Rachel Smith had a solid regular season as Greely High’s No. 1 player, which came on the heels of a breakout summer that included winning the Maine Junior championship in come-from-behind fashion.

She was ready to claim her first high school state championship. In fact, as a senior she was the clear favorite.

Then came an uncharacteristically high round of 95 in the SMAA qualifier at Natanis Golf Course’s par-72 Tomahawk layout.

“I definitely didn’t play to my potential in that round,” Smith said.

Smith knew it was her short game that let her down, and she had nearly two weeks to get the kinks worked out before the Maine Principals’ Association’s individual state championship.

An 85 on the Tomahawk course five days later showed progress as Smith helped Greely finish sixth in the Class A team competition.

“I practiced, and by the time of the state tournament I was very comfortable and confident in my short game,” Smith said.

A week later Smith won the individual state championship with a 6-over 78 on the Arrowhead course at Natanis, beating freshman Ruby Haylock of Leavitt by three strokes.

“I knew that my game was where it needed to be,” Smith said. “I knew I had the ability to conquer the title.”

Smith’s individual title, combined with her strong regular-season average of 39, makes her the choice as the Maine Sunday Telegram Girls’ Golfer of the Year.

“Rachel has learned to focus and have confidence in her ability to play great golf this year,” said Greely Coach Brian Bickford.

Smith plans to play for Merrimack College, which begins its four-year transition to Division I in all sports in the fall of 2019.

In the state final, Smith had one more challenge to overcome.

Holding a five-stroke lead after 12 holes in the shotgun format, Smith scored an 8 on the par-5 17th.

“One of the things we really try to stress is visualizing the game in your most positive round,” Bickford said.

Smith had those positive experiences to draw on. This past summer she won the Maine Junior Championship with a 1-under final round at Brunswick Country Club. She also won the Val Halla club championship and shot a 68 to help the Val Halla team win the Pro-Lady state title.

In the high school championships, Smith steadied herself and essentially put the match away with a birdie two holes after her triple bogey.

“My mental game has gotten 100 percent stronger, which has made me better,” Smith said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig