MANCHESTER — Ricky Jones knew he might be due for a few bad holes. He just wasn’t expecting them back to back to back Wednesday morning.

Jones watched his round start to slip away in the second day of the Maine Amateur with three straight bogeys. That was after taking the lead on the first day with a 4-under round of 66.

“I was thinking the last couple of amateurs that I finished second, I had a three-hole stretch where it went bad,” said Jones.

Despite finding trouble on the back nine, Jones salvaged the round and maintained his lead entering Thursday’s final day. Jones still nearly matched his opening round with a 3-under 67 Wednesday. That was good enough to give him a six-shot advantage on the rest of the field.

“It was a strong finish after three bogeys in a row,” said Jones, who won the tourney in 2003  and has been second three times in the last eight years. “I thought the wheels were starting to fall off.”

Few in the field were able to keep pace with Jones. Sam Grindle and Jack Wyman finished with 69 each. They were the only other players under par.

Augusta’s Ryan Gay and Sable Oaks’ Tommy Stirling each finished even to tie for second at 139. Both shot a 1-under 69 in the first round.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Gay. “It’s not what I wanted. I just have to shoot a low one tomorrow. I’ve shot 61 out there twice. It’s definitely not out of the question. If I keep hitting it well the putts are bound to fall.”

Many of the golfers that were among the leaders after Tuesday’s opening round fell further behind. In addition to Gay and Stirling, Mike O’Brien,  also of Sable Oaks, and Martindale’s Brian Bilodeau all were 1-under Tuesday but were well over par on Wednesday.

“We played early yesterday and it was perfect out,” said Bilodeau, who finished with a 75. “All day (Tuesday) the course was very nice. Today the course was starting to show some wear on the back.”

A steady rain in the middle of the afternoon didn’t help matters. Jones didn’t have to face that in the morning.

“The wind kicked up in the afternoon and the greens were tricky for sure,” said Bilodeau. “We finished the front and the wind kicked up for 45 minutes or so. That made it pretty tricky. The wind would kick up and then completely die and then kick up again.”

Grindle is fourth at 141 with Wyman at 142. JJ Harris and Mark Plummer are at 143. The cut after the first two rounds was 151. The final group of Jones, Gay and Stirling will tee off at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Jones started the day with a birdie on the first hole and added two more to finish 3-under at the turn. After two straight pars on the back, he had three straight bogeys. A bad approach got him in trouble on 12. He found the rough on 13 and missed a short putt. On 14, he flinched a little when a car sped by while on his back swing.

“After I made the three bogeys, I was still even for the day,” said Jones. “Even if I shot even, someone had to shoot 3-under to catch me. It wasn’t like I was throwing the tournament away or anything. I had planned on making some bogeys over the 54 holes. If they all came together or were spaced out, it didn’t matter.”

He finished strong to record his 67. His sank a 15-foot putt on 15 for birdie.

“It was a putt that looked straight, but I’ve played here enough that I knew it went right,” said Jones.

He sank one from seven feet on 16 and nearly had another bird on 17 but watched it slide by the hole to the left. He sank another 7-footer on 18 for birdie.

Gay,a three-time Amateur champion, started the day just three strokes behind Jones on the leaderboard. He said he was aware of the 67 that Jones had produced.

“I don’t really watch the scoreboard until the final day,” said Gay. “I’ve played in enough of these to know what it takes. I just haven’t played well the last two days, and I haven’t put myself in position. That’s my fault.”

Though Jones didn’t have to deal with the steady rain in the morning, most of the golfers faced it in the afternoon. With that came some wind that made the course a challenge. Gay had his opportunities but never could produce consistently.

He birdied the third hole but had a bogey just two holes later. He birdied the sixth and finished the front even. He had a number of near misses on the back but had two birdies and three bogeys.

“I hit a lot of greens, but in 36 holes I haven’t had a putt fall yet,” said Gay. “It was a pretty unclean round. I didn’t make a single putt all day. I didn’t hit the driver well. The irons were mediocre. It was just a struggle.”

Stirling’s 70 came from a round of mostly pars. He had a double bogey on the ninth hole and then birdied the 11th.

Bilodeau wasn’t able to do much in the way of scoring either. Like many of the others, he was battling just to make par. He birdied the first hole but then doubled the second. He added a pair of bogeys on the third and fourth before a birdie on the fifth. On the back, he bogeyed 11 and then finished with back-to-back bogeys on the final two holes.

“I couldn’t judge the wind,” Bilodeau said. “I was half a club off here or there. I wasn’t giving myself a bunch or great chances. I made a lot of pars but you need to get birdies to get low.”

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