Ricky Jones tees off Wednesday during the second day of the Maine Amateur at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. The tournament concludes Thursday.
By Tom Chard
MANCHESTER - Ricky Jones said he knew he was going to make some bogeys in a 54-hole tournament so it was no big deal when he made his first. And a second. And a third. All in a row.
Jones had a remedy Wednesday. He birdied three of his last four holes in the second round of the Maine Amateur at the Augusta Country Club.
That was good for a 3-under 67. Combined with an opening-round 66, Jones stands at 7-under 133 heading into Thursday's final round.
Jones, the 2003 and 2004 champion, has a six-shot lead on a three-time champion, Ryan Gay of Augusta, and Tommy Stirling of Sable Oaks and Gorham. Both have had rounds of 69-70-139.
Jones didn't make any bogeys in the opening round. His first bogey came on his 30th hole of the tournament.
"Whether they're together or spaced out, it doesn't matter," said Jones of the bogeys.
"I was still even par for the day. It wasn't like I was throwing the tournament away. Even if I had shot even par for the round, someone was going to have to shoot 3 under to catch me."
Jones was referring to the four golfers who shot 69s in the first round. Neither Gay nor Stirling could make a run although Gay had the best chance.
As in his opening round, Gay had plenty of birdie chances. When he made one, he would follow with a bogey.
Stirling was consistent for the second straight day. He had a birdie, a bogey and the rest pars.
The other first-round 69 shooters, Brian Bilodeau of Martindale and Mike O'Brien of Sable Oaks, both shot 75s and are at 144.
On his bogeys that came on holes 12, 13 and 14, Jones left himself in bad spots.
"On 12, I left myself a tough putt over a ridge and I hit it too hard. I hit a bad putt for the par. On 13, I was in thick rough off the green, chipped up and missed a 6-footer. On 14, my tee shot was in a divot. I was distracted by a golf cart on my second shot and pulled it left, and missed a 6-footer for par," he said.
Jones has been a runner-up three times in this tournament -- 2005, 2010 and last year.
"When I've finished second, I've had three-hole stretches where I played poorly," said Jones.
Jones was talking more about the final rounds than the first two rounds. He'll likely have to have more than three bogeys to be caught this time.
Jones birdied 15, 16 and 18 to gain those lost shots.
"It was a strong finish after those bogeys," he said.
Jones birdied the par-3 15th for the second straight day. He sank a 7-footer on 16 and an 8-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th.
"The course played pretty much the same as the first round," said Jones. "The greens seemed a little bit faster."
Jones had the first tee time and easily avoided the afternoon rain. It rained heavily for a brief stretch.
"It was a struggle," said Gay of his round. "I hit a lot of greens but nothing really close. I've hit a lot of good putts but nothing has gone in. I'll have to shoot a low round. If I keep hitting it well and give myself chances, it's not out of the question."
Stirling made his first cut in four state amateurs, and will be in the last group with Jones and Gay.
"I just tried to hit my tee shots in the fairway and give myself birdie chances," said Stirling. "I made several par-saving putts from 4 to 5 feet."
Sam Gridle, a recent high school graduate from Island Country Club, is in third place at 141 after shooting a 69.
At 142 is Jack Wyman of Portlland, who also shot a 69. Mark Plummer and J.J. Harris of Bath are at 143.
The defending tournament champion, Seth Sweet of Madison, stands at 146.
The 36-hole cut was 151.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Ryan Gay struggled with consistency Wednesday, following birdies with bogeys, and has to make up six shots on the leader, Ricky Jones.
Ricky Jones, who has finished second three times in the Maine Amateur, including last year, now is on the verge of his third championship and his first in nine years. Jones has a six-stroke lead.