SOUTH PORTLAND — Playing five matches in three days is certainly a grind – but even more so for Ricky Jones, who commuted every day from his home in Thomaston.
But if Jones, one of Maine’s most decorated golfers, was feeling any sluggishness it didn’t show. He won his first state Match Play Championship with a convincing 6 and 4 win over Jeff Cole of York Thursday morning at Sable Oaks Golf Club.
This championship added to the list of Jones’ other titles in Maine. He’s a three-time Maine Amateur champion, a Maine Open champion, a six-time Mid-Amateur champion and a five-time Paul Bunyan winner.
Jones, 42, never trailed in the match, hitting fairways and greens. He also had three birdies. This is the fifth year of the Match Play Championship, run by the Maine State Golf Association, but it was Jones’ first trip to the final.
Both Jones and Cole won four matches in two days to reach the final.
“I lost to Ryan Gay (a three-time Maine Amateur champion) one year and to Joe Alvarez (a former Match Play champ) the other times,” said Jones. “I was glad to see when Joe lost to Mike Doran in the quarterfinals.”
Jones took charge early. His only lapse came on the par-4, ninth hole when he pushed his drive right into the trees, then had to use a recovery shot to reach the fairway and bogeyed the hole to Cole’s par. It was the only hole Cole won.
“I hit the ball really well,” said Jones. “I stayed around par and almost every putt was tap-in range.”
While Jones’ shots were on target, Cole, 25, was missing greens in regulation and having to scramble.
“I was pretty jacked up to play Ricky, who everyone knows in Maine golf,” said Cole. “Ricky played well and I just didn’t have it. I missed seven greens on the front nine. You can’t do that against a player like Ricky.”
Jones said he really started to play well in the tournament from the quarterfinals on. He won his semifinal match 6 and 4 over Doran, the club champion at Sable Oaks.
Jones almost chipped in for a birdie 4 on the par-5 second. The ball deflected off the flag stick for a conceded putt. Cole’s birdie putt from 15-feet above the hole hit the hole. Cole made par saving putts for halves on holes three and four.
“On the first six holes, I made every 10-foot putt for par,” said Cole.
Those putts kept Cole in the match early. Jones took a 2-up lead on the fifth hole as Cole picked up after his fifth shot as Jones was putting for birdie from 10 feet.
On the par-3, 202-yard sixth hole, Jones knocked his shot 10 feet from the cup. Cole took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker. Both golfers had good birdie attempts slide by the hole for conceded pars on the seventh hole.
On the 10th hole, Cole, having slight momentum, had a great chance to slice Jones’ lead in half as he drove in the middle of the fairway while Jones’ pulled his tee shot left into the rough. But Cole hit a poor second shot, just putting his ball on the lower right portion of the green. He then 3-putted while Jones two-putted from a similar distance for a par and a win.
“That was the turning point,” said Cole. “On the second shot, I thought the ball would draw to the green, but I hit it right. You can’t miss opportunities like that.”
Jones then won 11 with a par and 12 with a birdie putt of 25-feet. The match ended on 14.
The golf course received over six inches of rain Wednesday night. Players were allowed preferred lies in their own fairway and relief from casual water which was pervasive throughout the course.
“The course was in great shape considering the rain,” said Jones. “I only needed to take relief from casual water twice.”
The tournament started with a field of 32 players. In reaching the final, Jones beat Scott Weymouth, 4 and 3; John Hayes IV, 1-up 21 holes; Brian Angis, 2 and 1; and Doran.
Cole beat Tom Bean, 4 and 2; Joe Walp, 2-up; Eric Crouse, 3 and 2; and Scott Sirois, 5 and 3.