Bucksport golfer hopes to play a winning hand

Posted July 23, 2010, at 10:31 p.m.

     From a golf perspective, this summer hasn’t been pleasant for Whitney Hand.

The Bucksport golfer had a rough go of it in the hot weather at the recent New England Women’s Amateur championships in Vermont.

“I was on the ninth hole, lining up a shot, fainted and was taken to the emergency room in Vermont,” Hand said.

Hand appears ready to bounce back and make a go of it in the Women’s Maine State Golf Association championships.

She and 60 other players will start play at Bath Country Club on Monday, with Hand and Debby Gardner of Waterville Country Club, the 2009 runner-up, teeing off at 7:30 a.m.

The 54-hole tourney runs through Wednesday.

A new champion will be crowned this summer, as two-time winner Alexa Rancourt is not signed up to play. Hand, Gardner, Leslie Guenther of Norway Country Club and 2007 winner Kristin Kannegieser of Martindale CC in Auburn are the leading contenders.

Hand, who has never won a WMSGA crown but has contended every year she’s played — she finished eighth last summer — hopes she won’t have another incident similar to what she did in Vermont.

“I’ve never had anything like that happen, so it makes me a little nervous that it’s going to happen again,” Hand said. “I’ve just been very sensitive to the heat. I’m just going to keep my head in the game as much as I can.”

Even though she usually walks when she plays, Hand said she’ll probably use a cart this summer.

The strength of Hand’s game is her short game and accuracy, two factors she’ll need on the tough, par-70 Bath layout, which features well-bunkered greens and narrow, tree-lined fairways.

“I think keeping it in play is absolutely going to be crucial to win,” Hand said.

Bath CC manager Shawn Arsenault echoed that statement.

“It’s going to reward accurate [players],” he said. “There’s going to be a few risk-reward holes.”

Arsenault added that no female player has broken par at Bath.

“I’m thinking if somebody for the three days can shoot in the mid-70s all three days they probably would win,” he said.

Since Hand fainted in the Vermont, she hasn’t logged much practice time.

“It’s been very tough because usually every summer I’m out there every day practicing,” she said.

Not that it will affect her game a lot.

“Around the greens, chipping and putting, is something that I don’t really lose, even if I haven’t been practicing that much,” Hand said. “It’s just a part of my game that’s pretty strong.”

Ever since she nipped at eventual champ Lori Frost’s heels in 2005 at age 15, Hand has wanted to win this tournament. She boasts the lowest handicap index in the field at 1.7.

“Ever since I was 15 and I was two strokes off the lead to Lori Frost, it’s something I’ve wanted so bad,” Hand said. “It’s a huge goal of mine to win.”

Other challengers could be Jennifer Weiland and Liz Coffin, both of Bangor Municipal GC, Micki Meggison and Kathi O’Gradi of Sable Oaks of South Portland and Bath CC’s Kaye Pierson.

Coffin, a former UMaine basketball standout, isn’t the only former Maine schoolgirl basketball star in the field as Rita Maines, a 1,000-point scorer at Brunswick High who also coached the Dragons until the 2008-09 season, also is competing.

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