It was a rare sight at the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association Junior Championship.
Three-time defending champion Lauren Thibodeau was behind for most of Thursday morning’s round at Intervale Country Club. A pair of double-bogeys left her third in her group, four strokes behind leader Chelsea Sedlar after nine holes. After 14 holes, the Hampstead native still trailed by two strokes.
Considering the consistency with which Sedlar played to that point, it appeared Thibodeau would finally be beaten.
But even at 14 years old, Thibodeau displayed a quality all athletes crave: she came through when it mattered most.
Thibodeau rallied for three straight birdies on holes 15-17 and held on at 18 for a one-stroke victory over Sedlar, capturing her fourth straight Junior Championship.
Thibodeau finished the round with a four-over par 77, while Sedlar was just behind at 78. Derry’s Kaitlyn Lutinski finished third with an 82.
“It was so awesome,” said Thibodeau, who plays out of Windham Country Club. “Chelsea gave me a really good run back there. I just tried to take it one shot at a time.”
This was certainly no choke on Sedlar’s part. Aside from one misfire on 18, the Merrimack native actually played one shot better on the back nine than on the front. She was consistently on par, drove the ball well and sank her putts.
Thibodeau was simply too much to keep up with.
She made four birdies in the final eight holes and shot three-under par 34 on the back nine.
“I played a great round. It’s disappointing not to win but I can’t be mad at myself,” said Sedlar, a 16-year-old senior at Bishop Guertin.
“Lauren played great. Had three birdies in a row, add another onto that. So, I can’t be mad at myself. I just said, ‘Shoot pars and she’s gotta make birdies to beat you,’ and that’s what she did.”
Thibodeau tied the score at 69 with a birdie to Sedlar’s par at 16, and took a one-stroke lead into the final hole.
Sedlar still had a chance when Thibodeau’s drive missed the green and forced her to chip.
But Sedlar got a bad piece of her fairway shot and the ball rolled forward for mere feet. Both players bogeyed the hole.
“(Thibodeau) played great coming down the stretch,” Sedlar said. “I just wanted to make par on 18 and she could do whatever she wants, maybe a playoff, maybe not. But I had my only bad shot of the day on the 18th fairway. It’s nothing I can be mad about.
“I can’t control her or her game so I can’t be mad that she beat me,” she added. “I played the best that I could.”
Following Lutinski in the Senior 18 Division was Ashley Tewksbury of Lee, who shot a 90. Concord’s Hayley Reed came in fifth with a 97.
Derry’s Erin Dello Russo won the Junior 18 division with a 91, eight strokes ahead of Hannah Drew of Keene. Shivani Vora of Dover won the Mini division with a 39 after nine holes, while Nashua’s Eva Gonzales was right behind with a 40.
Kaitlyn Ford of Exeter finished third with a 49. Nashua native Jasmine Javanbakht (54), Exeter’s Aislin Murdock (56) and Tilton’s Hannah McCain (57) were the top three winners in the Junior 9 division.