Spaulding shoots 5-under 67 to lead Maine Junior Golf Championships

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Jul. 26—ARUNDEL — Eli Spaulding picked up right where he left off at the Maine Junior Golf Championships.

Spaulding began the tournament almost exactly how he started last year, shooting a 5-under 67 for a nine-shot first round lead Tuesday morning at Dutch Elm Golf Club.

Spaulding shot 6-under 66 last year in the first round en route to a four-stroke victory while playing in the 14-15-year-old flight. He was red hot again Tuesday after moving to the 16-18 level, birdieing four of his first five holes to get in negative numbers early and stay there.

"The front started birdie-birdie, and I was like 'You never know, it could be a pretty good day,' " said Spaulding, a rising junior at Freeport High. "And it was."

Spaulding leads Parker Hilchey, the group's defending champion, and former Freeport teammate Finn Sharpe after the two shot 4-over 76s. Owen Moore is fourth at 5 over, while Noah Duprey and Paul Dilworth are tied for fifth at 7 over.

Mick Madden, 14, shot even-par 72 to gain a six-shot lead in the 14-15 flight, while Ruby Haylock, fresh off of winning the Maine Women's Amateur last week, shot 4-over 77 to take an 11-shot lead in the girls' 16-18 flight.

The standout was the 5-foot-8, 135-pound Spaulding, who birdied the first two holes, lipped out a birdie putt on the third, and then birdied the fourth and fifth holes to leap out to his lead.

"(I was) making the putts you really want to make, but the 10- to 15-footers that you're not expected to make, they were just dropping in," he said. "I knew if I was 1 or 2 under going into the fourth hole, four and five are two pretty easy par-5s. I knew that just keeping it in play in the fairway would give me pretty good birdie looks. That's exactly what happened."

He bogeyed the par-4 13th, but got two strokes back on the par-5 15th when he hit a 3 hybrid from 230 yards out onto the green and made the 12-foot eagle putt.

"(Even) when I started missing a couple of putts on 10 and 11, I knew my game was where I wanted it to be today," Spaulding said. "I knew if I just kept a good mindset, even after that bogey on 13, I could still make something happen with the few holes I had left."

The players in his flight marveled at how Spaulding handled the 6,375-yard course.

"He doesn't miss," Sharpe said. "The kid, he hits every green that he possibly could and then he just rolls the ball really well."

Sharpe, 18, put himself in a tie for second with a steady round — 14 pars, four bogeys.

"I was in the fairways and it gave me the opportunity to hit some shots on the greens," said Sharpe, who made an impressive par on the ninth after driving into the woods when he punched out and put the 125-yard approach two feet from the pin. "This was a great round to have going into the second day. It means I have every opportunity to shoot really low tomorrow."

Hilchey, 18, saw his title defense hurt by six bogeys, but he also made two birdies, including one on the 12th when he rolled in a putt between 12 and 15 feet.

"I definitely think it could have gone better, but obviously it could have gone worse," the Camden Hills graduate said. "Seeing Eli go so low, you know there are shots out there that could be made. I'm in a good position."

Madden, an incoming freshman at Cheverus, seized the 14-15 lead with five birdies, three coming on the front and two coming on the back.

"Basically everything just really came together today, but it's only one round, I still have another one tomorrow," Madden said. "I know I can shoot that any time, especially at a course like that where it's very easy to go after greens."

He's ahead of Wyatt Benoit at 6 over, while Sebastien Martinez and Joe Hansen are tied for third at 7 over. Hansen's round featured only 24 putts in 18 holes, including eight one-putts in a row.

"I haven't been this hot before," Hansen said. "(The greens) weren't fast, but (there were) no bumps, not too many ball marks. It just worked perfectly for me."

In the girls' 16-18 flight, Haylock carded five bogeys against one birdie to take the lead over rising Greely senior Ruth Weeks. Alexis McCormick, a rising sophomore at Leavitt and former teammate of Haylock's, shot 12-over 85 for a two-shot advantage over fellow Hornet Jade Haylock in the 14-15 flight.

"I didn't feel like it was great. I got my drives under control on the back nine, but on the front nine it felt like things were just kind of all over the place," Ruby Haylock said. "As long as my drives start tomorrow how they finished today, I will be really happy. I'd like for a few more of my putts to drop. I wasn't doing a great job reading the greens today."

Ryan Farnsworth leads the boys' 12-13 flight at 25-over, while Drew Mertzel and Sam Sirois shot 9-over 45s in the 9-hole flight in the boys' 11-and-under flight.