MANCHESTER — The rough has been cut to half the length used during the recent Maine Open, but the course at the Augusta Country Club will still present many challenges for the 90 golfers teeing off this morning for the 1st Maine Women’s Amateur.

There are seven or eight contenders for the title including Emily Bouchard of Saco, who won the Women’s Maine State Golf Association title last summer.

“I just had a practice round,” Bouchard, 22, said Sunday. “I like it. It’s a lot like my home course at Biddeford-Saco. The greens have a lot of undulations.”

Bouchard, who has the low handicap index (2.5) in the field,  was scheduled to tee off in the first group with Norway’s Leslie Genthner and former schoolgirl champion Whitney Hand (3.0) of Bucksport, but Hand withdrew due to recent auto accident.

“We were definitely each other’s competition in high school,” Bouchard said of Hand.

Other past winners in the field include Kristen Kannegieser of Martindale who won in 2007 and 2010 and six-time winner Pennie Cummings of Springbrook who won in 2006 at age 62.

“Her age doesn’t mean anything,” Bouchard said.

The greens are fairly quick — they’ll run about 10 on the stimpmeter according to superintendent Chris Barnicoat — and well guarded.

“It can cost you a lot of strokes if you get in those bunkers,” club member and tournament participant Linda Cameron said.

The key to a successful round at the course, Cameron said, is “staying up the middle as much as you can and being able to putt.”

Bouchard was the low Maine competitor at the recent New England Amateur played at Natanis, but was not pleased with her performance, particularly her putting.

“I lost a confidence that week,” she said.

Bouchard regained some of that with Sunday’s practice round.

“I played well and I’m hitting the ball great,” she said. “My putting’s come back.”

The second group teeing off the first hole this morning includes Cummings (4.0), Kannegieser (5.5) and Brunswick’s Margaret Brann (5.5). They be followed by Penosbcot Valley’s Alice Hwang (6.1), a 16-year-old  who was low junior in the New England Amateur, along with Laurie Hyndman (6.8) and Kathi O’Grady (7.4).

“I think anyone in those first three group could probably win it,” Bouchard said.

The 54-hole, stroke-play tournament is being billed as the 1st annual Maine Women’s Amateur, since the Women’s Maine State Golf Association and the Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association are holding one championship this year. The SMWGA has held its own championship since 1977. The WSMGA title has generally been accepted as the overall amateur championship since the organization formed in 1922.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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