It’s a pity Riverside Municipal Golf Course doesn’t have a few less trees and isn’t located close enough to the ocean that it could be designated a links course. Otherwise, the Portland Maine Open would have had a genuine British Open feel.

All of the other elements were there the last two days — the mist, the fog, the wind and cold. There might have even been some Scottish bagpipe music wafting through the soupy air at one point.

And Jim Renner’s performance in Wednesday’s second and final round was right out of the playbooks of  Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson. The Plainville, Mass., native earned his second championship at Riverside in the last three years (and earned the first $10,000 check in Maine Open or Portland Open history)with a display of shot-making on the front nine that brought Mother Nature to her knees.

Leading Minot’s Keegan Fennessy and Rob Oppenheim by a stroke headed into Wednesday, Renner pulled away with a sizzling 30 on the front nine.

While the small gallery following that final threesome was realizing they should have brought a couple of extra pairs of dry socks, Renner birdied the par-5 first and parred the next two holes to maintain his lead over Oppenheimer and add a stroke on Fennessy, who birdied the first with him but bogeyed the third. 

Renner then birdied holes four our through eight with a spectacular array of approach shots. It was enough for him to hold off a charging Oppenheim on the back nine and top him and John Elliott by three strokes.

“It’s always nice when you have a four-hole stretch where your longest
putt is three or four-feet or something like that,” he said. 

Stronger words than “nice” might have been in order from he humble Renner, especially when he was reaching the green from a rough that, with a couple of days of sunshine and 20-degree warmer temperatures, would make a suitable habitat for crocodiles.

Renner’s birdies on six and seven came courtesy of two digs out of the marsh that might have been the biggest, if not the best, shots of the tournament.  The one at six left him with about a four-foot putt for par. The one at seven rolled about a foot shy of an eagle.

“They were pretty bad lies, but I was lucky enough that the grass was
going towards the hole, rather than coming back into me, which makes it
a much easier shot,” he said. “It’s a shot I’ve hit a bunch of times —
just a little cut 8 (iron) for the first one, don’t try to kill it or
anything — and it worked out perfect. It was the same deal with the
9-iron — just little cuts, little half swings — and they just both
happened to work out pretty well.”

They worked out well enough so that Renner could avoid navigating the battered Riverside greens, which despite the valiant efforts of the grounds crew often resembled Chinese checker boards.

Fennessy, like most of the competitors, struggled with the greens, though he refused to use that as an excuse. 

Not that ideal conditions would have made a difference, he explained.

“(Renner) was on an unreal stretch there on the front nine,” said Fennessy, who shot a 73 to finish 10 shots off the pace. “With the way he was playing, nobody was beating him. After six and seven — I’m a big believer of when it’s your day, it’s your day — I started to believe it was his day.”

Renner,who won the 2007 Greater Portland Open at Riverside, wouldn’t let himself believe that until a July afternoon straight out of Great Britain turned into an evening straight out of a Sherlock Holmes movie.

“It’s certainly a grind because (the conditions) can be frustrating,” he said. “This is one of those tournaments where if you let it get to you, then four or five holes go by and you make a bunch of bogeys and you’re completely out of it. You’ve got to stay patient and keep an even head about it.”


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