FALMOUTH — Three days after his 21st birthday, Reese McFarlane of Cape Elizabeth showed his maturity and joined an elite group of Maine golfers.

McFarlane become just the third player from Maine to win the New England Golf Association Amateur championship Thursday.

McFarlane, who grew up playing in Maine and New England junior tournaments, shot a 2-over 72 in the final round at Portland Country Club. He finished the three-round event at 4-under 206.

“As the day went on, the wind was steady and the greens firmed up, and I knew if I just kept even par in sight I would be all right,” said McFarlane, a member at Purpoodock Club.

Maine golf had not had a New England Amateur champ since Mark Plummer won at Falmouth Country Club in 1994. Plummer also won in 1979 and Sean Gorgone took the 1991 title.

“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” McFarlane said. “I started to realize walking down the 18th what it was going to be like but it still hasn’t hit me yet.”

McFarlane, a 6-foot-3 left-hander with prodigious power off the tee, has been touted as a top threat to win major tournaments for several years. There have been flashes of brilliance, like his round of 60 at a one-day Maine State Golf Association event this summer, but not significant wins.

Whether in summer tournaments or playing for North Carolina-Wilmington (he’ll be a junior), McFarlane couldn’t put three straight solid rounds together.

But in a tournament with a disjointed schedule because of severe weather Tuesday that reduced it from 72 to 54 holes, McFarlane adapted and thrived. He never did tee off Tuesday, resulting in consecutive 27-hole days. He grabbed the lead with a first-round 65, the lowest round of the tournament, then expanded it to three shots by completing a 1-under 69 on Thursday morning before his final-round 72.

“I can’t even remember the last time I won,” McFarlane said. “Probably I was 13 years old. I felt like I could win the Maine Am or the New England Am for a few years but I could never get off to the right start and put all three rounds together.”

In the final round, McFarlane made six bogeys against four birdies. Twice he followed a bogey with an immediate birdie.

After wasting a huge drive with a bogey on the par-4 11th hole, McFarlane’s lead slipped to two strokes. It appeared cracks were showing. But with caddie Ryan Collins, a former Cape Elizabeth High teammate, reminding him he could make up that shot, McFarlane struck a great approach with his back nearly touching a tree to set up a 12-foot birdie make on No. 12 and rolled in another birdie at No. 13 to push the lead back to four.

He solidified that position by chipping in for par on the par-3 14th.

“That was huge. I told Ryan right before, ‘we’re going to chip this one in,’ and sure enough,” McFarlane said.

Bogeys on the 15th and 17th trimmed the lead back to two shots but if there were any nerves, McFarlane didn’t show them on the final hole, He hit another 300-yard-plus drive, then dropped his approach 10 feet below the hole for an easy two-putt par.

Only then did McFarlane’s icy game face break. He hugged Collins, then greeted family and friends, including his parents Jim McFarlane and Jayne Hanley, and his older brother Alex McFarlane.

“I definitely felt (the pressure) this morning. I tried to stay fairly even-keeled,” McFarlane said. “It’s tough sometimes when you miss putts you think you should have made, but you just have to move on and try to make the next one.”

Drake Hull, 21, of West Rutland, Vermont, finished second at 2 under for the tournament with an even par round on a day scores were given grudgingly at the historic Donald Ross layout that will celebrate its 100th year in 2019.

Max Theodorakis, 20, of Danbury, Connecticut, Evan Grenus of Glastonbury, Connecticut, and Matt Paradis of Hooksett, New Hampshire tied for third at 1 under.

Theodorakis made an early charge in the final round, going 4 under on the front and was briefly within two shots.

Maine Amateur champion Jack Wyman, 27, of South Freeport, bounced back from five bogeys on his first eight holes to finish at even par for the tournament in a five-way tie for sixth.

“It was definitely a tough start for me but I rebounded and overall it was a good tournament,” Wyman said. “Reese is a good buddy of mine and he deserves it. When he’s playing well no one can beat him, and he just needs to keep building confidence and play like this more consistently.”

It marked the first time since 2012 that two Mainers finished in the top 10.

Eight players from Maine clubs made the cut after just 10 did so in the past six years combined.

Drew Powell of Holden finished tied for 21st at 5-over; Jason Gall of Augusta, Gavin Dugas of Pittsfield and John Hayes IV of Portland were tied for 26th at 6-over; and 16-year-old Caleb Manuel of Topsham finished tied for 39th at 10-over. Marty McGuckin, a Pennsylvania resident who has a membership at Webhannet in Kennebunk, was tied for 36th at 9 over.

“These are kids that have represented us in the New England Junior Golf Association, all of them, so it’s really special for us,” said Nancy Storey, the executive director of the Maine State Golf Association. “It’s been a long time since somebody from Maine won this championship and it’s really nice to have it happen again.”

What’s next for the now-adult McFarlane?

“I’m going to go out and have a few drinks with my friends.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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