Madison’s Seth Sweet played his best golf on the back nine, overcoming a slow start to take the lead after Day 1 of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Sunday River Golf Club in Newry.

A June graduate of Madison Area Memorial High School, Sweet birdied four of his last nine holes to finish the day at 2-under par 70. The only player to go under par, Sweet has a two-stroke lead over Mike Doran, who shot an even par 72. Mike O’Brien and Len Cole are tied for third at 73.

Three-time tournament champion Ryan Gay of Pittston is in a five-way tie for fifth place at 74. Jason Gall of Augusta and Matt Loubier of Winslow joined Gay at 74. Augusta’s Mark Plummer, a 13-time Maine Amateur champ, shot a 78 and is tied for 20th place.

“It was a struggle. I didn’t play well today. I kind of hung in there,” Gay, winner of the last two Maine Amateur titles, said.

Sweet, 17, bogeyed the ninth hole to finish the front nine at +1, but rallied on the back nine. Sweet birdied the 10th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes. Those, combined with a bogey on 14, gave Sweet a 3-under on the back nine and a 2-under on the day.

The toughest hole of the day was the 443 yard, par 4 18th. A dogleg left with out of bounds on the right, 18 caused fits throughout the day. Seventy of the 126 golfers who finished the day shot a bogey or worse on 18, and three took a double digit score on the hole.

Another tough hole was 14. There were just five birdies on the par 3, 213-yard hole. Gay had one of them. With the wind blowing in, Gay said he went to a 4-iron off the tee.

“I thought if I got it up into the wind, the wind would knock it down and leave me in front (of the pin), and it did,” Gay said.

The two-time defending champion and winner of three of the last four Maine Amateur championships, Gay followed his birdie on 14 with a bogey on 15. Sitting 225 yards from the pin, Gay had a shot go into the woods to the right of the green.

“It was a stupid bogey,” Gay said.

Gay’s trouble aside, 15 proved to be the easiest hole of the day. A 518 yard, par-5, four players eagled 15, while 37 others birdied the hole.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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