state titles while also starting a streak of six championships.

She would go on to win at least one per decade until her 13th in 1994. Pennie won the first of her six state titles in 1964, starting a streak of three in a row that meant one of the Page sisters held the title between 1958 and 1966. The Page sisters combined to win 19 championships.

In 1959, Martha defended her state crown after defeating Pennie in the semifinals of match play, won the New England Junior championship, then went on to reach the USGA National Junior championship quarterfinals, losing to the eventual champion despite shooting a round of 75.

She played for Rollins College of Orlando, Florida, got married and started a career in education. Career and family took precedence over golf, but she returned to the top in 1971 when she won her seventh state title. After Pennie claimed her fourth title in 1972, Martha started another run of three straight championships in 1973.

In 1980, she was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, and then into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. The Maine Golf Hall of Fame made her its first female inductee in 1993.

Leslie Guenther of Hebron, a 2016 Maine Golf Hall of Fame inductee who played frequently with White until the past few years, called her passing “a loss for her family and her friends and women’s golf.”

“What a beautiful golfer,” Guenther said. “Her golfing was beautiful, but she was a beautiful person.”

Guenther said she recently had a chance meeting with Martha and Pennie, stopping at an ice cream stand in Norway where coincidentally the sisters had stopped.

“They were going up to the Paris Hill Golf Course, you know, driving around to some of their old stomping grounds a couple of weeks ago,” Guenther said. “I had not seen Martha in several years, which I hated because we used to see her all the time. I was so happy to see her. We talked for several minutes.”

“I’m so grateful, even if it was only for five minutes, to have gotten to see her one last time,” she said. “It’s a privilege to have known her for as long as I did.”

Guenther, Hebron Academy’s athletic director, met Pennie about a year after moving to Maine in 1991 and eventually became friends and a regular playing partner with both sisters.

“They were always encouraging to us,” Guenther said. “I loved playing with them because they would compliment good shots and they would say nothing on a bad shot.”

“Martha’s always been such a positive influence on so many women and young female golfers,” Guenther added. “She was always so encouraging and always knew the right things to say. Just a classy lady.”

Guenther, who won four Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association titles and the Maine Women’s Amateur in 2012, recalled watching Martha win her final WMSGA title in 1994.

“I remember her saying, ‘Oh, no, no, no. I don’t have a chance. I’m over the hill,'” Guenther said. “I think she was 55 years old when she won that championship by schooling all of us. I’ll be 55 in a month, and even before I heard the news I was thinking … I can remember her shots up the 18th hole as she was winning the championship and sitting next to Pennie and Pennie saying, ‘Oh, for God’s sake, Martha. Stop playing conservatively.'”

“They were both great role models for me when I was 26 and still role models now. I know I’ll miss her dearly,” she said.

White’s short game stood out to Guenther, who recalled White having such confidence in it that she would regularly choose to chip a shot that was even just a couple of inches off the green.

“The other thing is she was always in play,” Guenther added. “She was so smart about her game. She thought herself around the golf course so well. She was never one of those brash players saying, ‘I’ll just take this risk and maybe it will work out and maybe it won’t.’ She was so smart about every shot she made. You play with somebody like that and you learn a lot.”

Guenther said she once had the privilege of going through scrapbooks with White and believes White, who played with contemporaries such as LPGA greats JoAnne Karner and Jane Blalock in her heyday, was good enough to compete at the pro level if she had chosen that path.

“I’d love to go through (the scrapbooks) one more time,” she said.

As good as she was and as competitive as she was, White was an unassuming playing partner who let her clubs do the talking.

“She certainly didn’t talk about her game,” Guenther said. “She proved herself on the golf course, time and time again.”

Mike Lowe of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this story.


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