ORONO — After shooting a 7-under-par 66 opening round Monday in the 81st annual WMSGA Championship at Penobscot Valley Country Club, Saco native Emily Bouchard expressed some disappointment with her second-round 78.
But the 21-year-old Daniel Webster College student made adjustments and answered the challenges of PVCC’s slick greens once again on Wednesday to shoot a final-round 80 for a three-day total of 5-over-par 224, outdistancing her nearest competitor by eight strokes and winning the WMSGA Championship in her first attempt.
“Yesterday was quite frustrating for me, to be honest, so I just had to keep pushing today,” she said. “There were a lot of birdie opportunities out there today, but the greens, surprisingly, as wet as it is out there, are still lightning just like yesterday. But I knew I had to do as best as I could and it worked out.”
Ann Probert of Waterville made a surge after a front-nine 45, turning in a back-nine 38 for an 83 and a three-day total of 232, tying six-time WMSGA Champion Pennie Cummings of Wayne for second place. Seventeen-year-old Karli Soracco of Turner finished fourth with 233, 2010 winner Kristin Kannegieser of Martindale Country Club in Auburn was fifth with 238, Leslie Guenther of Norway Country Club was sixth with 241, Susan Gilpatrick-Smart of Webhannet Golf Club in Kennebunk came in seventh with 246, Kathi O’Grady of Portland was eighth at 248, Liz Coffin of Bangor Municipal Golf Course was ninth with 251, and Prudence Hornberger of Turner Highlands Golf Course was 10th with 253.
Bouchard, who parred six holes while shooting 39 on the front nine, became more aggressive on the back nine with her mid-irons and wedges, and started putting the ball closer to the hole on her second and third shots. She bogeyed the 10th and 11th, then parred the par-4 12th hole after hitting her second shot out of the bunker and onto the green, and parred again on the par-5 13th to stay at 5-over.
Bouchard made par on 16 and birdied 17 after driving the green, and then bogeyed 18 for her final-round 80.
“I had a lot of opportunities for birdies, and I was around the hole all day, lipping out left and right,” she said. “On the back nine I began to think more aggressively, and started putting it within eight or 10 feet. Knowing I had a little bit more of a cushion than I had on the first tee, I knew I had to give it a go at that time.”
After bogeying six holes on the front nine, Probert turned it on and parred five holes — including a key par on the 17th — and birdied another on the back nine, surpassing Soracco, whom she was tied with heading toward the 17th tee. Soracco — who will be playing for Wingate University in North Carolina this fall — followed up her front-nine 41 with a back nine 43 for a final-round total of 84.
Cummings had the low score Wednesday with a 75, following up her first and second round scores of 78 and 79 for a tournament total of 232.
Bouchard, who hadn’t had time in the past to compete in the WMSGA Championship because of her busy schedule as an MSGA intern, expressed her excitement after winning her first title.
“I was feeling a lot of adrenaline heading up the 18th fairway; I’ve been waiting a long time to play this,” she said. “I knew I could compete, and it’s just a thrill really. I did it for some people who have really inspired me in the past, and it’s also nice to have my family and friends here watching and supporting me.”
Bouchard dedicated her win to her late grandmother, Gloria Pellerin, who passed away in October from cancer.
“My grandmother was my best friend, and what I had to fight out here compared to what she went through is nothing, so this one’s for her,” she said.
Bouchard’s father, John, who was a major influence in helping her learn the game, was enthralled by his daughter’s victory.
“It’s unbelievable. The first day she couldn’t play any better and she maybe hit one or two bad shots and the rest of everything else was perfect,” he said. “Yesterday, the course was very difficult and she didn’t play as well, but today she came back and hit the ball great, and it’s just awesome to see.”
Bouchard will be playing in the Portland Country Club Member-Guest Tournament on Thursday, but for now she is enjoying her victory.
“It’s been a long week for me, more mentally than anything, so it’s nice to win this tournament and have a relaxing round tomorrow,” she said. “This is definitely the year I wanted this tournament, though, and I was ready to make it happen.”