AUBURN – As his putt swirled tantalizingly around the lip and finally dropped into the cup, it was a sign of things to come for Bob Darling.

That par putt on the first hole of the day dropped in, but the Fox Ridge pro soon discovered that no putts were going to come easily on this day.

“I had so many opportunities early on,” said Darling. “It changes the whole course of your game. If you make them right off, you kind of relax a little bit. If you’re not making them, you start forcing a little bit. That’s what I did. I felt like I was stroking the ball good, too. It’s just frustrating.”

Darling entered the final round of the Charlie’s Maine Open Thursday just two strokes off the lead. It was a deficit he wasn’t able to make up on his home course. Darling finished with a one-over 73 in the final round, giving him 216 overall, four shots behind winner Todd Westfall. Waterville’s Toby Spector suffered a similar fate. He was playing in Darling’s group, just two shots off leader Shawn Warren after a 4-under 68 Wednesday. Spector got within a stroke of the lead on the front nine, only to watch his hopes dashed on the hills of the back nine. Spector also finished with a 73 and was the low amateur for the tournament at 216.

“Those guys were getting more and more under par, and I was getting more over par,” said Spector, who had five straight bogeys on the back nine. “It was a little rough, but I got through it.”

Both local favorites were within reach after the front nine. Darling started off the day with six straight pars. He had birdie opportunities early but missed a five-footer on the third hole, a 10-footer on his fifth and a 15-foot attempt went just wide. Between hitting the lip or having putts fall just short or wide, Darling struggled to score early.

“(Wednesday) I had seven that hit the lip and didn’t go in, and it just kind of carried over to today,” said Darling, who won top honors in the Maine Pro Division and the Davis Richardson Senior Division.

He bogeyed the 16th hole but made it up with a bird on 17. He finished the front nine even and was just three shots behind Warren.

The second nine was less forgiving. He bogeyed two of his first three holes and quickly fell off the pace.

“When the wind comes up like that, that’s what drives the scores up and with this course even more so,” said Darling.

He birdied No. 5 and 8 and just missed an attempt on nine.

“I wanted to play solid and hit good shots,” said Darling. “If it got under par, that’s what I was hoping for obviously.”

Spector picked up where he left off Wednesday and birdied his second hole, but a short tee shot on the par-3 13th hole forced him to make a nifty chip to escape with a bogey. On 15, Spector began making a run. He rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt from the top of the green. After a par, he sank a seven-footer on a the par-5 17th and rolled another birdie putt over a hump and in from eight feet out. It put him at three-under, one shot behind Warren, at the turn.

“I got a little lucky on nine,” said Spector. “That was a good putt. I wanted to keep it going, but it’s tough. We got up on the hill and the wind just killed us. It got all of us in our group.”


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