Clarice Bell of Orono High School won the 2021 Class C girls golf state championship title. Credit: Courtesy of Clarice Bell

Clarice Bell had intended to play soccer in high school but knee injuries shelved that idea.

So she was looking for a fall activity her freshman year.

“My dad played a lot of golf so I began playing with him,” said Bell, who started teeing it up the summer before her freshman year at Bangor High School.

Four years later, she is a state golf champion.

Bell transferred to Orono High after her freshman year at Bangor and shot an 18-over-par 90 on Saturday at the Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro to win the individual Class C state championship. She won by three shots over Dexter’s Caitlyn Chabot.

It was the lowest score she had ever posted in a high school competition.

Her score was second best on the boys team, for which she competed and which placed seventh in the team competition. There is no girls team competition.

“After my round, my teammates were all screaming. I didn’t know what they were cheering about. They told me I had won. I hadn’t even turned in my scorecard yet,” said the 17-year-old Bell. “I was pretty excited about that.”

Bell, a senior, had finished third the previous year and she set her sights on winning it this fall.

After a poor first hole, she nailed a long birdie putt on her second hole and that was the boost she needed.

“I got my confidence back. I knew I was going to have a good round after that,” she said.

Orono High golf coach Tom Hanscom said the key component to her game is her driving.

“She hits it a long way, especially for a Class C golfer. And she is accurate. She keeps it in the fairway,” said Hanscom, who noted that her length off the tee meant she was hitting short irons to the green while her opponents had to use long irons or woods.

“My tee shots set me up nicely for the rest of the hole. I was in good position to get on the greens in regulation. And my approach shots were accurate. I was getting them close enough to the pin so I could two-putt and move on. I didn’t have to worry about three-putts,” she said about her round.

Bell had previously shot her lowest round ever, an 84, playing at Natanis during a summer tournament.

“I love the course, especially the front nine,” she said.

Bell and Hanscom both agreed that she didn’t have as good a regular season as she had hoped.

“But she put it all together on Saturday. It was great to see. She made a lot of putts,” Hanscom said.

“I really enjoy it which makes it easy to want to go out and get better whether I’m at the driving range, the putting green or playing a round,” Bell said.

The daughter of Calvin and Jackie Bell said she had a very positive first experience on a golf team her freshman year at Bangor High, saying she thoroughly enjoyed her teammates and playing for coach Chris Junkins.

She didn’t play her sophomore year at Orono due to knee surgery.

Bell is a multi-sport athlete. She is the No. 1 singles player on the Orono High girls tennis team, reaching the round of 32 in the state tournament last year. She also plays on the basketball team.

She said playing both golf and tennis are beneficial.

“Not just the physical aspect, but the mental aspect as well. You play singles in tennis and are by yourself in golf, too,” she said.

The other individual champions on the girls side were Noble of North Berwick’s Cheyenne Couture (85) in Class A and Leavitt of Turner’s Jade Haylock (83) in B.

The boys individual titlists were South Portland’s Lucas Flaherty in A (72), Eli Spaulding of Freeport in B (68) and George Fahey of Waynflete of Portland in C (73).

The boys team champions were Falmouth in A (315), Yarmouth in B (322) and Kents Hill in C (332).