MANCHESTER, ME – JULY 22: Ruby Haylock waves to cheering gallery after she chipped her shot into the 10th hole for a birdie to win the Maine Women’s Amateur tournament on first playoff hole Wednesday July 22, 2020 at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer) Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

MANCHESTER — When it mattered the most, Hartford’s Ruby Haylock kept her nerves in check when the pressure was on en route to winning the Maine State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur at Augusta Country Club after one playoff hole over 2018 Women’s Amateur Champion Bailey Plourde.

A four-shot lead with three holes to play quickly evaporated as Plourde mounted a comeback.

Plourde reached the par-5 18th hole in two, and Haylock’s third shot trickled off the back of the green. Plourde missed her 15-foot eagle putt and tapped in birdie to put herself in a tie with Haylock.

Haylock left her birdie chip 10-feet to the hole where she needed to make par to force a playoff. She calmly addressed the ball and struck it perfectly, like it was a casual Sunday round of golf, to go to the 19th hole of the afternoon

“I was fairly certain if I made it, we would be tied, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure because I hadn’t given a score card a great look and I didn’t think everything was correct at that point,” Haylock said. “So, I went into it like any other putt, I said: ‘Know what, you are pretty good at these 10-footers so do what you do.’”

She was able to hit the reset button before Plourde and her teed off at No. 10 for the playoff hole.

“After I finish nine holes,” Haylock said, “I like to say to myself: ‘Hey, you have nine more, you are all set, just keep going, you can make (a deficit up) or keep it together and you will be fine’ So, after 18, I just said to myself, this is a new nine, you have to get yourself back together and finish the best you can.”

She was nervous after pulling her drive near the trees in the left rough but was able to have a clear shot to the green, where she left her approach just short of the green.

That presented another problem, as she wasn’t all that confident in her chipping heading into the day. But she hit the chip of her life using her 56-degree wedge as the ball trickled in for birdie and eventually clinching shot to win the tournament. Plourde followed the chip-in by missing her long birdie putt.

“I wasn’t too happy with that because my chipping hadn’t been great all day,” Haylock said of the approach shot. “This morning one of the first things I said to my dad and to one of my friends was ‘I need to make sure I get it on the green in regulation because my chipping is not going so well.’”

Again, she kept her emotions in check while knowing Plourde could still tie it again.

“I was excited but I am pretty good of controlling everything,” Haylock said. “I did not want to go to crazy, Bailey still had to make her putt, I wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She’s pretty good under pressure. I wasn’t completely doubting she would miss it, but I kept myself together until the very end.”

Ruby Haylock lines up a putt during the final round of Maine Women’s Amateur on Wednesday at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Haylock’s mental game has grown since she really burst on the scene at the Women’s Am two years ago, when she shot a 78 in the second round as a 13-year-old.

The mind game is the biggest improvement her playing partners have seen.

“I think her mental game has come a long way,” said Plourde, who played with Haylock in the 2018 tournament. “I could tell she wasn’t focusing on the score and that’s really good. When I was 15, I could not do that. She played fantastic yesterday and today, I am super proud of her for that. I remember when she started at 10, so I mean it’s crazy, I feel old, but no, her game has developed a lot. I wouldn’t want to be in a playoff with anybody else.”

Rachel Smith, who was also in Wednesday’s final group but dropped out of contention with an 85, battled Haylock at the 2018 MPA girls’ individual championship during the high school season. She recalled having to calm Haylock after a bad start through the first two holes in the high school tournament.

When things started to slip away for Ruby down the stretch, Rachel could see how far Ruby has come. Smith also tipped her hat to Plourde on how she handled the stretch run.

“I think (Haylock) did a really good job and I think her and Bailey both did a really good job not looking at the scorecards,” Smith said. “(They were) specifically looking at the game in front of them, the course in front of them and they were taking it shot by shot, not focused on the scorecard. I said a couple of times, to both of them, be smart. I am friends with both of them. I love them both. I am glad both played well.”

Haylock’s father, Harry, who is the head coach of the Leavitt golf team where Ruby will be a junior in the fall, wanted to keep things as normal as possible on Tuesday night so Ruby didn’t get off her game.

“Last night, we tried to do everything we normally do,” Harry said. “Just keep it as regular, calm, as we usually do, not getting too excited about anything, I still yelled at her about (using) the phone, having her do her chores, just wanted her in her regular routine. I told mom, not too many phone calls to friends, I don’t want to make this a big deal.”

Harry has always thought his daughter was solid mentally but she was still young in 2018 during her first few time in the spotlight. He has seen a big step in Ruby’s game in all aspects the past year.

Ruby, who was 2019 MPA girls co champion with teammate Morghan Dutil, has said being like a player-coach type on the Leavitt golf team has built that mental game.

“With high school golf, I had to help my teammates along with myself,” she said. “I think that has definitely helped me a lot, trying to keep them positive, trying to keep myself positive and keep playing. High school golf has really helped my mental game, and maturing has helped a lot.”

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