FALMOUTH, Maine — Sherri Steinhauer of Madison, Wis., won two women’s major golf championships during her LPGA Tour career, but she had never done anything like what she did Saturday at Falmouth Country Club.
Steinhauer, now a member of the LPGA Legends tour for women 45 and older, and Christa Johnson of Tucson, Ariz., were paired with 12-year-old Lauren Thibodeau of Hampstead, N.H., during the opening round of the LPGA Legends’ Hannaford Community Challenge.
Each of the 20 pairs of LPGA Legends had a member of the First Tee of Maine, some female, some male, as the third player in their group.
The LPGA competitors were playing the first round of their 36-hole tournament that concludes Sunday, while the juniors were only playing 18 holes to determine their winners.
The pros are tightly bunched at the top as the difficult Falmouth layout kept the players bunched together.
Cindy Figg-Currier, Rosie Jones and Lori West share the lead at 2-under-par 70, and Marilyn Lovander, Val Skinner and Sherri Turner are tied a stroke back. They were the only ones to finish at par or better.
The players will tee off Sunday in twosomes spaced 10 minutes apart, starting at 8 a.m. The last group tees off at 11:10.
“It was something I’ve never done before,” said Steinhauer of Saturday’s playing format, “but I completely enjoyed it.”
It was the same for Thibodeau.
“It was just amazing to be with the pros,” she said, “… and then to go up there and hit a really good drive was really good, too.”
Steinhauer was impressed with Thibodeau’s game.
“She’s a great player,” said Steinhauer. “She just reminded me a lot of myself back then. She’s got a great future ahead of her.”
Thibodeau was able to get some tips as well.
“Course management, trying not to go over [the greens],” said Thibodeau, who won the New Hampshire Junior Girls Championship last year. “And hitting toward water, playing the safe shot.”
“I loved the format. … It was just a pleasant day,” said Steinhauer.
It was pleasant for other juniors as well, after any jitters disappeared.
“On the first tee, I was feeling really nervous because there were a bunch of people watching me,” said Janelle Bryant, 12, of Gray. “Then when I hit the first shot, it kind of melted away and I felt better.”
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t have butterflies,” said Nick Plummer, 16, of Cumberland. “[I] was a little nervous putting the ball on the tee on the driving range as it slowly started to tick to 10:12 [a.m., his starting time].”
Part of the juniors’ nervousness was because of the huge number of fans.
“It wasn’t that bad throughout the heart of the course,” said Plummer. “On 9, 18, 17 and 1, it was hard to muster up the ability to hit. I was shaking so much because I didn’t want to mess up in front of everyone.”
“It was definitely fun, hitting a good shot and they all clapped,” said Thibodeau. “I like it.”
The women also made them feel welcome.
“The pros were really supportive,” said Bryant, “and they gave me tips and just gave me high-fives just to make me feel more comfortable.”
The juniors felt like they learned something from playing with the LPGA stars, some of whom are in the LPGA Hall of Fame.
“Their swings are so buttery smooth,” said Kyle Megathlin, 17, of Cumberland, “and they constantly hit it down the middle of the fairway.
“It … showed me if you swing easy, you can put the ball almost wherever you want to put it.”
That’s what he saw, but what did he learn?
“I’ll try swinging a little easier sometimes when it’s not going so well,” he said.
Plummer believes their consistency comes down to one factor.
“I think it’s just practice,” he said. “Gotta practice more.”
Bryant would like to do it all over again.
“It was really, really fun,” she said. “No one knows how fun it is until you actually do it.”
Bryant also has a goal now.
“Some day, it would be really awesome if I could be like them,” she said. “I would love to do this as many times as possible.”