First there was the golf cart. Then there was the bet.

Now, there’s Kelsie Dessent, the Lawrence High School senior who embraces her role as the front of girls golf in Maine.

“Girls golf isn’t that big yet, and I want to get more girls playing it. It’s a fun game. You can play with anyone. You meet so many people,” Dessent said.

On Thursday, Dessent was named Junior Golfer of the Year by the Maine Golf Hall of Fame. This is the fourth year of the award, and Dessent is the first girl to win the honor.

“It makes me most excited being the first girl ever. Twenty years from now, I’m going to look back and see more girls in it and just realize I was the first one,” Dessent said.

In August, Dessent won the state junior championship at Valhalla Country Club in Cumberland. She followed that with a win in the Janet Drouin Memorial championship at Natanis. She won four other Maine State Golf Association tournaments over the summer. Now as the top golfer, girl or boy, at Lawrence, Dessent has her eye trained on a state title.

First there was the golf cart. That’s where it started, when Dessent was 6 years old and visiting her grandparents in Florida.

“That was the first thing I wanted to do when I got down there,” Dessent said. “No matter if it was 1 o’clock in the morning, I wanted to drive the golf cart.”

Two years later, Dessent figured, what fun is a golf cart if you’re not out playing the course. That’s when Dessent and her parents made the bet. The way Dessent talks about it now, it was the easiest bet she ever won.

“I used to have a problem not sleeping in my own bed. My parents told me, the first time you sleep in your own room for a week, golf clubs. So that was instant,” Dessent said.

Dessent started playing at Pine Ridge, Waterville’s nine hole, par 3 course. She met Gary Spector and his daughter, Abby, arguably the best women’s golfer in Maine history. The Spectors helped Dessent improve her game, from understanding the history of golf to the mental aspects of the sport.

“It’s crazy how smart both of them are. They look at something, and they can tell you instantly what’s going on,” Dessent said. “I’ve called Gary up several times on weeknights before tournaments. He’ll come right over to my back yard and help me.”

In 2010, Dessent started playing competitively. As a junior she became the top golfer on the Lawrence High team. She’s competed in Futures Collegiate World tournaments in Florida and Massachusetts, and junior tournaments across New England. In 2013, she was one of eight golfers to attend a session of the Annika Sorenstam Golf Academy in Orlando. Dessent started hitting the weight room, and added 20 yards to her drive.

“This summer, I kind of slacked, because I was playing golf every day, but now I’m getting back in the gym. I haven’t lost the distance yet and I plan to gain at least 20 more (yards) next summer,” Dessent said.

That’s a lot of golf. Dessent is just 17. Is she worried about burning out? Are you kidding? Dessent is just getting started.

“You have bad rounds, and you come right back from them. Bad rounds make you want to practice even more going,” Dessent said. “Today, I had a bad round. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be at the driving range, practicing.”

Dessent hopes to attend college at a school in the south where she can play golf and study pre-med. Young golfers, girls or boys, could do worse than emulate Dessent.

First there was the golf cart. Then there was the bet. Next for the Dessent in the future. It’s wide open.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM