AUBURN — While growing up in Cumberland, Bob Darling Jr. had a golf swing that was envied by his peers.

“All the junior golfers at Val Halla Golf Course when we were growing up wanted to emulate Bob’s swing and his ball flight,” said Brian Bickford, now the head pro at the course.

“With his persimmon driver, Bob would start the ball low and then at about 200 yards, it would start to rise up in the air. Everyone thought that was the coolest thing. No one else could do it, but we sure wished we could. It was a thing of beauty.”

Some four decades later, his swing still is.

This summer, Darling, 58, won his sixth State of Maine Championship. Darling’s state wins have spanned five decades, starting in 1974 when he won the Maine Junior Championship.

For more than three decades, he has arguably been the best player in the Maine Chapter of the New England PGA and a force on the New England PGA tournament circuit. Darling, the head pro/director of golf at Fox Ridge Golf Course in Auburn, has won Player of the Year honors from the Maine Chapter 11 times.

“The thing that stands out to me about Bob is his consistency,” said John Hickson of Topsham, who has partnered with Darling to win several Maine Chapter and New England tournaments. “As you grow older, it’s a challenge to maintain your swing and not lose distance. Bob has been able to do both. He has remained flexible with a very athletic swing.”

Darling has won the Maine Chapter Championship eight times with the first coming in 1980.

“Bob has easily been our best player over the last two to three decades,” said Tony Decker, who served as the Maine Chapter’s executive director for 14 years and now is the head pro at the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth.

“He’s such a good ball striker. It’s not only his wins and being named Player of the Year, his scoring average was below par for years.”

Darling seemed destined for a career in golf. His father, was one of the six founders of Val Halla, which opened in 1965. Bob Darling Jr. spent countless hours at the course with his buddies as a youth. Darling Jr. played baseball, basketball and soccer growing up, but golf soon became his favorite sport.

“Bob was a very good athlete,” said Dave Higgins, a childhood friend whose father was also one of the founders of Val Halla. “We lived in the same neighborhood and played all the sports together. We did a lot of stuff at the golf course. Bob started getting into golf and it was clear that was going to be his direction.”

Other than a few tips from the golf pro, Darling was self-taught.

“We learned by watching our fathers and caddying,” said Darling. “We would ride our bikes to the golf course and play all afternoon. We used to hit balls behind the pro shop and we would get a few tips from the pro. But I can’t say I ever had a formal lesson.”

Darling won the men’s Val Halla club championship at 15. A year later, he won the state junior championship. He attended the University of Maryland, where he played four years on the Terrapins’ golf team.

At Maryland, he got an early eye-opener on the quality of players he would be competing against his freshman year.

“The first day of practice, I figured I would impress the coach by getting there an hour earlier,” Darling said. “There were 50 prospective players all with nice swings already there. I told myself that I didn’t come all the way down here not to play. A lot of them dropped out after the first few days. Seeing my swing on camera made a big difference. By my sophomore year, things started to click.”

How tough was the competition? Future PGA Tour pro Fred Funk was cut from the Maryland team in Darling’s freshman year, although he made the team two years later.

Darling played on the professional mini-tour circuit for a couple of years after college and tried to qualify for the PGA Tour twice. Running short of sponsorship money, Darling headed back to Maine, where he has been a club pro since 1979. He and his wife Diane have been married for 31 years, and they work together at Fox Ridge.

Being a club pro involves long hours and for most, little chance to work on your game.

“I’ve played 18 holes once here and nine holes four times. I play in a pro-am once a week,” Darling said.

“To be honest, it’s been a struggle the last two to three years to keep my game in shape. I maintain my game by teaching. You’re swinging the club. When I get to Florida (during the winter) … I get to play and practice.”

If he could start all over again, Darling said he wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe a few things.

“I wished I had given it a few more years to try for the PGA Tour. If I had had the money, maybe I would have had a better chance,” he said.

He sees contemporaries like Funk and Jeff Sluman, both whom he played against on the Space Coast mini-tour in Florida, having made it and thinks he could have made it to the PGA Tour under the right circumstances. His only tangible regret: “I wished I could have won the Maine Open along with the New England Open or the New England PGA Section Championship. I’ve been close.”

To that, Hickson, who has won all three, offers his old friend and playing partner encouragement.

“It’s not over,” he said. “Paul Parajeckas of Massachusetts won the Section Championship in 2009 when he was 59.”

Darling might just be spending a little more time on the practice range this winter in Florida.