MANCHESTER, Maine — Driving a ball a long way can be the most fun, but the shortest shots, the putts, are usually the most important.
Pennie Cummings of Wayne, the first-round leader of the first Maine Women’s Amateur Golf Championship, pointed to the greens at Augusta Country Club as being the key to the round.
“The greens are fast,” said Cummings, “and most of us are coming from clubs where they are not this fast.”
Cummings took her lumps on a few holes, but she jumped out to a five-stroke lead when she shot a 2-over-par 74.
For the first time, the Women’s Maine State Golf Association and the Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association have combined their individual association championships into an all-encompassing title. And the Maine State Golf Association is helping conduct it.
Leslie Guenther of Norway Country Club, who played in the first group, came in as the early leader when she posted a 79. But that lasted only until Cummings finished in the next group. They were the only two players to break 80.
A good breeze and the fast greens had scores quickly climbing.
Micki Meggison of Sable Oaks in South Portland, Kristin Kannegieser of Martindale Country Club in Auburn and Mary Brandes of the Woodlands Club in Falmouth share third at 82.
Defending champion Emily Bouchard of Biddeford-Saco Country Club opened with an 85 and is tied for sixth with Prudence Hornberger of Turner Highlands, while Susan Gilpatric-Smart of Webhannet in Kennebunk Beach shot an 86.
Liz Coffin of Bangor Municipal Golf Course leads a trio of golfers tied for ninth at 87. The other two are Heidi Haylock of Turner Highlands and Debbie Marshall of Springbrook Golf Club in Leeds.
Cummings, a six-time winner of the WMSGA crown who tied for second last year, parred the first two holes, but she bogeyed the third and sixth holes, got a stroke back by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 7, parred eight and bogeyed nine to make the turn at 2-over 38.
She parred the first five holes on the back, bogeyed 15 and birdied 16 before finishing with a pair of pars.
“My ball-striking was reasonable good until the last couple of holes,” said Cummings. “Keeping the ball in the fairway is important. I was able to hit a lot of greens in regulation.”
She had two three-putts on the front nine and finished 2 over, but she took it in stride.
“That’s going to happen. … You just have to accept it,” she said.
She’d like to think she can keep this going, but she isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I’m pretty inconsistent these days,” she said. “I’ll have a good round, then [not so good].”
The difference is that tends to happen during friendly rounds, including at Springbrook Golf Club just down the road in Leeds.
“I haven’t played poorly, I’ve just been up and down like anybody tends to be,” she said.
When a tournament such as this starts, though, that inconsistency doesn’t apply anymore.
“These are different circumstances. Those are casual rounds,” she said. “This, you tend to be more focused.”
It doesn’t hurt to be lucky, either. Her second birdie came out of nowhere.
“On 16, I hooked my tee shot into the trees. I had an opening and punched it out short of the green and chipped it in,” said Cummings with a smile.
Guenther bogeyed right out of the chute, on the first hole, and added two more on Nos. 5 and 8.
“I was 3 over on the front, all three-putts,” she said.
Guenther bogeyed 14 and 15 on the back and double bogeyed the last hole.
“I didn’t strike the ball as well as I would have liked,” she said. “I was a little disappointed.”
She was also thankful.
“For as many three-putts as I had, I scored well,” she said.
Kannegieser, Meggison and Brandes all had holes they struggled with. Kannegieser posted a pair of triple bogeys on the front nine, Meggison played the last four holes 4 over par and Brandes’ card was hurt by one triple bogey and one double bogey.
Bouchard got into trouble almost immediately, making 6 on the par-3 third and adding a double bogey on the next hole. She started the back nine in similar fashion with a double bogeys on 10 and 11.
The groups Tuesday will be mostly the same as Monday, but because of withdrawals, some of the twosomes have been re-paired for Tuesday’s round. They started Monday with the lower handicap indexes going first, but that is reversed for Tuesday’s second round. The players will be re-paired completely by score for Wednesday’s final round.
Though Cummings plans on being focused, she’s not sure which of her golf personas will show up for Tuesday’s round.
“It’ll be interesting to find out,” she said. “Stay tuned.”