What Ruby Haylock remembers most about her first experience playing in the New England Junior Amateur Championship for Team Maine two years ago was bonding with her teammates as they stayed at a Connecticut hotel.

This time around, Haylock will sleep in her own bed, but she already feels close to her Maine teammates.

“There aren’t any other tournaments like this I play in,” said Haylock, a Leavitt High senior and winner of the Maine Women’s Amateur in 2020. “I’m near my peak performance right now. I’m feeling pretty good.”

The New England Junior Amateur Championship, featuring the best 18-and-under golfers from each of the region’s six states, will be held Monday and Tuesday at Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland.

The event is a team and individual competition played over 54 holes. The golfers will play two rounds on Monday and a final round on Tuesday.

The tournament was canceled last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, Connecticut cruised to the boys’ title, 17 strokes ahead of Massachusetts. The Maine boys placed fifth in the six-team field two years ago. Rhode Island won the girls’ crown in 2019, with Maine placing fourth in the five-team field (Vermont did not send a girls’ team). Maine’s last win came in 2002, at the Agawam Hunt Club in Rhode Island.

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Eli Spaulding, shown last fall during the state high school championships, helped lead Freeport to the Class B title. Spaulding will be a captain on Team Maine at the New England Junior Amateur Championship next week. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

This year, Haylock will be joined by her younger sister, Jade Haylock, and Morghan Dutil for an all-Leavitt High girls’ contingent. Representing Maine on the boys’ side: Eli Spaulding and TJ Whalen of Freeport, Parker Hilchey of St. George, Kellen Adickes of Bristol, Connor Albert of North Yarmouth, Bennett Berg of Portland and George Fahey of Scarborough, who won the Class C individual high school state title last year for Waynflete.

At 14, Adickes and Jade Haylock are the youngest members of the team. Spaulding and Ruby Haylock are team captains.

“We’ve organized some practices,” said Spaulding, who will be a sophomore at Freeport High. “The one thing I’m most excited for is the overall team experience. I haven’t played with all these kids at once, never mind played as a team.”

Team Maine is coached by Maine State Golf Association Executive Director Brian Bickford, who also coaches the Greely High golf team, and AJ Simokaitis, golf coach at Falmouth High.

The seven boys and three girls were selected based on their scores in tournaments throughout the summer, particularly the Maine Junior Championship last week at Fairlawn Golf Course in Poland. Ruby Haylock was the girls’ overall winner, with Dutil runner-up. On the boys’ side, Spaulding was medalist, and Hilchey and Albert were the top two finishers in the 16- to-18-year-old flight.

Fahey earned a spot on the team after impressing as the top junior finisher at the Maine Amateur last month at the Kebo Valley Club in Bar Harbor.

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Bickford and his team hope their knowledge of Val Halla works as a home-course advantage.

“I had practice (Wednesday). We’re playing the course, talking about the holes. We’re playing at our house, and we want to do the best we can,” Bickford said.

Spaulding is excited to play a challenging tournament on a course he knows well.

“I started playing when I was 5 years old there. I know where I can get aggressive and go for birdies and where I should play for par,” said Spaulding, who along with Whalen helped Freeport win the Class B state championship last fall. “For me, 16 is a hole (that stands out). It’s a tough hole, a dogleg right, downhill. If you lay up off the tee, 200 to 230 yards, you can get aggressive for your second shot.”

Ruby Haylock said she’s stressed to her teammates that the mental approach is just as import as anything in this tournament, especially playing 36 holes on the first day.

“Two years ago, I wasn’t prepared at all. I shot in the 70s and then in the 90s in the afternoon. It showed how much it affected me mentally, and physically you just feel drained,” she said.

Haylock also is excited to be teammates with her younger sister. An incoming freshman, Jade Haylock will join Ruby on the Leavitt team this fall.

“I’m excited to be able to play with her. Jade is playing 36 holes (Wednesday) to get used to it,” Ruby Haylock said.


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