CUMBERLAND — Eli Spaulding may give up considerable size and strength to his older competitors. But for the third straight round at the New England Golf Association’s Junior Amateur Championship, the 15-year-old from Freeport wasn’t going to give away any shots.

“No matter what happens, it’s always on to hitting your next best shot,” Spaulding said.

Spaulding, who will be a sophomore at Freeport High School, finished tied for fourth in the boys division with a 54-hole score of 1-under. On Tuesday, he shot even par 71, with 16 pars and a birdie on his final hole, the par-5 12th at Val Halla Golf and Recreation.

“For me it was a great finish overall and I was happy to finally end my stretch of pars with a birdie,” Spaulding said.

In the girls division, Ruby Haylock of Hartford climbed from seventh after Monday’s two rounds to finish third at 23 over, six strokes back of the Massachusetts tandem of Annie Dai, 15, of Longmeadow and Mackenzie Whitney, 17, of Westminster. Dai won in a playoff with a tap-in par on the third hole, with most of the 60 boys and girls players on the course watching the action.

Haylock, who will be a senior at Leavitt Area High School, started slowly Tuesday, going 6 over through her first nine holes but said she didn’t give up on her goal.

“My goal today was to come in third place. I started out with a couple bogeys and I kept missing easy 2-foot putts. They were really in my head today, the two-footers,” Haylock said.

Despite the slow start, Haylock said she checked the online scoring and, “I saw that I was really close to third place and I really wanted to push for it.”

She parred five straight holes and then birdied numbers 18 and 1 before finishing with two bogeys for a 6-over 77, her best round of the tournament.

Ben James, 18, of Milford, Connecticut, won the tournament for a third straight time, finishing 14-under with scores of 67-66-66. James, who will be a senior in high school, has verbally committed to play at Virginia.

Colin Spencer of Mashpee, Massachusetts was second at 9-under. Spencer, 17, had tied a course record set in 1993 with his second round 64 on Monday.

Spaulding, who opened with a 2-under while playing alongside James, said he appreciated that his consistent play gained recognition from some of the older players.

“I played well on day one and then day two and people kind of saw who I was and they were saying things like ‘you can chip that in.’ Or, ‘next Caleb Manuel.’ I don’t know about that but kids were saying that.”

For perspective, Spaulding’s finish was two spots higher (and two strokes lower) than Manuel’s in 2019, the most recent time this tournament was played, and the best by a Maine golfer since Cole Anderson was the individual winner in 2016. Anderson, the 2019 and 2020 Maine Am champ, plays at Florida State. Manuel, the 2021 Maine Am champ, was the Big East Rookie of the Year at Connecticut.

Spaulding and Manuel play together frequently at their home Brunswick Golf Club. While Spaulding is a bit more talkative, both have a calm demeanor and a next-shot mentality. Also, Manuel was similarly undersized in his early teens.

“I’d say we are pretty similar as people but the most similar thing would be just how much we both practice,” Spaulding said.

For the second time, the tournament — which dates to 1967 — included girls, with three players representing each state.

Morghan Dutil, a former Leavitt Area High School teammate of Haylock who will be a freshman at Husson this fall, shot 80 after rounds of 85 and 91 on Monday. Jade Haylock, who will be a freshman at Leavitt this fall, was the third member of the Maine girls team, which finished fourth overall with a three-round total of 60 over. Massachusetts (34 over), Rhode Island (46 over) and New Hampshire (49 over) were the top three girls teams.

The Maine boys were also fourth with a three-round total of 60 over. The seven-player boys teams counted their five best scores in each round. Massachusetts (5 under), Connecticut (10 over) and Rhode Island (56 over) were the top three teams.

Parker Hilchey of St. George finished tied for 13th (75-77-75—227). Bennett Berg of Portland had Maine’s second-best round on Tuesday with a 2 over 73 and finished T19 with a 229 total. Connor Albert of North Yarmouth and George Fahey of Scarborough finished 24th and 25th, respectively. Fahey shot 74 on Tuesday.


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