In the Crease: Unlucky 13 the difference between Wyman, Grindle

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Sam Grindle eyes his shot on the 17th hole of the 98th Maine Amateur Golf Championship on Thurday at Brunswick Golf Club.
Sam Grindle eyes his shot on the 17th hole of the 98th Maine Amateur Golf Championship on Thurday at Brunswick Golf Club.

BRUNSWICK — Things were going swimmingly for Sam Grindle on Thursday at the Maine Amateur Golf Championship.

Until his ball went for a swim.

He was cruising. In fact, he was working on what would have been a comeback for the ages.

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The first-round leader of the Maine Amateur Championship started Thursday’s third and final round five shots back of leader and eventual champion Jack Wyman. Two holes into the round, Wyman extended his lead over Grindle to eight with a pair of birdies while Grindle bogeyed No. 2.

“That was hard to adjust to,” Grindle admitted. “I mean, if he keeps up at that pace, you just tip your cap to him and congratulate him. But I knew I had to grind my way back and start making some birdies.”

And Grindle did, while Wyman stumbled ever so slightly.

Slowly, Wyman’s lead evaporated. Grindle made pars and birdies, and through 12 holes, was 4-under on the day to Wyman’s 1-under, and the lead was just two.

He was, truly, cruising. He’d drained birdie putts on the eighth, ninth, 11th and 12th holes.

“At that point there’s nothing you can do, you just have to settle in and play your game,” Wyman said.

And then there was 13.

It didn’t matter who you were. Or on which day you played it. Or where in the standings you stood. Brunswick’s fourth hole — No. 13 for the tournament — did not discriminate. But given the circumstances, the hole bit Grindle perhaps a little bit harder than most.

With the field winnowed down to the low 40 and ties, and the cream of the crop set to decide the 98th Maine Amateur champion, tourney officials moved the tee on the already-taxing par-3 back — way back.

Set back from the normal teeing ground and elevated a bit, the new tee created a 212-yard behemoth. To the right of the green, a steep slope fed a water monster. To the left, the sandy teeth of a pair of traps waited to gobble up any wayward shots. The green isn’t abnormally small, but with so much at stake, it was easy to miss.

No golfers birdied the hole Thursday.

And in a cruel twist, Mother Nature decided it would be perfect if the lead groups played one of Brunswick’s toughest tests in the driving rain.

Up first after his consecutive birdies, Grindle fired his ball long and right of the green. It took two hard hops and disappeared into the water hazard.

“I wasn’t quite committed to that shot,” Grindle said. “I was playing well, I knew I wanted to give the ball a chance to get back there to the hole, try to make another birdie and put some more pressure on him. Just, sometimes you don’t hit the shot like you see it.”

Wyman had no reason to tempt fate — his tee ball landed well short of the pin and left, clear of the water and safely over the sand.

“After that, it made my decision a lot easier,” Wyman said. “I had a hybrid and a 4-iron in my hand. It made it easy to switch back to the 4-iron, hit something easy to the front of the green, chip it on and make a par.”

Grindle dropped his ball on the senior tee box and stuck his third shot within 10 feet and made the putt to save a fantastic bogey.

Wyman got up and down for par.

The shot swing was only one stroke. On the scorecard, it was recoverable. And yes, it could have been far, far worse for Grindle.

But more than add a shot to the lead, that one hole’s result killed Grindle’s momentum. Now, he was swimming upstream again.

Two more bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes sealed the deal, and even after Wyman limped home with a double bogey on the 18th, Grindle never fully recovered. Score one for Wyman, who won his first Maine Amateur title.

And score one for Brunswick Golf Club — hosting its second Maine Amateur and first in 20 years — and for lucky No. 13, which did what any good golf hole will do: separate the winner from the field.

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