Saturday, December 7, 2013
By TRAVIS LAZARCZYK Kennebec Journal
NEWRY - You can tell how a golfer's round went by the way he walks down the 18th fairway. You see slumped shoulders and a hanging head, you know it's been a tough day.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
MAINE AMATEUR LEADERBOARD
Seth Sweet 70-70-140
Best of the rest
J.J. Harris 76-70-146
Ricky Jones 76-73-149
Mike O'Brien 73-76-149
On Wednesday, Seth Sweet approached the 18th green with his head high and his shoulders straight. He practically swaggered, and he had every right.
Sweet, 17 and barely a month out of Madison High, shot a 70 for the second consecutive day at the Maine Amateur Golf Championship, giving him a two-day score of 4 under and the lead heading into today's final round at Sunday River Golf Club.
"I'm feeling really comfortable, actually," said Sweet, who finished fourth in the tournament the last two years. "I've been close to the lead. I've never had the lead, but I feel like it's time."
Joining Sweet in today's final group are J.J. Harris, who tied Sweet for the day's low score at 70 and is six strokes behind the leader, and two-time tournament winner Ricky Jones, who shot a 73 on Wednesday for a two-day score of 149.
For Sweet, Wednesday's round was almost a copy of Tuesday's effort. After finishing the front nine 1 over, Sweet rolled through the back nine. Three consecutive birdies on 14, 15 and 16 pushed Sweet's score for the day under par, and he avoided a bogey on the back nine.
"The front nine was actually a struggle. My first six holes were pretty ugly. On the back nine, I didn't have a bogey, so that always helps," Sweet said. "I think the back's more forgiving. All the traps are too far ahead to even hit."
On Tuesday, Sweet bogeyed the par-3, 213-yard 14th hole. In the second round, his tee shot was almost perfect, and Sweet sank a 4-foot putt for birdie. On 15, Sweet made a 20-foot putt for birdie, recovering from an approach shot that he drove left and off the fairway.
"They moved the tees up for us, but it was probably just a little confidence going into that. I set a goal to get two birdies on the back, and I ended up getting three. That kind of got me rolling," Sweet said.
"Fifteen was really up and down. I didn't mean to hit it way left like that. It was a pretty cruddy shot, but I made the up and down."
Harris followed up Tuesday's 76 with a 2-under 70 to remain six strokes behind. Harris finished the front nine with consecutive birdies on 7, 8 and 9, and his only bogey came on 2.
"That was big. On (7), I left it a little right, and hit an OK chip shot," Harris said.
Despite playing well, Harris never felt comfortable, he said.
"That was the most nervous I've been, on every single shot," Harris said. "I put in a lot of hard work on my swing, and it's kind of paid off."
While Sweet and Harris turned in strong days, others who started the day among the leaders struggled. Mike Doran shot an 84 after opening the tournament with a 72 on Tuesday. Len Cole shot an 83 after opening the tournament with a 1-over 73.
Ryan Gay , a three-time Maine Am champion and winner of the last two tournaments, shot an 83, never finding a rhythm.
"Probably the worst competitive round of golf I've ever played in my life," Gay said. "I hit it bad, putted it bad, chipped it bad, everything.
"I hit it all over the place, I guess. I three-putted a bunch of times."
Jones struggled on the front nine, playing 3 over par. After a bogey on 10, Jones rallied, picking up birdies on three of his final eight holes.