ORONO – Emily Bouchard of Saco shot a final-round 80 in steady rain to win the Women’s Maine State Amateur golf championship by eight shots Wednesday at Penobscot Valley Country Club.

Heading into the final round with a five-shot lead, Bouchard, 21, just had to avoid a collapse to win the title in her first try.

Her strategy was to stay aggressive.

“I had to keep pushing,” said Bouchard, a senior this fall at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H.

“There are a lot of birdies out there. I had my opportunities early to make some but they wouldn’t drop. I’m thrilled to win this tournament. It feels really cool.”

The rain, which arrived just before the final group teed off, continued the whole day.

“It was wet and cool,” said Bouchard. “I just hoped I could hold onto the club as the round went along. A couple of times I thought I was losing my grip but I managed to hold on.”

It was even more challenging for Bouchard because she plays without a glove.

“That’s how I learned to play. My dad, who taught me, also doesn’t use a glove,” she said.

Bouchard, working this summer in the Dunegrass Country Club pro shop in Old Orchard Beach, knew exactly where she stood because she was playing with her closest pursuers — teenager Karli Soracco of Turner and Ann Probert of Waterville, an inspiration at 72 years of age.

Soracco was five shots back at the start but lost ground early in the round. Probert was six shots back.

“Both of them played well,” said Bouchard. “(Probert) made a run on the back nine. I was happy to see (Soracco) have such a nice tournament. She showed a lot of composure all three rounds.”

Bouchard was the Maine State Golf Association’s junior coordinator for three summers when Soracco played.

Bouchard had rounds of 66-78-80-224. When it was suggested that she won the tournament in the first round, Bouchard answered with a firm “No.”

“There was still a lot of golf to be played,” she said.

Probert and Pennie Cummings of Leeds, a six-time champion, tied for second at 232.

After opening with a pair of 75s, Probert closed with an 82. Cummings had the day’s best score with a 75. The women’s par at Penobscot Valley is 73.

Soracco closed with an 84 to finish at 233. She shot a 71 in the first round, then added a 78.

Kristin Kannegieser of Minot, the defending champion, rounded out the top five with a 238 total. Leslie Guenther of Norway, the recent Southern Maine Women’s Association champion, was sixth at 241.

Bouchard hadn’t played in the tournament before because of her work at the Maine State Golf Association. She couldn’t play the required three WMSGA weekly events to qualify.

She did this year, then capitalized to win going away.

Bouchard said she plans to defend her title next season when the state championship will be played at the Augusta Country Club.

After that, she’s not sure. An air traffic control major in college, Bouchard said her work could take her anywhere in the United States.

Several family members watched Bouchard over the three days. Her father, John, rode in the cart as her caddie. Her mother was in the gallery, as well as a cousin and a friend. Her brother watched her during the second round.

Bouchard dedicated her victory to her late grandmother, Gloria Pellerin, who died last October.

“She was my inspiration,” said Bouchard.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: TomChardPPH