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Women's Am: No generation gap here

Special to the Union Leader

August 04. 2014 7:41PM

Lauren Thibodeau putts on the 13th hole Monday during the New Hampshire Women's Golf Association state championship. (Harry Kozlowski)

WINDHAM — The opening round of the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association State Amateur Championship was one for the ages.

Veteran Dana Harrity, the 15-time NHWGA Am champion out of Abenaqui Country Club in Rye, and teenager Lauren Thibodeau, the reigning four-time NHWGA Junior Amateur champ playing on her home course, both shot a 1-over-par 73 Monday on Day 1 of the three-round tournament at Windham Country Club.

Harrity won her first women’s State Am championship 18 years before Thibodeau was born.

Christina Ricci of Atkinson Country Club enters Round 2 Tuesday morning third at 3-over 75. Beth Hamilton and Mindy Inglis-Reid, both playing out of Pembroke Pines Country Club in Pembroke, and Joan Cyr of Rochester Country Club are tied for fourth at 6-over 78.

Harrity’s day couldn’t have started much better: an eagle on the 522-yard, par-5 first hole.

“I used a 9-iron,” Harrity said of her approach. “It hit the green. I never saw it — rolled up and rolled in.”

But she ran into trouble later. Bogeys on five holes plus a double-bogey on 10 kept her from building on her early success.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau played a steadier game, making par on 13 holes and getting birdies on 15 and 16.

Thibodeau, 14, said home-field advantage was a factor on the challenging but familiar course.

“Definitely. You know where to land shots,” she said. “The greens especially, are a big thing — where to put the drive, everything.”

Her best hole of the day?

“Probably 16, which was my second birdie,” she said. “I hit a 4 wood and a 3 hybrid into the green, then made my long putt.”

This is Thibodeau’s second women’s State Am — she finished 10th in her debut at Hanover two years ago but missed last year’s tournament — but being the youngest player in the field was on her mind nevertheless.

“A little bit,” she said. “It’s easier for me because this is my home course, but still it gets to me a little. Everyone gets nerves.”

Well, maybe not everyone.

Harrity has played in more than 30 State Ams, with victories in 1982 and 2012 and 13 others in between.

“There isn’t any pressure on me anymore,” she said. “If I win, it’s just a bonus. If I play well, I play well. If I don’t, I don’t.”

For Ricci, a double-bogey on the par-5 fifth hole and a bogey on 18 were setbacks that kept her from joining Harrity and Thibodeau atop the leaderboard.

“I think I could have made a couple more birdies,” she said. “I have to work on some things to get ready for (Tuesday).”

With its narrow fairway, Windham CC is course that requires a more technical approach, according to Hamilton.

“The one thing about this course — it’s a throttle-down course. It’s target golf. You have to hit your spot,” Hamilton said.

“When you have a hazard on the left and out-of-bounds on the right, you have to be committed to your shot.”

Inglis-Reid, Hamilton’s fellow Pembroke Pines member, agreed, saying Monday’s experience should pay off today.

“You learn every time you play here,” Inglis-Reid said. “I think I could shave three to four shots off (today).”

The top 20 golfers based on handicap, including the first-round leaders, will tee off in a championship flight starting at 10 a.m. this morning. First- and second-flight golfers will begin earlier in the day.

“I wish we were teeing off first,” said Ricci. “We’ll have to wait. It messes with your rhythm. I’d rather to be the first one out.”