It's tough not to compare reigning Women's Amateur champion Alexa Rancourt to former champ Abby Spector. Both are young, personable and, above all, talented.
Spector began playing at an earlier age than Rancourt did and consequently had earlier success. Spector played in her first Women's Amateur at age 12 and won the first of seven championships at age 15. By the time she was 21, Spector had earned a golf scholarship to the University of North Carolina and won a New England Amateur title. Just as important, she accepted the mantle of the face of women's golf in Maine and wore it graciously.
Rancourt, 18, won her second straight title this past week at the Augusta Country Club, and as Spector did, she wowed the crowd with booming drives and fine all-around play. And like Abby, she was appropriately humble despite besting the field by 23 strokes.
"I remember my dad was always giving me the articles about Abby and I remember reading them and saying 'Wow, that's pretty cool,' " Rancourt said.
Spector's playing career was cut short when she nearly died during emergency heart surgery in 2003. She has since gone on to teach golf as well as set up a successful junior girls program a couple of years ago at Val Halla.
Now known as Abby Kershner, she and her husband, Josh, have moved on to a number of golf jobs -- that's just the nature of the business -- and currently work at Nantucket Golf Academy on Cape Cod, where Josh is an assistant pro and Abby is a full-time instructor.
"They are both fantastic," Nantucket director of instruction Phil Truono said.
Rancourt didn't win four schoolgirl titles the way Kershner did at Waterville. She attended high school at David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida. But she has clearly emerged as the best young female player in the state since Abby's playing days, as evidenced by her victory last week. And she was at her best when there was a crowd watching.
"I used to be in theater so I like to be in the spotlight," Rancourt said. "I like those putts where the whole gallery is watching and I have to make it."
This week, Rancourt is playing in the U.S. Amateur and shortly after that will report to Furman University, where she earned a golf scholarship. Like Kershner did, she has designs on turning pro after college. Here's hoping she stays in the Maine spotlight until then and encourages a few more young females to join her.