Fall Mountain Regional’s Kaylee Lintner has surprised everyone, even herself, in each of the past two girls’ golf state championships.
From finishing seventh her freshman year to coming in as the runner-up last year, Lintner has consistently defied expectations on the big stage at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands in Salem. Now a junior, she returns to that stage once again on Saturday.
With last year’s champion — Keene High’s Hannah Drew — having graduated, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to consider Lintner one of this year’s top title contenders.
But Lintner said she’s primarily playing against the course, and against her past self. Two years ago, she shot a 19-over par 90, and last year she improved to 12-over 83. The goal, she said, is to lower that score even more.
“I hope that I can just improve from shooting that 83. I definitely think I’m capable of doing better than an 83,” Lintner said. “My expectations are just part of going with the day-to-day mentality: don’t think about what happened last season, don’t think about what the other girls are doing, just play my own game.”
Lintner is one of two area golfers competing in this year’s tourney, along with Conant’s Chloe Vailancourt. Lintner is set to tee off on the first hole at Scottish Highlands at 7:57 a.m., while Vailancourt starts at No. 10 at 8:06 a.m.
While Drew may be gone — or, more accurately, playing for the women’s golf team at Hartford University — that doesn’t give Lintner an automatic path to the title. There are other top players that figure to be top contenders for this year’s championship, said Jason’ Lintner, Fall Mountain’s coach and Kaylee’s father.
Among those contenders are Nashua South senior Alexis St. Laurent, a longtime playing buddy of both Lintner and Drew. St. Laurent finished two strokes behind Lintner in last year’s state tourney.Also, Nashua North freshman Eva Gonzales, who tied for second at the N.H. Women’s Golf Association Junior Championship in June, and Dover Middle School standout Carys Fennessy figure to be in the mix.
This past weekend, Lintner made what has now become an annual trip to Scottish Highlands for a practice round before the tournament.
She said she likes the course, and that it’s a relatively easy one for women, but according to both her and her coach, one of the biggest challenges is the course’s challenging front nine.
Last year, she shot an 8-over 44 on the front nine after bogeying seven holes, including one double bogey, but still had a one-stroke lead at the turn as the whole field struggled with the first set of nine holes.
“That front nine somehow always gets me, and I always somehow shoot a 45 on the front or something,” Lintner said. “There’s not difficult holes [on the front nine], but for some, there’s challenging holes that make you really think about where you want your shot to be and how you want to approach your next shot.”
Lintner has had plenty of competitive rounds between last year’s tourney and the one coming up Saturday.
It includes several tournaments throughout the state, a trip to Orlando, Fla., for the High School Golf National Invitational at Walt Disney World Resort, and this year’s varsity season, where she and Mitchell Cormier led the Wildcats to an 18-12 record and a return to the Division III team state tournament.
Over that time, her game has matured, Jason Lintner said, to the point where her primary focus is not on hitting the ball far enough, but more about the precision and purpose of each shot.
And according to Kaylee Lintner, one of the most important lessons she’s learned is patience, something she expects to be key for her come Saturday.
“This past high school season, when I’ve taken my time and not rushed the shot and really thought out what I want to come out of the shot, I’ve done really well,” Lintner said. “So I think, coming into Saturday, just taking my time and looking at every angle, focusing on the hole, and not rushing myself, that will really help me.”