Libby stays the course

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OAKLAND – It didn’t take long for Lance Libby to pick up from where he left off.

After being the only player to break par in the first round of the Maine Amateur, Libby posted the lowest score again Wednesday to build a three-stroke lead entering today’s final round.

A birdie on the opening hole set the tone quickly for the Sidney resident, and Libby settled into another fine round, finishing with a 2-under-par 68.

“That birdie helped out a lot,” said Libby. “That got me on a good pace.”

Being the first round leader was new territory for the 22-year old, who has worked in the course’s pro shop for six years. After the first hole, Libby rid himself of the nerves and found comfort in his home-course advantage.

“It gave me some momentum coming in,” said Libby. “I was a little nervous, but after the birdie, I was back to business.”

Libby’s 68 was one of only four scores under par Wednesday. Jason Gall, Tim Poulin and Eric Crouse each shot 69.

Libby enters the final round with a two-day total of 137, three shots ahead of Joe Alvarez and Eric Higgins.

Mark Plummer is four shots back at 141, with Toby Spector at 143.

“I’ve been playing pretty well lately,” said Libby. “So I was just shooting for 70 everyday. What I told myself was, ‘Make a couple putts and you can go under,’ and that’s what I did.”

After his birdie on the first hole, he added another on the third. After a bogey on No. 5, he had birdies on the sixth and eighth, sinking 15- and 20-foot putts, respectively. He added a birdie on the 14th before bogeying the 17th.

Libby missed the cut by one last year.

Wednesday’s round featured fog, mist and drizzle early in the day. Though the rain subsided, the overcast skies and winds persisted. Thunderstorms threatened most of the afternoon.

“It was tough,” said Todd Kirn, whose 78 put him off the pace after a 71 on Tuesday. “The 14 holes of drizzle made it harder. The rough was wet, and I hit a lot of shots around the green in the rough.”

Course conditions changed throughout the day as things dried out.

“It was wet,” said Spector. “It was soft. So there was no rolling on the greens. The greens were like dart boards. The greens weren’t breaking in the morning as much because they were really wet, but they started breaking later on.”

Alvarez and Higgins each matched their first-round scores of 70. Alvarez, of Penobscot Valley, had a bogey on No. 10 and a birdie on the 11th.

“The course was playing tough because the wind was up,” said Alvarez. “I really didn’t get the speed of the greens down.”

Higgins, of Cape Arundel, made some clutch shots to stay at par. That included a shot from out of the woods on the 15th that landed within eight feet of the hole to give him back-to-back birdies.

Plummer missed a chance to finish at even par when he missed a short par putt on No. 18. He also bogeyed two holes on the front nine with three putts. He recovered with birdies on the No. 9 and No. 15.

“I’m happy with my scores,” said Plummer, the 13-time champion. “I’m in really good shape if I can make some two-footers tomorrow.”

Spector improved upon his round of 72 from the first day with a 71. He said he’s spent much of the first two rounds spraying shots all over the course, but, late in the round, his father Gary spotted a flaw in his stance.

“I was still kind of hitting the ball all over the place,” said Spector. “So I couldn’t be too aggressive, but I figured that out. I was hitting the ball too far forward in my stance. I was hitting everything dead right. So I think tomorrow it will be fixed.”

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