Staci Creech isn’t playing as much golf these days.

That is what happens when you move to Maine from North Carolina, as she did two years ago with her husband Karlton – the athletic director at the University of Maine.

Her lack of playing time, though, isn’t simply a matter of climate change. Creech is taking graduate courses at UMaine and had a summer class.

“I’m always trying to grow and learn,” she said, as she looks to earn a Master’s degree in literacy.

But when the state’s top female golfers tee off Monday in the Maine Women’s Amateur championship at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, there’s no secret who’ll be the favorite. Creech won last year’s tournament by seven strokes.

“I see her scores and she’s consistently a good player,” said Mary Brandes, who recently won the Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association senior championship.

“It’s her thing. At our level, that consistency is hard to come by.”

Creech may also have the advantage of knowing the course better than others. While she plays out of Bangor Municipal, she ventures over to “Penobby” occasionally. She played a round on the Donald Ross designed-course early last week.

“It’s very definitely going to be whoever has the short game going the best,” she said. “The greens are very challenging. All Donald Ross courses have challenging greens. Hitting is going to matter, but it’s definitely the short game, chipping and putting that’s going to determine who is the best.”

She’ll face challenges from Leslie Guenther (the 2014 Maine Women’s Amateur champ from Norway Country Club), Kris Kannegieser (the Martindale CC golfer who shot a 72 at Biddeford-Saco), Falmouth’s Brandes and 16-year-old Bailey Plourde (the Lincoln Academy senior who won the girls’ junior amateur last week).

Missing will be Emily Bouchard, a two-time women’s amateur champ who finished second last year. She works now an air traffic controller and won’t play in the tournament.

“Staci is a very good golfer and will certainly be tough to beat there,” said Kannegieser. “She’s tough to beat anywhere. But there are a lot of good players this year. Staci may be the cream of the crop, but there are a lot of really good golfers in the state.”

Brandes said there may be a surprise, like Creech last year. “There’s always that possibility that a young kid or a college student can come in and have a nice game,” she said. “No one saw Staci coming. Look, sometimes it’s that player that you don’t know about that has a nice couple of rounds.”

Creech said the pressure to repeat won’t be a factor.

“I try not to put any pressure on myself,” she said. “Golf is a game of ups and downs. Hopefully I’m on an up. I try to put golf in perspective. I see this as a great opportunity but there is no need to put any pressure on myself.

“If I win or lose, it’s not going to change how things are going or how grateful I am for all the things in my life.”