FALMOUTH – Leslie Guenther of Hebron got off to a rough start in defense of her Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association championship, but settled down the rest of the way to win her third straight title and fourth overall Wednesday at The Woodlands Club.

After making a triple-bogey 7 on the first hole, Guenther made nothing worse than a bogey the rest of the way to grind out a final-round 81. She opened Tuesday with a 75 and finished with a 36-hole total of 156 for a seven-shot victory.

Guenther pulled away on the back nine from her closest pursurer, her playing partner, Prudence Hornberger of Turner.

Mary Brandes of The Woodlands finished second at 163. Tied for third at 166 were Bernice Vadnais of Biddeford and Saco Country Club, Laurie Hyndman of The Woodlands and Peggy Wilson of Biddeford and Saco.

Hornberger trailed Guenther by three shots at the start and was down by two after 11 holes, But Hornberger, a native of Kenya who has lived in the United States for 20 years, triple-bogeyed the next two holes to fall out of contention.

“It wasn’t pretty today,” said Guenther of her round, “but an 81 is OK. I played so well on Tuesday. I had three birdies in the first round and none today.

“This is such a hard course but such a good one, too. I was trying to play smart with good course management. My smart decisions turned into bogeys. I didn’t do anything spectacular but I also didn’t have disasters, other than the first hole. I never found any trouble after that.”

Guenther, the Hebron Academy athletic director, said her previous three wins were all special, but this one a little more because of the timing.

“I’m happy to win because this is the last SMWGA championship,” she said.

Next summer there will be one championship, the state amateur run by the Women’s Maine State Golf Association. This spring, SMWGA members voted to end their championship.

The organizations will remain separate and continue with weekly tournaments. The move will help end the confusion of what is the true state championship.

“It makes sense to get all the good golfers in the state in one place,” said Guenther, who will play in the state amateur Aug. 8-10 at Penobscot Valley in Orono.

A summer-long cold might have led to Guenther’s slow start.

“My stomach felt a little queasy at the beginning,” she said. “You have to play the full 18. You can’t let one hole bother you.”

Hornberger bogeyed the first hole to cut Guenther’s lead to one and had a chance to draw even on the second with a short birdie putt, but she missed and tapped in for par. Guenther two-putted from the back of the green for par.

“I was well aware that her putt on the second hole was to tie me,” said Guenther.

Both golfers shot 41 on the front nine.

Hornberger parred the par-5 11th while Guenther bogeyed, which cut the deficit to two.

On the next hole, both golfers hit their approach shots in the right side bunker.

Hornberger skulled her shot over the green and into the woods and ended up making a 7. Guenther blasted out and two-putted for a bogey.

On the par-3 13th, both players again found themselves in a greenside bunker. Guenther made a bogey while Hornberger needed five more shots to hole out.

Guenther parred four of the last five holes to seal it.

“I struggled on the back nine,” said Hornberger, who was playing in her first SMWGA championship. “I’ve only been playing golf eight years and I don’t have the experience yet.”

Hyndman, the six-time champion, had the day’s best round with a 77.

She rebounded from an opening-round 89.

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