Matthew Campbell, of Clifton Park, NY, won the Charlie’s Maine Open on Wednesday at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

MANCHESTER — Matt Campbell was upset with himself for not making birdie on hole 18 Wednesday afternoon at Augusta Country Club. Campbell watched Peter French play the 540-yard, par-5 hole. Campbell knew French was going to birdie the hole, and knew what was coming. Even if French wasn’t aware yet.

With his birdie, French sent Charlie’s Maine Open to that land of sudden death, don’t you dare yank your tee shot into the trees or drop your approach in the bunker or three putt. The tournament was going to a playoff.

“I love it. I love the playoffs. I love that situation. You’ve got to play good. It’s on you,” Campbell said. “That why I love playing golf, too. Because it’s on you. You hit a good shot you get rewarded. You hit a bad shot, you know, you’re the one getting penalized for it. That’s why I gravitated towards golf rather than team sports.”

Peter French, of Franklin, Massachusetts, plays during final round of Charlie’s Maine Open on Wednesday at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

In hindsight, it was easy for Campbell to profess his love for the playoff. He spoke minutes after his birdie on hole four, the hole selected by the Maine State Golf Association officials as the first playoff hole, won the tournament. The plan was to play holes four and nine in succession as long as it took to find a winner. It took about 10 minutes.

Campbell’s four foot birdie putt was worth $3,000, the difference between the first place prize, $9,000, and second, $6,000. Campbell knows from playoff pressure. He won a playoff to earn a spot in the US Open last year. Campbell said he was not nervous for Wednesday’s playoff.

French began the day tied for the lead at minus-6, two stokes ahead of a group of golfers at minus-4. When he eagled the par 4 16th hole to get to -10, French thought that was enough to clinch the tournament. Even if a few of the guys in groups ahead played exceptionally well, that would get them to minus-9, maybe minus-10. After making par on 17, French thought a birdie on 18 would be like lighting the victory cigar.

After he made the green in two shots, French chatted with an official, just to confirm what he suspected. I believe you’re one back, the official said.

“All right, we’ve got to rally up and two putt,” French said to himself. “I figured the eagle on 16 would have kind of closed it, to be honest… If anybody shot six or better, that’s a great round.”

A playoff instantly turns the contest from stroke play to match. If anybody watching understood what French and Campbell were about to go through, it was Jack Wyman. A couple weeks ago, Wyman played a playoff hole in the US Amateur championship qualifier at The Ledges in York. He lost, and for a few days thought he had missed out on the opportunity to play in the US Amateur next week at Pebble Beach. A few days later, Wyman learned he had earned a spot, with three players making it from his qualifying tourney.

“I think you’ve just got to stay in the moment. For me, I had a long wait, and I went out to practice and I just kind of lost focus, I think,” Wyman said of his recent playoff experience. “You’re definitely looking at what the other guy’s doing, because if he’s at a play, you’re going to do something different. You’re not playing for a score. You’re just playing to beat the guy you’re playing against.”

French looked at the playoff scenario as first birdie wins.

“I’ve had a lot of them before. That was a quick one. You go out there, you try to make birdie first thing before the other guy. That’s all it is,” French said. “I was at 11 (under par) when I came off 18. I’ve got another hole to play. Let’s get to 12.”

As it played out, Campbell got to 12 first. Both Campbell and French drove well off the tee. French to the left side of the fairway, Campbell to the right. French’s approach was below the pin and downhill, a long putt for bird. French walked the length of the green before putting, studying each contour. He crouched, and did the geometry in his head.

The putt was short.

“I thought I hit the (approach) shot I wanted to keep in underneath the hole. It just ended up being a little shorter,” French said.

Campbell didn’t waste time hitting his short birdie putt. He stood over his ball, took a deep breath, and took the shot to win the tournament.

“I’m a fast putter. Get up and go,” Campbell said.

That get up and go earned Campbell his second Charlie’s Maine Open win in four years. That it took 37 holes instead of 36, that’s fine. It was just how Campbell likes it. It was on him, and he delivered.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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