MANCHESTER — For the first two days of the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship, the course at the Augusta Country Club was the clear-cut winner.

That changed Wednesday when defending champion Emily Bouchard drove and putted her way to a 1-under-par 71 to win her second straight championship.

The 22-year-old from Saco began the day four strokes behind second-round leader Leslie Guenther of Norway, but regained the lead after shooting even par on the front nine, highlighted by an eagle on the par 5 fourth hole.

“That was huge,” Bouchard said of her eagle. “That was a hole where all week I gave shots away, not necessarily bogeys but settling for par. That’s a hole where I should have no problem.”

Bouchard’s drive left her 17 yards out on the hole and, from there, she stuck a 6-iron to within six feet of the hole and converted the putt.

“I gained two (strokes) right off the bat,” she said.

Guenther finished a distant second, eight shots back at 241 after shooting 83 while first-round leader Pennie Cummings also shot 83 to place third at 242.

Along with her eagle, Bouchard birdied the first hole on the front to go with three bogeys to finish even par. She birdied the par 4 12th hole after spinning her approach shot back 20 feet to within three feet of the cup. Bouchard scored her only double bogey of the round on the 14th hole after her approach shot to the green found the right-side bunker.

“I had a good lie but the slope was directly away from me,” she said. “With how fast these greens are, there was no way I could keep it on the green. I just had to take my medicine.”

Bouchard got back under par with birdies on 15 and 16. She stuck her drive on the par 3 15th to within six feet and drained the putt, then chipped to the same distance on the par 4 16th and sunk the putt. She had a chance to dip into the 60s but missed short birdie putt on both 17 and 18.

“I had three putts today that probably should have gone in,” she said.

While Bouchard made her charge on the front, the leaders faltered. Both Guenther and Cummings shot eight-over par on the front and double bogeyed the second and fifth holes. Guenther’s second-place finish was her fourth overall in the championship.

“Starting like that is terrible,” Guenther said. “On the fifth hole, I was on the green pin high and I left with a seven. Even when I started to hit the ball a little bit better, it took me longer to actually score.

“I couldn’t have kept up with (Bouchard) anyway. She plays a game that none of us play.”

Bouchard, who is the director of the First Tee program at Val Halla, estimated she has played only 15 rounds of golf this year.

“I find if I play too much I fall out of love with it,” she said.

Bouchard was the only female member of the state championship golf team at Thornton Academy in 2007. A well-rounded athlete, she also played ice hockey and basketball. She is two classes away from getting a degree in air traffic control at Daniel Webster College.

She and her father John, who caddied for her this week, plan to defend their Maine Mixed championship Sept. 9 at the Boothbay Country Club. They’ve won the title the past two years.

“He got me into the game,” Bouchard said. “I’ve never had a lesson. Everything I know is from him.”

Mary Brandes of the Woodlands placed fourth at 249 followed by Micki Meggison of Sable Oaks at 251. Liz Wiltshire of Natanis placed sixth. After an opening round of 90, Wiltshire bounced back to shoot 79 to become one of just four golfers in the tournament to break 80 along with Cummings, Bouchard and Guenther. Wednesday she shot 83 to finish at 252.

“The first day I was just nervous,” Wiltshire siad. “My putting wasn’t very good.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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