BANGOR, Maine – When she was 5 years old, Alexa Rancourt’s father put a golf club in her hand for the first time.
She swung it around for awhile, eventually lost interest, and left it amidst other forgotten and discarded toys.
Eight years later, she picked a club back up again and discovered she not only enjoyed playing, she was competitive — and good at it.
Now 17, Rancourt is the winner of the Women’ s Maine State Golf Association Championship, shooting a 6-over-par, final round score of 77 for a three-day total of 12-over-par 225 and a six-stroke victory at rain-soaked Bangor Municipal Golf Course Wednesday.
She outdistanced six-time champ Pennie Cummings of Hermon.
“I couldn’ t be more proud of her. She’ s got such a great passion for this game and she played like a champion,” said Michael Rancourt, who figured his daughter wouldn’ t do much more with a club than play the occasional recreational round with family or friends, or hit a mini golf course.
For the South Portland native and part-time Bradenton, Fla., it was her first WMSGA title.
“This is the one I’ ve wanted to win since I started playing so it feels really good to be able to accomplish it and it’ s definitely something I want to come back and defend,” said Rancourt. “It feels great to be up there with [13-time WMSGA champ] Martha [White] and Pennie and all those guys.”
Especially since after playing the tourney for the first time in 2006, she sat out last year’ s after missing the entry deadline.
“She was already dedicated and it was hugely disappointing for her last year, but now I am very, very organized,” said Michael Rancourt. “I think mine was the first entry this year, as a matter of fact. I even sent it registered mail just to be sure.”
After the first nine holes, Rancourt could have mailed it in as she’ d built her four-stroke lead to nine by shooting a 1-over-par 37 while Cummings struggled with a 42.
“I really had a rough first nine,” Cummings said. “I didn’ t hit the ball well, chip well or putt well, but I was pleased with my back nine. I hit the ball better and felt better about the way I was swinging.”
Cummings saved the best for last in terms of rounds, holes and shots. She shot a 36 on the back nine (Bangor’ s first nine holes) and ended her day with a 40-foot chip-in for an eagle on Bangor’ s par 4 ninth hole.
“I had identified the spot I wanted it to land, and it was close, but I had no idea it was going to go in,” Cummings said. “I figured I’ d make my five and I did that and then some.”
Meanwhile, Rancourt was struggling. On her final hole, she four-putted for the first time in the tourney for a double bogey, but it wasn’ t enough to overcome her big lead.
“I made a couple bad shots here and there, but mostly it was my putting,” said Rancourt, who attends the private David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida. “I wasn’ t very comfortable with that, but everything else was pretty steady.”
That made all the difference.
“Over a two-year period of time, she has really brought her game forth,” Cummings said. “She is really long off the tee and the other thing that’ s pretty amazing is her composure. She really handles herself very well.”
Players struggled on the greens Wednesday as recent rain made some greens slow and others surprisingly fast.
“Pin placements were tough today and the condition of the greens is such that there are some that are really fast because they’ ve taken such a beating from the weather,” said Cummings, who finished with a three-day total of 231. “Others haven’ t so there’ s some inconsistency, but overall I think they’ ve done well considering what they’ ve had to absorb.”
Falmouth’ s Mary Brandes, Rancourt’ s fellow club member at Sable Oaks Golf Club, finished third with a 236 after shooting 76 for the second time in three days. It was the second day she’ d like to play over after carding an 84.
“I was actually only two over par on 12 that day and still shot that. I had some bad luck and got in some heavy rough,” said Brandes, who has never finished higher in her previous 10 trips to the WMSGA Championship. “I think I three-putted once because my chip shots put me fairly close to the hole most of the time. When I’ m hitting the greens, I’ m all set.”
Bangor Muni member Liz Coffin and Sable Oaks’ Kathi O’ Grady tied for fourth at 238 while White and Norway’ s Leslie Guenther, wound up tied for sixth at 239.