AUBURN — Jesse Speirs didn’t have a great day. He’ll admit that right up front.

But he had a smart day.

And on the defacto “moving day” at the Maine Amateur golf championship at Martindale Country Club, smart and steady trumped great all day long.

Speirs fired a tournament-low 68 in Thursday’s second round, using a variety of shots to earn a three-shot lead going into Friday’s third and final round.

“I really didn’t put a number out there,” Speirs said. “I tried to stick to playing the course how I wanted to play it. It ended up being three-under, so I’ll take it.”

Speirs’ journey to the second round started early — and happened twice.

Maine State Golf Association officials announced at 6 a.m. Wednesday that they would delay by one day the second and third rounds of the tournament. The problem was, Speirs, who lives in Bangor, had already turned off the highway in Auburn by then.

“I was already down here and they told me it was off,” Speirs said. “I thought for sure they’d try to get us in.”
Speirs turned around and drove back home.

“I went back to sleep until two,” Speirs said laughing.

The extra rest did him well.

After a birdie on the second hole (he nearly drove the green), Speirs ran into some putting trouble on three and four, and made a pair of bogeys.
He saved a wayward drive on five, birdied seven and turned in even-par 35. Then he turned it up.

Birdies at 10 and 13 bookended a pair of pars at the toughest holes on the course — 11 and 12 — and he drained a slider at 18 to post his 68.

It could have been — and was less than a half inch from being two shots fewer. On the 15th hole, Speirs lofted an 8-iron shot from about 160 yards and watched his ball land, and rocket to the right.

“I dropped a mortar down on the hole I guess,” Speirs said.

His ball blew up the edge of the hole, caught the edge of the plastic cup and ricocheted out.

“I consider myself lucky it stayed on the green at that point,” Speirs said.

He two-putted for par.

One of the tougher things, Speirs said, was controling the ball after it landed on the greens, due to the softer conditions. On 17 and 18, Speirs hit pin-high shots into the greens, and both spun back much more than he’d anticipated.

“You need to find out where you can hit it on these greens so they don’t spin back too much,” Speirs said.

Playing in the second half of the field, first-round co-leader Ryan Gay turned in even-par 35 after a birdie at No. 7 and a bogey at the ninth.

“You have to do your scoring on the front,” Gay said. “On this course, you need to attack the front nine, because the back’s so much harder.”

Gay stayed even on the back nine and closed with his second consecutive even-par 71, three back of Speirs.

“I had a rough day today,” Gay said. “I didn’t hit my driver well, I didn’t hit my irons well, I didn’t putt well. I just grinded it out, really. It seemed like I had a lot of those birdie putts from that 20-foot range when I had wedge in my hand from the fairway.”

His round left him in a familiar spot, though. Gay, last year’s champion, began the final round at Biddeford-Saco three back of the lead.

“I just have to go out and be a bit more aggressive,” Gay said. “I played pretty conservative the first two rounds. I didn’t shoot myself out of it or do anything stupid. I just have to attack some pins tomorrow.”

Playing alongside Gay and Speirs will be another familiar face. Two-time champion Ricky Jones, who played the first two rounds with Gay and in last year’s final group, tapped in for birdie at 18 to post a 72 for a two-round total of 146, seven back of Speirs.

“I told myself I wanted to shoot at least three-under on the back,” Jones said. “I birdied 10, and knew if I just got past 11, I had a good chance at doing that.”

The 11th hole bit Jones, though. He four-putted the par-3 hole and bogeyed at No. 15 before his birdie at the last.

Jones leaves for Oklahoma and the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on Friday evening. He said his round Thursday went a long way to help his confidence.

“I wasn’t playing well coming into this week,” Jones said. “Today, it felt good.”

Four players began the day tied for third after rounds of 73 on Tuesday. The best of those golfers Thursday was Scott Sirois at 75. Jason Gall carded a 79, Joe Alvarez a 77 and Tim Poulin a 78.

Locally, Joe Baker of Paris Hill Country Club led the charge with a two-day total of 153. Ted Stratman of Fox Ridge and Shawn Keenan of Sugarloaf posted 154s, while Martindale’s Brian Bilodeau and Fox Ridge’s Jace Pearson snuck under the cut line at 155.

Tee times for Friday’s final round will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the leaders scheduled to take the course just after 10 a.m.

Jesse Speirs jumps up to see the 13th green during the second round of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday.

Ryan Gay chips onto the 9th green during the second round of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday.

Tim Poulin reacts to a missed putt on the first hole during the second round of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday.

Jesse Speirs smiles after he birdied the 18th hole and finished the day three under par during the second round of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday.

Joe Alvarez pumps his fist after sinking a putt on the seventh hole during the second round of the Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn on Thursday.


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