Waterville senior Lindsay Cote reads a green during the Class B state golf championship last month at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Lindsay Cote had the goal. She just needed the school to help her achieve it.

It didn’t take her long to find just the place.

Cote, a Waterville senior and one of the top high school girls golfers in the state, is headed to play collegiately at Division II Coker University in Hartsville, South Carolina on a partial scholarship after signing her letter of intent on Nov. 11. The Maine Junior champion this summer will have a chance to further her career in one of the country’s golf hotspots — which, for Cote, was always the mission.

“It’s always been my dream to play in the Carolinas, ever since I started golfing and realized that I really loved golf, enough to play it at a competitive level,” Cote said. “I want to be able to work on my game all year long, and I’m getting that opportunity and so much more.”

Cote wanted it, and she made it happen. She signed up with Next College Student Athlete, which got her connected with recruiting coach Brian Schiffbauer, and she began reaching out to schools. After contacting Coker coach Sam Stark, the interest was mutual, and Cote’s draw to the school only increased after she visited in June. Stark made an offer during the visit, and Cote accepted right away.

“The more I looked into it, I was like ‘Oh my God, this could be my forever home,’ ” Cote said. “I knew the minute I stepped foot onto that campus that that was the place where I was meant to be.”

Husson University golf coach Mike Dugas, who has worked with Cote since she was in seventh grade, said he was happy to see his pupil take this step.

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity, and she’s worked really hard over time and is very committed to the sport, and wants to get better,” he said. “It just goes to show you, there’s no geographic pinpoint on a map that tells you where the next good players are going to come from. It’s just a matter of do you want that?”

There haven’t been many central Maine golfers, let alone girls, to move on to the Division I or II level since Waterville’s Abby Spector played at the University of North Carolina from 1999-2003.

Waterville’s Lindsay Cote watches her shot during a match last month at Natanis in Vassalboro. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“It’s tough for Maine golfers to get scholarships,” said Nokomis coach Matt Brown, who coached Cote for her freshman through junior seasons. “But there are not as many girl players in the state, so you have a good opportunity to shine if you can showcase some of your abilities. Lindsay was able to do that right from early on.”

Cote made sure she did what she could to clear her path down south, working with Schiffbauer and playing alongside the state’s best golfers in Maine State Golf Association tournaments.

“I played with Jordan Laplume, who plays Division I at Merrimack, and I also played with Stephanie Rodrigue, and she plays Division II at Mount Olive in North Carolina,” Cote said. “Those girls really showed me that you can (go) outside Maine, you can do big things.”

Cote’s career has taken its turns from her freshman year on. Her talent was always evident — she was the medalist in the first match she played for Nokomis — but the seriousness with which she took the sport often caused her to have difficulty with its mental side.

“She would let bad shots get to her, and it took her a while to recover,” Brown said. “But as she got older, by the time her junior year (arrived), she really was much, much better at dealing with adversity.”

That was on display this summer when Cote struggled in the Women’s Amateur championship, tying for 28th at 54 over. She was disappointed, but she put in time at the range, worked with Dugas and had a renewed mindset going into the Maine Junior Championship the next week.

“I woke up the morning of the first day, and I said ‘Mom, I’m going to win this tournament,’ ” Cote said.

She shot a 1-over 72 on the first day to take the lead, then shot 77 to beat Women’s Am champion Ruby Haylock for the title — one that Cote said served as a breakthrough.

“That was just validation for everything that I believed leading up to it, that when you work hard, you do get results,” she said. “I always knew that I could do it, but doing it just felt so good. I was really ready for a win that week.”

Waterville’s Lindsay Cote putts during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships on Oct. 6 at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Now comes the next step, which Cote knows won’t be easy. It means longer courses and tougher competition, and she and Dugas are already at work building a college-caliber swing.

“Our next step is preparing her to be ready for that,” Dugas said. “We’re working twice a week on getting her golf game where she wants to be. … (We’re) changing some path, trying to get a little bit more distance.”

She’s ready for the challenge, one she’s wanted from the beginning.

“(As a freshman) I was like ‘Wow. If I keep working, I’m right there,’ ” Cote said. “And I’ve been working ever since.”

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