BATH, Maine — For most golfers, an 84 isn’t a round to get all too excited about.
While Whitney Hand of Bucksport had both plenty to smile and be frustrated about during the first round of the 80th WMSGA Championship Monday, she was just happy to be out there.
Hand, who dazzled the Eastern Maine high school golf scene while competing at Bucksport High, fainted while competing in the New England amateur championships in Vermont three weeks ago. She hadn’t played competitively or practiced much since, but fought her way through a tough, windy day at par-70 Bath Country Club.
“I did pretty well except for one hole, so I’m not too disappointed,” said Hand, who will be a senior at Husson University in the fall.
Mary Brandes, who plays out of The Woodlands in Falmouth, leads the 61-player field as she carded a strong 2-over-par 72, while Kristin Kannegieser of Martindale Country Club in Auburn is two shots back.
Leslie Guenther of Norway CC recorded a 77 while Debby Gardner, who plays out of Belgrade Lakes CC and Waterville CC in Oakland and was Hand’s playing partner, shot 80, followed by Jen Weiland (82) and Kathi O’Gradi (83), both of Bangor Municipal GC.
Hand’s round was up-and-down as she started out with a bogey on the par-4 first while two-putting for a double bogey on the second.
But she started to get hot on the third, nearly reaching the 404-yard, par-5 hole in two shots and making birdie, then sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fourth.
After a par on the fifth, things started to come apart, as Hand’s tee shot on the par-3 sixth went into the left greenside bunker, and with her ball sitting right below the lip of the trap, it took Hand four shots to escape, and she eventually wound up with a 9 for the hole.
“Instead of doing the smart thing on the first try I tried to get it out [and on the green],” said Hand.
The “smart thing” she was referring to was to pitch back and then try and get up-and-down for bogey.
“I was in the mindset that I was still playing like myself and I’m not, because I haven’t been practicing,” she said, “so I need to play a little bit smarter, I think.”
Hand recovered by parring two of the last three holes on the front nine while shooting a 6-over 40 on the back, including a two-putt double bogey at the par-3 13th.
“I can learn from all the mistakes I made today, and I think I can come back really strong the next two days,” Hand said.
Weekend rain soaked the course, making for a wet practice round for many players on Sunday, and the gusty wind made the course play a tad longer than the measured 4,709 yards.
Even though she is 12 shots out of the lead, Hand still thinks she’s capable of making a surge and the consecutive front-nine birdies were very encouraging.
“I was very happy about that, I was ready to go [after that],” she said. “That’s why the nine upset me so much, because I was playing like myself with the two birdies.”
Brandes rebounded from a shaky start en route to her strong 72.
She double-bogeyed the first hole and bogeyed the second, but birdies on five and nine, sandwiched around a bogey at No. 7 sent Brandes to the back nine at 38.
She wound up playing the final nine holes at even par, with the highlights being consecutive birdies on 16 and 17 before bogeying the par-4 18th.
Action continues at Bath today, with Brandes, Kannegieser and Guenther occupying the last tee time at 10:30 a.m. The first group will tee off at 7:30.