NEWRY — So much for second-round jitters.
Seventeen-year-old Seth Sweet of Madison remained in attack mode Wednesday, following a 37 on the front nine with a 33 on the back to card a 2-under-par 70 for the second consecutive day. His 4-under-par combined score of 140 put Sweet in front by six strokes with one round to play at the 93rd Maine Amateur Championship at Sunday River Golf Club.
And he's still feeling comfortable.
"I'm feeling really comfortable, actually," Sweet said. "I've been close to the lead, never had the lead, and I feel like, it's time."
Two years ago at Kebo Valley in Bar Harbor, Sweet was one shot back after each of the first two rounds and played in the final group on the third day of the tournament.
"I've been here before," Sweet said. "It's probably going to be a little different, probably going to have a bigger target on my back."
Bigger target for sure, but he'll also have a bigger cushion.
JJ Harris matched Sweet's round of 70 after firing off three consecutive birdies on seven, eight and nine to turn in 1-under, and then saved par on the 18th hole from the sand.
"Didn't really make any mistakes on the back," Harris said. "The only one I missed was on 18."
Harris, playing well after Sweet, tried not to hear where he was in relation to the lead at the turn, but he couldn't help it.
"I heard the mumble at nine, and it gave me something to shoot at," Harris said.
Ricky Jones will join Sweet and Harris in the final group Thursday. The two-time champion recovered on the back nine with birdies at 11, 16 and 17 to post a 73 for a two-day total of 149, nine back of Sweet.
Mike O'Brien, who shot 73 on the first day, followed with a 76 and will play in the penultimate group.
Mike Doran, who held the lead after one round a year ago and was second after one round this year after an opening-round 72, posted an 84 to fall back.
Two-time defending champion Ryan Gay also had a rough day. He began his second round four back at 74, and shot 83 Wednesday.
"That was probably the worst competitive round of golf I've ever shot," Gay said.
One of the more impressive stories this week has been the play of 15-year-old Will Kannegieser. After a first-round 78, Kannegieser uncorked a 73 in Wednesday's second round for a two-round total of 151, only 11 shots back of Sweet.
"I could have had a couple more, too," Kannegieser said. "I missed a short one on 16, and another one out there (on 18) just missed."
"These young guys, they have no fear," Will's mother, Kristen Kannegieser said. "He was just shooting at the pins all day."
Kristen is a two-time Maine women's champion, and was at the course Wednesday to watch Will's round, during which he rarely missed the fairway, even if he was giving up some length off the tee.
"He's just right down the middle, every time," Kristen said.
Kannegieser, who is originally from Minot and now attends Gould Academy, is the second-youngest player in this week's field, and the youngest to make the cut. He will play in the second-to-last group Thursday in the final round. More importantly, he and the rest of the players who made the cut are exempt from qualifying for next year's tourney.
Sweet's second round began much the way his first round did. He was one under par through three, but one over through nine after bogeys at four and five.
"The front nine was actually a struggle," Sweet said. "The first, probably six holes, were pretty ugly, and I had to make some great up-and-downs."
Sweet's next eight holes were strikingly consistent. He made eight consecutive pars, and on the back nine, none of his six par putts were longer than three feet.
And he only made six par putts on the back, because he also ran off three consecutive birdies at 14, 15 and 16.
At 14, he hit his tee ball to four feet and drained his birdie.
"They moved the tees up for us there, but it was probably just a little confidence going into that," Sweet said. "I had a goal to get two birdies on the back. I got three and that just got me rolling."
Even with a bit of trouble on the par-5 15th, Sweet kept rolling.
"Fifteen was a great up-and-down," Sweet said. "I didn't mean to hit it way left like that. It was a pretty cruddy shot, but I ended up making it to keep me going."
Sweet also rolled in a birdie at the par-3 16th, and tapped in for a pair of pars at 17 and 18.
"The back is a little bit more forgiving," Sweet said. "All the traps are too far ahead for me to hit from the tee, so I just hit the crap out of my driver and I don't have to worry about them. And the greens are more slopey on the front."
And the greens were quicker Wednesday.
"They definitely rolled them, probably twice, and cut them once," Sweet said. "I feel like it was better to putt today; you didn't have to hit it as hard. It was like hitting a three-foot putt for a 20-foot putt."
The final round Thursday will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the groups beginning off the first tee in reverse order of score.