Golfer keeps lead from Day 1 to pick up 2-stroke victory

MANCHESTER — James Dornes walked down the 18th fairway at the Augusta Country Club alone. Dornes’ playing partners in the final group of the Charlie’s Maine Open, Geoffrey Sisk and Jason Thresher, lef tthe tee box in carts. Dornes slung his bag across his back and hiked. When he teed off on 18, Dornes had a one stroke lead over Sisk. As he walked, Dornes plotted how he was going to keep that lead and win the tournament.

“I hit a good drive. I was just trying to get it up there near the green. That pin was accessible from the right side, so I just tried to keep it a little right,” Dornes said. “I got caught up in the bunker, but I was able to hit a pretty good bunker shot and lef tmyself a good putt up the hill.”

Dornes’ approach shot found the bunker to the right of the green, but he chipped out of the sand to within six feet of the pin, setting himself up for the birdie putt that clinched the win.

“For the win, you always get a little nervous, but that’s why you play. It’s fun, and I was happy I made it,” Dornes said.

Dornes finished the two-day Charlie’s Maine Open at 10-under par, finishing two strokes ahead of Sisk, who was looking to win the Open for the first time since 1996. Matthew Campbell, who won the Open in 2015, was third at 6-under.

“I was a little disapointed with the way I played the last four or five holes. I hit a couple squirrely iron shots, the squirrely little L-wedge shot I hit on 16. For the most part, I hit it solidly,” Sisk, who went without a bogey over his 36 holes, saod. “I thought there was still a chance, and he made that putt on 18. That was a little deflating. I’m happy with how I played.”

Just 23, Dornes graduated from Penn State last spring, and went pro in November. After shooting 7-under on Monday, Dornes opened Tuesday’s second round with a two-stroke lead over Sisk and Thresher. Dornes opened his final round with back-to-back birdies, pushing his lead to four strokes. A veteran, Sisk didn’t panic.

“After two, I was four back. I knew I was four back, but there was still 16 holes to go, and I felt like I was playing pretty decently,” Sisk said.

Dornes gave Sisk and Thresher and opening on hole four, when he bogeyed while each of his opponents birdied. That cut the lead in half to two strokes. When Sisk birdied hole six after his approach shot left him just a few feet from the pin, Dornes’ lead over the past winner was one shot.

“He’s a great player,” Dornes said of Sisk. “He’s definitely got a lot of experience on all different tours, and winning out here, so he knows what he’s doing. It was good to go head-to-head with him today. It became pretty much a two-man race out there.”

Dornes’ lead over Sisk stayed one stroke until hole 11, when Dornes sank a crucial birdie put to go 10-under.

“It was good to make a birdie there. I was going on a little bit of a stretch there where I hit a little bit of a wall. I knew the greens were good out here. If I keep giving myself good looks,” Dornes said.

Meanwhile, Thresher, who on Saturday won the Greater Bangor Open, faltered. Thresher double bogeyed hole six, then bogeyed eight, nine, and 10 to fall out of title contention. Thresher finished tied for 18th place at 1-under.

As the back nine continued, Sisk wasn’t playing poor golf. He just felt he wasn’t playing well enough to close the two sroke gap. When disecting his round when it was complete, Sisk cited missed birdie putts on 10, 11, and 12 as the keys to the round.

“I knew I was one back, then still one back, still one back, then I missed that putt on 10. That one hurt a little bit because I had a good read on it, I just didn’t hit it hard enough. I had a good read on 11, I just didn’t have enough break or a little bit more speed,” Sisk said. “(Dornes) made that birdie on 11 and I missed mine. That was kind of a little hard for me, because I hit really good putts on 10, 11, and 12. I just couldn’t put the pressure back on him… I tried to put the pressure on him, but he withstood everything except for that putt on 17.”

Dornes three-putted the 155-yard, par 3 17th hole, while Sisk made par to within within one shot with one hole to play. Dornes knew his tee shot on 18 would be the most important shot of his round, up to that point.

“I knew 18, if I hit a good first shot I’d have an iron in. I probably hit my best drive of the day on 18. I wanted to put myself in position where I would have a good shot at birdie,” Dornes said.

Charlie’s Maine Open was Sisk’s first tournament since returning from a family vacation. The 52-year old veteran said he’s hoping to qualify for the Champions tour.

“This would’ve been nice to win again. It really would’ve. I love it up here,” Sisk said. “It’s realxing for me. It’s a great tournament… It’s good for me. I haven’t played really well in a while. Maybe this will get me going again.”

Dornes planned to leave Tuesday night for Manchester, N.H., where he’ll compete in the New Hampshire Open over the next three days. He’ll also play in the Pennsylvania Open before joining the PGA Latin America Tour when play starts in late August, Dornes said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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