12-year-old hangs tough on Day 2 of Women’s State Am

HANOVER – So now the truth can be told. That 13-year-old girl who was supposed to be playing in the 90th NHWGA Championship at Hanover Country Club?

It was an exaggeration.

She’s actually 12.

And her ability to hold her own against the best woman golfers in the state at such a young age?

No exaggeration there.

Lauren Thibodeau, who will start seventh grade at Hampstead Middle School on Aug. 28, posted four birdies on the back nine Wednesday on her way to a 75, good enough to lift her into a tie for 10th place heading into Thursday’s final round.

Mindy Inglis-Reid of Plausawa Valley holds a two-shot lead at 150 after following Tuesday’s 78 with a 1-over 72 on another sun-splashed day at the Dartmouth College course. Abenaqui’s Tracy Marshall shot 74 and is at 152.

Tied at 153 are Cortney Tilley of Atkinson and 14-time champion Dana Harrity of Abenaqui, who struggled to an 81 after opening with a 72 on Tuesday.

Harrity’s entire group had its struggles. Andrea Morrell followed Tuesday’s 76 with an 85 and Chelsea Demers shot 82 after opening with a 77.

“It was horrible for me,” Demers said. “I started losing confidence with my 4-foot putts, which I’m usually lights out with, and I was just not feeling great about everything that was going on.

“It was just a very contagious bad day for everyone.”

While Harrity’s group’s struggles were surprising, the only real surprise surrounding Thibodeau might have been the 86 she shot in the first round. But given her schedule leading up to the State Am maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that she’s at 161, 11 shots back of the leader.

Thibodeau, who lives in Hampstead and plays out of Windham Country Club, wrapped up a ninth-place finish at the Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., on Sunday before a hectic trip back to New England the next day.

“We had to drive from Pinehurst to Charlotte, then fly up to Boston and take the shuttle bus to our house,” she said after Wednesday’s four-over round. “I was pretty tired because we went to sleep at like 10:30 and then had to wake up at like 5:30 to come here.”

With a good night’s sleep and a big breakfast behind her, Thibodeau quickly put Tuesday’s round behind her as well. After a bogey on the first hole she drained a long putt from the fringe for a birdie on No. 2, a par-4 that cost her eight strokes a day earlier.

“That was pretty good,” she said with a smile. “I just hit it and it kept rolling and rolling until it went in. That made me feel a lot better than the first round.”

Thibodeau finished with five birdies and was the leader in the clubhouse when she walked off the course despite a three-putt bogey from the upper tier of the green on 18.

“She was pretty excited and hit it past the hole,” said caddie Eric Wragg. “But she played well. She hit it close all day and could have had a few more (birdies).”

Thibodeau’s longest birdie putt besides the bomb on No. 2 was about seven feet. Her tee shot on the par-3 14th hole rolled to within eight inches of the cup.

“I was happy with the way I played today,” she said. “I had only one double, so that was good because I had two eights yesterday.”

Bubbly without being giggly, mature about the game but still having fun, Thibodeau doesn’t know how tall she is, but for someone who might be looking up at 5-feet she hits the ball a long way.

“I can hit it 215,” she said. “I was really hitting my driver today. That and my putting are pretty good. I definitely need to work on my chipping.”

NHWGA President Rowena Wilks marvels not only at Thibodeau’s talent but also at her approach.

“People notice her right away,” she said. “She’s got a great personality, she’s smiling all the time and is really enthusiastic about the game. She’s small and petite and looks like a little girl. She IS a little girl, but she definitely has a woman’s game.

“We are very excited to have her in our organization and being part of this tournament. She has a great future and will only get better if she keeps the love that she has for it because the more you play, the better you get.”

A straight-A student who favors math and social studies, Thibodeau doesn’t figure to lose her enthusiasm anytime soon. Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and she won’t hesitate. “I want to be a golfer.”

Although she won’t turn 13 until Nov. 28, she already is.

And that’s no exaggeration.

Notes

Harrity, who began the day with a four-shot lead, finished it three off the pace. She was 3-over at the turn and 7-over on the back nine. She had four birdies in her opening round but none in the second.

The Schmidt sisters of Eastman Golf Links hold down three of the top 12 spots. Lisanne (79-75–154) is in sixth place, Colette (82-74–156) is in seventh and Alexandra (79-84–163) is in 12th place. The tournament wraps up Thursday.