MANCHESTER — Geoffrey Sisk went over his afternoon with the intensity of someone who had just finished 18 holes on a Sunday morning, not a round of tournament golf to determine the Maine Open championship.

There was that putt that, yeah, could have been hit a little harder. And that approach shot that, if he could have done it again, would have been nice to hit closer. All against an opponent in James Dornes who, you’ve got to hand it to him, played pretty well.

The laid-back demeanor belongs to a player who went into the Maine Open with one of the field’s best resumes, and Sisk nearly added another highlight to it. A 52-year-old veteran who came out of a field of dynamic young players, Sisk nonetheless put himself in the final group on the final day of the Maine Open, then nearly won the whole thing, closing to within a shot of Dornes before the Penn State product held him off on the back nine for the championship.

Twenty-one years after winning his only Maine Open at Point Sebago Resort, Sisk nearly did it again, shooting 67 and finishing second at 8 under and two shots behind Dornes. But he wasn’t about to sweat the strokes that got away. When you’ve won three New England Opens, six Mass Opens, qualified for seven U.S. Opens and played on the PGA Tour, you don’t fret.

“He played great. He played really well,” said Sisk, who hails from Marshwood, Massachusetts. “I thought there was still a chance, and then he made (the winning) putt on 18 and it was a little deflating. But I’m happy with how I played. I don’t think I made a bogey in the two rounds, and I made a lot of great putts yesterday, so it’s good for me.”

It was that kind of attitude that gave Sisk a chance in the first place. A 5-under 65 on Monday put him in the final group with Jason Thresher and Dornes, who led both Thresher and Sisk by two shots at the start of the round. Sisk’s attempt to storm back and grab the lead didn’t start well; he ended up down a hill on his first approach shot, and his third drive ended up near the trees on the left side. Meanwhile, Dornes caught fire right away, birdying his first two holes to bump his advantage to four shots and pin his two biggest threats even further behind.


Sisk wasn’t fazed. He followed his approach on the first hole with a lob wedge to within a few feet and found the green after his third drive en route to saving par each time, and when Dornes bogeyed the fourth and Sisk birdied the fourth and sixth, he found himself one shot off the lead only four holes after Dornes appeared poised to run away with the championship.

“You have to look at it with perspective,” Sisk said of the early adversity. “It doesn’t mean you’re not going to find something somewhere along the way. … You build on the stuff that you can. If you’re not hitting it well early, you’ve got to find a way to grind it out. Grind it out, grind it out, grind it out and do the best you can.”

Sisk has the game to go hand-in-hand with that mantra. He’s stayed this competitive, this long, by staying out of trouble and avoiding mistakes. He missed only one fairway off the tee Tuesday, hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and went bogey-free for the second straight afternoon. He’s not short off the tee, just shorter than some of the younger bombers playing these tournaments, but his mechanical style allows him to catch those long hitters where it matters most — on the scorecard.

“They hit it forever. They’re two clubs longer than me,” he said. “(But) it’s never been intimidating to me, and the funny thing is that I used to thrive on laying up on par 5s and making birdies and seeing these other guys that hit it so far walk away with a par or a bogey. I manage my game, and that’s how I have to play golf.”

Then, sometimes, the veteran runs into the player who can do both. Sisk found one in Dornes, who continued to crank out 300-yard drives while playing steadily under the heat of Sisk’s pressure, making two birdies en route to a 1-under back nine.

“He’s a really good player, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s done this a million times,” Dornes said. “He was playing some really solid golf out there, so I knew I just had to keep doing the same.”


Sisk didn’t falter, parring every hole on the back, but there were missed chances for more. He lipped out a six-foot birdie putt on the 10th, missed a

seven-footer for birdie on the 11th, and put his tee shot on the par-3 15th in the bunker and couldn’t capitalize when Dornes missed the green and had to settle for par. He gained a stroke back when Dornes bogeyed the 17th and needed to make up one shot on the 18th, but he could only watch as Dornes was true on his six-foot birdie try for the win.

“I tried to put the pressure on him, and he withstood everything except for that (missed par) putt on 17,” Sisk said. “That 10, 11 and 12 was a stretch where I needed to make a couple of those putts in there to maybe see what happens the last five or six holes.”

It had already been Sisk’s time at this event once. As he got closer and closer, he began to think it could be again.

“I just couldn’t put the pressure back on him,” he said. “I just didn’t hit it close enough.”

Sisk doesn’t remember the closest calls he came to winning a Maine Open between his 1996 triumph and Tuesday afternoon, but he’s not ready to rule out being in this position again. The drives don’t go as far as some of the other players’, but Sisk thinks some parts of his game have improved, even from the heights of making two U.S. Open cuts in 1999 and 2004.


“The mental approach without a doubt has improved. The short game has improved. I haven’t lost length, I just haven’t gained length,” he said. “But you know what? That’s okay. I’m fine with that, I really am. I’m happy with how everything’s going now.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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