Alexa Rancourt, the talented 17-year-old from South Portland, had such a big lead Wednesday in the final round of the Women's Maine State Amateur golf championship that she could afford a stumble or two down the stretch.
Rancourt went 5-over par on the last four holes but it didn't matter. She shot a final-round 77 to win by six shots at Bangor Municipal.
"Not exactly the way I wanted to finish," said Rancourt, who had a double bogey on the 18th hole. "Overall I thought I played very well. It was a goal of mine this summer to win the tournament."
After opening with 74s in the first two rounds, Rancourt, whose lead grew to double digits early on the back nine, appeared headed for an even lower round until the finish.
She finished with a 54-hole total of 225 to beat Pennie Cummings, 64, a six-time champion from Wayne who finished at 231. Mary Brandes of Falmouth was third at 236, followed by Liz Coffin of Bangor and Kathy O'Grady of Portland at 238.
Rancourt played in her first state amateur two years ago.
"I think I shot 91 in the first round," she said. "I can't remember what I shot in the other two rounds."
Rancourt attends the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where she will be a senior. Practicing and playing under the guidance of top instructors and with other top junior players has allowed her game to improve greatly.
Rancourt started the final round with a four-shot cushion over Cummings and a nine-shot lead over O'Grady. Both Rancourt and O'Grady are members of Sable Oaks in South Portland.
She said her strategy was to play safe and avoid mistakes.
"My goal was to put the ball in the fairway, hit greens and make pars," said Rancourt.
Although Rancourt bogeyed her first hole all three days, she quickly settled down and did just what she set out to do. She hit her 3-wood on the par 4s at the start.
"It's not a long course. I didn't need a lot of distance," she said.
When Rancourt used her driver for the first time on the fifth hole - the regular 14th - she drove the ball on the green on the 249- yard par-4 but three-putted for a par.
Rancourt said her putting was the one part of her game that had let her down over the three rounds.
"My putting was tentative all three rounds," she said. "I had trouble adjusting to the speed and size of the greens. The first round I wasn't getting the ball up to the hole. The second round I was knocking my putts past the hole and today I couldn't get them up to the hole again."
The leaders played the back nine first.
Rancourt opened by three-putting the 10th hole for a bogey. She saved par on the next hole, a downhill par-3, with a nice chip after missing the green on her tee shot. Rancourt had birdie chances on the next three holes but couldn't get them to drop. She made the first of her two birdies in her round on the par-5 15th.
Rancourt shot a 1-over 37 on the front nine, a score matched by O'Grady, her playing partner with Cummings.
Cummings, who had the only real chance to catch her at the start, struggled on the front nine, shooting a 42.
When Rancourt made her second birdie, coming on her 11th hole, it stretched her lead to 10 shots over Cummings and O'Grady. After that it was just a question of what her final margin of victory would be. It wasn't as large as she thought but large enough.
"Alexa played great," said O'Grady. "She has a wonderful game and she's young."