MANCHESTER — The resurgence of Ricky Jones continues.

Nearly a month after he buried the field at the Paul Bunyan Amateur, the Thomaston golfer is threatening to do the same at the 94th Maine Amateur after a solid opening 18 holes Tuesday at Augusta Country Club.

Jones, 41, played a bogey-free round and finished with a 4-under-par 66 to take a three-shot lead over three-time Maine Amateur champion Ryan Gay and three others. Mike O’Brien (Sable Oaks Golf Club), Tommy Stirling (Sable Oaks) and Brian Bilodeau (Martindale) also finished 1-under.

Defending champ Seth Sweet, of Madison, shot a 5-over 75 and is nine shots off the lead. Mark Plummer, a 13-time Maine Amateur winner, is five shots behind Jones after finishing 1-over 71.

“I had one bad drive on 13 and I missed the green on 2,” Jones said. “Other than that, I hit every green.”

Jones won the Maine Amateur in 2003 and again the following year. Two years later, in 2006, he won the Maine Open.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a struggle for Jones in Maine’s major tournaments.

Jones, who’s lost 20 pounds since starting the CrossFit program in November, won his fifth Paul Bunyan by seven shots over Gay in early June.

If that didn’t make him the favorite at Augusta coming in then his round Tuesday did.
Jones was 1-under through 13 holes but closed his round with three birdies in the final five holes to establish himself as the frontrunner heading into today’s second round.

He made consecutive birdies on the par 4 14th and at No. 15, the latter a tap-in from about a foot away.

“I played pretty good out front,” he said. “Once I get past 10, I know where the birdies are.”
Jones closed off the round sinking a birdie putt on the par-5, 540-yard 18th. He’ll tee off at 7 a.m. today.

“Usually, I’m somewhere around even (at Augusta CC),” he said. “I can’t seem to make many birdies.”

Gay, who is chasing his fourth Maine Amateur title before he turns pro Friday, made three birdies on the front nine and was steady enough on the back to stay in the hunt.

He birdied the par 3 175-yard second hole but finished with bogeys on No. 3 and 4. He then rebounded on the par 3 seventh.

“I one-hopped it off the stick,” Gay said. “I then made an 18-footer on No. 9. I was hitting it pretty well.”

Sweet struggled from the get-go. He bogeyed the first two holes, made birdie on No. 3 but never got into any rhythm.

“It was all downhill from there,” he said. “I got off to a rough start, but I think this takes the pressure off me. I know I can play from behind. I missed a lot of putts and I tried to fix it mid-round, and you can’t do that. The confidence went way down.”

Plummer scrambled to make bogeys on the second and fourth holes before he buried a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 8, a par 4 that jump-started his round.

“I really settled down,” he said. “I could’ve made double bogey on No. 2 and No. 4 but I salvaged bogeys. It was looking like I was going to go for a 75 or 76 but I turned it around.”

Plummer was 2-over 37 on the front but finished the back nine strong with birdies on No. 17 and No. 18.

“It was a nice way to end it,” he said. “I three-putted on 15 but then made a nice 15-footer for birdie on 17. I made about a 4-footer on 18 to end it. I hung in there.”

Bilodeau, 29, of Auburn, birdied the first two holes and was 2-under par through five holes.

“All in all, it was pretty easy on the front,” he said. “It got a little dicey on the back. I three-putted 10 and made bogey there.”

He also bogeyed No. 12 and No. 13.

“It seemed like it was real easy to make a mistake,” he said. “I hit 16 greens and still made three bogeys. I did birdie 14. I hit a wedge through the trees and made a 12-footer. That was a big turning point.”

Stirling, 20, of Gorham, also jumped out to a good start with birdies on the first two holes.

“It definitely got the engine going,” he said. “I had some good chances out there. I was really happy with my performance. I hit 16 of 18 greens.”

Sweet and Plummer will tee off at 10:40 a.m. today. Gay will follow at 11.

“I didn’t shoot my way out of it by any means,” Gay said. “I was stuffing my irons on the back. We’ll go back at it (today).”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640
[email protected]

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