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VASSALBORO – Saturday was a day of shared experiences at the Maine individual schoolboy and schoolgirl golf championships at Natanis Golf Course.
All of the competitors had to deal with high winds and the aftermath of Friday’s heavy rain – conditions that left the skies a sometimes treacherous place to launch the ball, and the soggy ground a dangerous place to land it.
“It was so windy,” said Bucksport High senior Whitney Hand. “We had more holes with the wind in our faces than we did with the wind at our backs. Even when you were putting you had to play the wind.”
While weather was the shared topic of conversation, co-champion was the shared word of the day as the Class A and C boys divisions and the girls competition all finished with ties at the top.
Only in Class B, where Kevin Byrne of Winslow shot a 4-over-par 76 on Tomahawk – one of two courses on the 36-hole Natanis layout – to rally for a one-shot victory over John Hayes IV of Cape Elizabeth, was a lone champion crowned.
Hand shared the girls title with Hampden Academy senior Julie Aurie, while Tim Carlson of Central Aroostook of Mars Hill and James Sterling of North Yarmouth Academy finished in a two-way tie atop the Class C boys leaderboard.
The Class A tournament finished with a three-way tie among Chris Hamel of Waterville, David Gushee of Gorham, and Ryan Gay of Gardiner.
Hamel, like Byrne playing on his home course, used a chip-in on the par-4 16th hole on Tomahawk as the catalyst for a 2-over 74.
That helped Hamel catch up with Gushee, who had taken the early lead. Gay also came from behind to earn a share of the title after trailing by four shots with four holes left.
“I played one of the best rounds I’ve ever played, but it was also one of the worst,” said Hamel. “I was thinking about it yesterday, and thought anything under par would take it. Then as I’m coming up to the 15th tee [Saturday], I’m talking to my coach and I said, ‘As bad as these conditions are, I think 74’s going to win it.’ So he said, ‘Go out and shoot 72.’ I did my best.”
Carlson didn’t hit as many greens has he would have liked but scrambled his way to a 79 on the Arrowhead layout. One highlight of his round was a 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 17, his ninth hole of the round.
“Actually I came up short on a lot of greens, so I had to get up and down all day long,” said Carlson, a senior. “A lot of bogeys came out of those, but I managed to scrape out some pars out as well.”
Nick Pelletier of Bangor Christian finished third in Class C, two strokes behind Carlson and Sterling. Others in the top 10 included Josh McGuire of Class C team champion Houlton, sixth with an 85, and Jeff Osborne of Stearns of Millinocket, Shawn Keenan of Carrabec of North Anson, and Porter Gervais and Peter Hagan of Houlton, all among a seven-way tie for seventh with 88.
Hand overcame being penalized two strokes on the ninth green for not replacing her original ball mark after moving the ball to allow Emily Bouchard of Thornton Academy of Saco to putt along the same line. The penalty gave her a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 hole.
“I was just trying to keep my head in it and not get too upset about it,” said Hand, who won at least a share of the girls championship for the third time in four years. She tied for first as a freshman and placed second in 2004 before winning the title outright last fall.
Aurie overcame losing a ball in the middle of the 14th fairway and having her subsequent provisional shot go in the woods.
But the reigning Penobscot Valley Conference champion, who placed third here last year, used her short game to match Hand’s 86.
“I made a couple of chips, some key putts that saved me, and some pars and birdies,” Aurie said. “It was a struggle. Conditions were tough, the wind was definitely a factor. It was very wet out there, but overall I think everyone played well.”
Kate Merrill of NYA finished one shot behind Hand and Aurie, while Bouchard tied Amy Michaud of Presque Isle for fourth, each with a 92. Ashley Cleary of Houlton placed ninth overall with a 99.