POLAND  Ruby Haylock likes teeing off early in the morning, although waking up early can be a struggle for her, she said. 

The Hartford native went off in the second group at the Maine Junior Championship at Fairlawn Golf Course on Wednesday and used a birdie on the eighth hole to propel her into the back nine and a Girls 16-18 group leading score of 1-over 74 after the first round. 

“I was just going in with a positive mindset and going out and playing golf,” Haylock said. “It’s nothing more than hitting a ball with a stick. As long as I can keep it simple and hit some good shots then I’ll be good.”

Near the end of a solid front nine in which she had to take just 13 putts, Haylock stuck her first shot on No. 8 just five feet from the hole and then made the putt for birdie.

“It felt good,” she said. 

Haylock played the back nine even and ended with a four-stroke lead over her former Leavitt Area High School teammate Morghan Dutil (+4) of Turner.

“I’ve played this course three times now and I was really focusing on my chipping and putting,” Haylock said. “I figured as long as I have that under wraps I’ll be good. I thought I did really well. My putting was really good, I had 13 putts on the front nine and I think I had 15 on the back nine.”

On holes 11 and 12, Haylock had to chip back onto the green and each time saved par. 

For Dutil, the focus was on the shot in front of her and nothing else. 

“I was just focusing on one shot at a time, don’t focus on the score as much, just one shot at a time and if I make good shots then that will lead to a good score,” Dutil said.

The front nine went well for her, playing 2-over par before the turn.

“It went well. I had one bad hole but other than that I had three birdies and it was a nice confidence boost to get some birdies on the front,” Dutil said.

On hole 17, Dutil bladed a chip shot in front of the green that soared over the green and at the base of a hill that was a de facto wall Dutil then had to chip over without crashing into tree branches. Dutil found a way to get on the green from that spot and hit a 15-foot putt to save a bogey. 

“My back nine went really well,” Dutil said. “Until the 16th hole I think I was 1-over but then I chunked my chip but I was happy I saved that bogey on 17. I was trying to hit a lower-lofted club but not low enough to roll off the green and I just tried to punch it on. It felt nice, it felt really nice because saving a bogey is so much better mentally than a double. It feels like you can recover better.”

After Haylock and Dutil, last year’s Girls 14-15 champion Ruth Weeks will head into the second and final day of the tournament in third with a score of 10-over.

Haylock’s younger sister, Jade, leads the Girls 14-15 flight at 10-over, five shots ahead of Alexis McCormick in second.

In the Boys 16-18 group, the leader after day one is Parker Hilchey of St. George, who shot a 1-under 71. 

“I felt really confident off every single tee box and that was the first step to making the birdies I made,” Hilchey said. “I think just having that vision and good feeling on every tee shot helped. I made three birdies.”

Hilchey was in the first boys group of the day and made the most of it. Hilchey didn’t bogey on the back nine, a run that was springboarded by a great shot on No. 10. 

“The tenth hole I hit it a little longer but I had a 10- to 15-yard chip that I hit for a birdie and that helped me par-out the back nine,” Hilchey said. “That felt good and I felt good after that chip.”

Hilchey had to wait a while to find out who would finish near his score, and it turned out to be Charlie Austin at 2-over, followed by Connor Albert at 3-over in third place. 

“I think if I want to give it a chance tomorrow I have to shoot the same score or better,” Hilchey said. “I definitely need to do around the same.”

Neil LaRochelle finished the first round at 4-over and got to play with his neighbor and best friend, Nick Ferrence, both of Lisbon Falls, who finished at 7-over. 

“We are neighbors and got paired up together and we were like, ‘Awesome,’” LaRochelle said. “We rode together here, we’ve been best friends since one year old and that was pretty cool. That was the first time we played together in a tournament but every day we usually play together. It was good to play with each other.”

LaRochelle started off hot, as he said he does often, before coming back down to Earth on the back nine. For Ferrence, it’s the opposite. 

“I usually play well on the first nine and then worse on the back nine,” LaRochelle said. “My dad always says I think about the shots too much and where I am and I want to hit a target, and then I play poorly. I am happy with my score. I shot 3-over on the back.”

“I didn’t do hot on the front but that’s usually what happens to me,” Ferrence added. “I just say, ‘Whatever,’ and shoot better. I heated up on the back nine and I felt better on the back. The score maybe wasn’t better but I felt better.”

In the Boys 15-16 group, Eli Spaulding of Freeport took the course over and shot 66 to lead at 6-under. 

“I was hitting to positions in the fairway, finding areas I could hit to the fairway and getting close,” Spaulding said. “It was being aggressive and tentative at the same time. Off the tee I wasn’t trying to do too much, I was trying to hit to my positions and my second shots I was trying to get aggressive. The short game worked its magic and the putting was great.”

The rising sophomore at Freeport High School said the 17th hole was a make-or-break hole for his bogey-free round. 

“I pushed a drive 40 yards way right, then I hit it and it hit a tree and bounced almost went back to me,” Spaulding said. “I then got on the green and hit a 20-foot par putt. That was also, I was going for my clean scorecard, which was no bogeys. I made it for par and I was feeling it. I said, ‘This is my day.’”

Kellen Adickes slotted second at even par, followed by Lucas Flaherty at 3-over in pursuit of Spaulding. 

Edward Goff, Michael Madden and Lorenzo Tarbox are tied for the Boys 12-13 lead at 5-over, Jack Quinn one shot back.

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