Family first, work second, golf third.

Ricky Jones knows where his priorities are.

Besides, it might not be fair to the rest of Maine’s golfing community if he ever moved golf ahead from No. 3.

Jones, of Thomaston, is the defending champion for this week’s Maine Open Championship at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn.

“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” Jones said with a laugh. “I got back from the Barrett (Monday), and today (Tuesday), I’ve been buried at work, just trying to organize myself to get the work done, so I can take some more time off.”

Golf has always been one of Jones’ passions, and he has particularly hit his stride in the last seven years. But it’s also been obvious to many in the golfing community that the sport isn’t always at the forefront in Jones’ life.

“Golf is more the extra, and the work is the required,” admitted Jones.

As a comptroller for Dragon Products, Jones is always loaded with work, and particularly in the summer months, which isn’t always great for the golf game.

Still, his family has been understanding.

“A lot of it depends on schedules, and family schedules,” Jones said. “A lot of it depends on how much motivation I have, too. I always look at it like, I can find the time, but I have to take away from something else.”

This summer, Jones has played well. He is atop the point standings in the race for the MSGA’s Golfer of the Year, 61 points ahead of Mark Plummer. He placed well (6th) at the Maine Amateur, and he will cap off his summer in two weeks as he plays in the U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

To get there, Jones won a qualifying tournament at The Ledges in York.

Last week, Jones played in the Barrett East Coast Amateur at the Algonquin Resort in New Brunswick. His finish there – tied for 16th out of 81 finishers – was indicative of taking a little bit too much time off.

“It kind of depends on how much I play, really,” Jones said. “I played a round Tuesday, and then didn’t play again until I teed it up Saturday (at the Barrett). The week to week and a half before the amateur, I played every day, got a little bit of practice in.”

But thanks to his family, Jones figures he’ll have plenty of time to get ready for his trip to San Francisco.

“One of my goals to start the year was to play in the three USGA events, and hopefully make it to the round of 64 and have the option to play in the British Mid-Amateur,” Jones said. “My wife is from England, she wants to go over and see her family, so that’s one of the reasons why she’s been giving me time to go play this year.”

Just don’t expect him to be in top form for the Maine Open.

“That’ll be more like the beginning of the stretch of golf, not in the middle,” Jones admitted.

Middle, beginning or end, everyone – even the pros – will have a keen eye on the defending champ this week.

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