AUBURN — We learned three things from the misty first round of the 2017 Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship on Monday.

1. Two-time defending champion Staci Creech is going to be tough to beat.

2. The top threats to take her crown are teenagers.

3. The key to posting a good score at Martindale Country Club is to keep approach shots below the hole on the slick, sloped greens.

Creech, 44, and 2017 runner-up Bailey Plourde, 17, of Newcastle shared the first-round lead by shooting even-par 71 on a 5,351-yard course that puts a premium on shot placement, especially when approaching the back nine’s elevated greens.

“You definitely have to hit it in the right spots on the greens,” said Creech, who lives in Veazie with her husband, Karlton Creech, the University of Maine athletic director. “You have to stay below the hole and you can’t get greedy. A couple holes I was in between clubs and I just had to take the shorter club.”

Plourde, a 2017 Lincoln Academy graduate from Newcastle, leads a teen brigade that includes Elizabeth Lacognata, 17, who will be a senior at Scarborough High and shot a 3-over 74, good for third place. Jordan Laplume (77, fourth place), who will be a senior at Thornton Academy, and Erin Holmes (78, tied for fifth with Kathi O’Grady) are also off to strong starts. Holmes is a 2017 Greely High graduate who will play golf at Bucknell University.

“The greens are pretty tough and I find if you get above the pin you’re definitely going to have a tough putt,” said Plourde, who will play golf this fall at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Lacognata has played golf for four years. She is making her second appearance at the Women’s Amateur.

“I could have dropped a lot of putts. There were six that came very close so hopefully tomorrow we’ll drop a couple more,” Lacognata said. “My line was good but this course is known for having a little bit faster greens and it was just coming centimeters close to going in the hole.”

The greens were slowed by the moist conditions. The first groups, featuring the best players, played in cool, overcast conditions with intermittent light rain. The rain increased as the final threesomes in the 70-player field were on the back side.

Former champion Kristin Kannegieser shot a 79 on her home course to be alone in seventh place. Leslie Guenther of Norway CC and Emily Droge of Riverside are tied for eighth after shooting 80s. Guenther, the 2014 champion, scored a hole-in-one on the 104-yard 11th hole.

Creech played Monday’s round with Plourde and Holmes, the 2016 Maine high school co-champions.

“You can add their two ages and still not be close to mine,” Creech said.

Creech is not worried about other players’ age or that the young players are hitting their drives 20 to 50 yards farther.

“I’m so used to that. I’ve always hit it short for the level I play at,” said Creech, who played four seasons at the University of North Carolina. “In college I was always 20 yards behind everyone. It never bothered me. I’ve just gotten really good at hitting hybrids and fairway woods.”

Creech and Plourde shot identical 35-36 –71 scores and were never separated by more than one stroke. Creech had two bogeys and got her second birdie on the par-5 18th hole after Plourde (3 bogeys, 3 birdies) had gone ahead by a stroke with a birdie on the par-3 17th.

A year ago Plourde played even with Creech for most of the tournament. She was within a stroke of the lead with eight holes to play in the final round before closing poorly. Creech won by 11 strokes.

“Having three rounds with her last year kind of helped because I knew how she played,” Plourde said. “I knew that she kept quiet, kept to herself, which is fine. So I kind of knew what to expect coming in which definitely helped. Last year I was more nervous than I was this year.”

On Tuesday, Lacognata will get her first exposure to being in the lead group, scheduled to tee off at 11:10 a.m.

“I’ve been practicing a lot these last couple of weeks and traveling to a lot of tournaments,” Lacognata said. “It’s helped me to get used to playing under pressure and your golf management gets better.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig