Nearly two months later, it is still difficult for Lauren Thibodeau to explain what winning the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship meant to her.
In her third appearance in the tournament and first since 2014, the Hampstead resident led after each round and easily secured her first NHWGA State Am title on Aug. 7, recording a 6-under-par 201 over the three-day tournament.
Thibodeau’s dominant showing at the State Am earned her another accolade: the August Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month Award, which is selected by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
Thibodeau, who is a sophomore on the University of Louisville women’s golf team, said winning the State Am felt different than the seven consecutive NHWGA Junior Championship crowns she earned from 2011-17.
“With the junior championship, well, anyone could have a good day then win so I think when you play more than one round you get the best player,” said Thibodeau, who is competing in the Schooner Fall Classic in Norman, Okla., this weekend with her Louisville teammates. “It’s a different style of tournament that’s more like the events I play in college.”
Thibodeau had only participated in two three-day tournaments earlier in the summer before the State Am but that was by design. After what she described as a “pretty crazy” fall and spring schedule, the Pinkerton Academy of Derry graduate mostly took the summer off from competitive golf.
When the first round of the State Am began Aug. 5 at Breakfast Hill Golf Club in Greenland, Thibodeau felt refreshed and confident. The 19-year-old looked as much on the links that day, recording a 3-under 69 that gave her a three-stroke lead over her playing partner, Chelsea Sedlar, who was in second place after her opening-round 72.
“That one I was hitting it really close — wedges, putting,” Thibodeau said. “There’s still some putts I could’ve made. Really my strength last year was irons. I have really improved and having shorter birdie putts means you have a higher percentage to make them. It made it easier to go under par.”
The Windham Country Club member earned another 3-under 69 on the second day, which gave her an eight-stroke lead on Sedlar, who won the tournament in 2016 and 2017, entering the final round. Thibodeau made three bogeys over her first 36 holes and did not record one on her final 17 second-round holes.
Thibodeau said she had played Breakfast Hill only once before the tournament, a for-fun round last summer after she heard the State Am would be held there this year. The course reminds Thibodeau of Windham CC in some ways, she said.
“I felt really confident on the course at that point and I felt like I really need to continue with what I’m doing because it’s obviously working out,” Thibodeau said of her mindset after the second round. “It put me in the position where I wanted to be, which was have the lead and to experience that and just to go out and play my game and not really worry about what others are doing. I’d kind of been doing that the whole tournament.”
While she said she got a little nervous and made a few mistakes en route to her third-round score of 72, Thibodeau still earned a nine-shot win. Sedlar, who Thibodeau played many times in the junior championship, finished runner-up with her 3-over 219 score.
Thibodeau said playing with Sedlar, a Merrimack resident who won the 2017 August Athlete of the Month Award, pushed her to play better.
“It was awesome to play with her,” Thibodeau said of Sedlar. “We’ve always talked about playing against each other in the State Am. We weren’t sure it was going to happen, especially with my schedule. We wanted it to happen at least once and hopefully it will happen again.”
Thibodeau was simply happy to have the opportunity to play in the State Am this year. To win the tournament and avenge a stinging loss on her home course the last time she played in it as a 14-year-old in 2014 was special.
“It’s great to say that I’ve won it now and I really hope I get to play in it a couple more times in the future,” Thibodeau said. “It’s kind of hard to put into words. It means a lot to win a state championship.”
Other athletes considered for the August award were Keene Swamp Bats baseball player Kyle Ball, Bow High School wrestler Skylar Hattendorf, runner Justin Freeman and Milford High School football player Gavin Urda.
Ball, a Stratham resident, batted .375 (9-for-24) with five runs scored, five RBIs, two home runs, three walks and was hit by two pitches over six games on the Keene Swamp Bats’ way to capturing the New England Collegiate Baseball League title.
Hattendorf won the silver medal in the 47-kilogram category of the Cadet World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Aug. 1.
Freeman, a 42-year-old Campton resident, was the first runner from New Hampshire for the second straight year and fourth overall to finish the Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race on Aug. 8, earning a time of 15 minutes, 18 seconds.
Urda, a senior quarterback, ran for three touchdowns that totaled 166 yards in Division II Milford’s 28-7 scrimmage win over Division I Manchester Central in the Queen City Jamboree on Aug. 30.
Previous 2019 winners: January, Mike Robinson, Bedford (hockey); February, Brooke Kane, Derry (basketball); March, Cody Ball, Londonderry (basketball); April, Dempsey Arsenault, New Hampton (lacrosse); May, Cody Morissette, Exeter (baseball); June, Grace Devanny, Concord (outdoor track); July, John DeVito, Nashua (golf).
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at email@example.com and enter “Athlete of the Month” in the subject line.
Athlete of the Month recipients are honored at the annual Leaders: A Celebration of Sports Champions event held in February.