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Rancourt running away with women's amateur

 MANCHESTER — Alexa Rancourt and the rest of the field at the WMSGA Amateur Championship all are playing golf, in a roundabout way.

And that's where the similarities end.

Reminiscent of Abby Spector a decade ago, the 18-year-old Rancourt is clubbing the competition with all the subtlety of a sucker punch. Second place, in the person of Minot's Kristin Kannegieser, is a baker's dozen shots in Rancourt's rear-view mirror after Tuesday's second round at Augusta Country Club.

"As Ann (Probert) and I discussed on the first hole, she's playing a different game than we are," said Kannegieser, returning from a one-year hiatus after winning the 2007 state title.

Different, as in driving the ball 25 to 40 yards longer than her playing partners, not to mention hitting nearly every fairway and green in regulation.

If this were the British Open, where the engraver tries to get a head start on the Claret Jug as soon as the winner becomes evident, he could get the job done overnight.

Defending champion Rancourt backed up her opening-day 71 with an even-par 72 for a two-day 143. Kannegieser, a member of Martindale Country Club, slipped from 73 to 83 and a distant 156.

"I always tend to play myself against the golf course, so it's kind of nice not feeling the pressure of somebody right there," Rancourt said. "Although when we went out this morning Kristin was definitely right there, but it's a good feeling not having anybody one shot behind me."

Only an approach shot into water on No. 18 and a subsequent double bogey Monday prevented Kannegieser from entering the middle chapter in a tie for the lead.

Reality set in early in the second round, when Kannegieser sank her par putt on No. 1 before a run of six bogeys on the next seven holes.

Rancourt, meanwhile, birdied the third, fourth and seventh for a front-nine 33 that had record-shattering potential if not for a few near-misses with the putter.

"She's the real deal. A lot of fun to watch," Kannegieser said. "On the front nine, did she not have a birdie putt within 10 feet?

And every single approach had to be a wedge. That was the most impressive thing, honestly, is what might have happened if she had putted just a little bit better.

The red ink continued to flow when Rancourt birdied No. 13, albeit after an eagle putt from nine feet away lipped out.

"I just missed it. Oh my God, it rolled over the edge and I thought it was going in, but it just kept rolling," Rancourt said.

A student of David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., bound for Furman University in South Carolina, Rancourt returned to earth later on the back nine.

Her approach to the par-4 14th landed in a right-side bunker, and Rancourt's bid from the sand didn't clear the thick rough.

She wound up with a six.

"I just flipped at it a little bit. I got a little wristy and it flopped out. It was really my approach shot that was a bad shot," Rancourt said. "That was really my one bad shot of the round. Other than that, it was just that the putts didn't fall."

Rancourt also bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17.

That's little consolation to the field, which is clearly competing for second in Wednesday's final round. Kannegieser will have the dubious honor of sharing the final threesome for the second day in a row with Rancourt along with Debby Gardner of Waterville Country Club, who shot 78 for a two-day total of 158.

Slow play was more of a distraction Tuesday than playing with the hottest commodity in Maine women's golf, according to Kannegieser. The leaders needed five hours to complete their round, including a 20-minute wait for two other groups at the fourth hole.

"Definitely on the front I never got into any rhythm. But it was not intimidating playing with her. It was fun. It was kind of neat to see that that's what the game is all about," Kannegieser said. "The contrast was between (Monday) striking the ball well and today not striking the ball well."

Leslie Guenther of Norway Country Club joined Rancourt and Gardner as the only other player in the 70s Tuesday. Guenther stands alone in fifth at 162 after a second-round 79.

Probert, a seasonal resident of Maine by way of New Jersey, shot 80 and is fourth at 159.

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