Defending champ’s 71 leads tourney

Posted July 28, 2009, at 12:16 a.m.

MANCHESTER, Maine — She was killing the ball off the tee, attacking pins with precision, and made key putts when she needed to.

Still, Alexa Rancourt wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with her opening-round 1-under-par 71 in the WMSGA Championship at Augusta Country Club.

South Portland native Rancourt, the defending champion, made four birdies on the back nine and five on her round, but three-putts led to two of her four bogeys on the day.

“All day, my ball striking was really good, [but] my putting, I wasn’t really putting anything in the hole,” Rancourt said. “But a couple of them fell on the back side, and it felt a little better.”

Rancourt, who will attend Furman University in the fall on a golf scholarship, is two shots ahead of Kristen Kannegieser of Martindale Country Club in Auburn, who shot a 1-over 73. Kathi O’Grady of Sable Oaks in South Portland and Ann Probert of Waterville Country Club in Oakland are both eight shots off the pace at 79.

Debby Gardner of Waterville CC rounded out the top five with an 80.

Even though Rancourt dropped a shot on the first hole after hitting her tee shot in the left rough, she responded with a birdie on the par-4 third while parring the remaining holes on the front nine, with the exception of No. 6, which she bogeyed.

Rancourt really started to charge on the back nine, with birdies on three of the first five holes while taking advantage of soft greens.

“The greens were rolling extremely well,” she said. “They were a little soft from the rain, but that was nice because they were receptive and you could kind of attack pins.”

The weekend’s rains didn’t really make the course play any longer than its 5,301-yard layout, particularly the greens.

“I was impressed with how well they were [rolling],” said Rancourt.

Rancourt ran into some trouble on the par-4 16th after three-putting for bogey on the par-3 15th.

She sliced her tee shot into the right rough near some trees, and had no choice but to pitch out and pitch to a high, elevated green.

Rancourt closed her day with a bang, however, on the par-5 18th, blasting her tee shot within 230 yards of the green.

Even though her approach went into a green-side bunker, Rancourt got up and down to make birdie.

The sand trap was slightly damp, but that played to Rancourt’s advantage.

“I kind of like that actually because it allowed me to be a little more aggressive with my shot,” she said.

Rancourt, who recently qualified for the upcoming U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in St. Louis, has shown a lot more confidence in her game since winning this tournament at Bangor Municipal GC last summer.

“I feel like my game has come leaps and bounds since last year and I feel much more confident on the course, and my ball striking is way more consistent,” she said. “If I can get my putting to feel as confident as my ball striking, I feel like I can definitely go really low on this course.”

Kannegieser, the 2007 WMSGA champ, played a solid round as well with four birdies, but dumped her approach into the water on 18 which led to a double-bogey.

“That kind of leaves a bad taste,” said Kannegieser, who didn’t play last year with her son playing in the New England Cal Ripken baseball regionals, which his team from the Andy Valley East Little League qualified for again this summer.

One of Kannegieser’s birdies came on the par-4 10th, in which she chipped in from the rough behind the green.

“I had a lot of good things happen,” she said.

The top threesome will tee off at 11:40 in today’s second round. Action concludes Wednesday.

rmclaughlin@bangordailynews.net

990-8193

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