SANFORD – The past four years have been a dream for Ricky Jones of Thomaston, who successfully defended his Maine Amateur Golf Championship Friday.
“Let’s see. I’ve won two [Paul] Bunyans, two Amateurs, and two Mid-Amateurs,” said Jones, who defeated Cash Wiseman of South Portland 4 and 2 in Friday afternoon’s match-play finale at Sanford Country Club to add another large piece of crystal to his growing collection of tournament hardware.
“It’s been a fun ride,” he said.
In Friday morning’s semifinals, Jones defeated Marc Siewertsen of Westbrook 5 and 4, and Wiseman downed Ben Daughan of York 1 up.
Jones, the accounting manager at Fisher Engineering in Rockland, spent the four years prior to 2001 in Arizona not playing golf.
When his friend, Jeff Wass of Rockland, told him that he had finished third in the 2000 Maine Amateur, Jones was bitten by the golf bug again.
He and his family moved to Maine, and he returned with a better attitude.
“Back when I was in high school and college, it seemed important to do well,” said Jones. “Every shot was important.
“Now as I’ve matured it’s not such a big deal.”
And it has helped.
“When you focus less on bad shots, the better scores you turn in,” said Jones.
That showed, especially, on Friday when he was credited with six birdies over the 16 holes he and Wiseman played, against only one bogey.
Jones had trouble reaching the greens on the two short par-4 opening holes before Friday.
“Sand wedge is not my strong suit,” said Jones, who likes the Sanford layout, which plays to nearly 6,600 yards.
“There are a lot of holes out here with full shots in,” he said.
He was good enough with the wedge Friday. He knocked his 30-yard approach shot 3 feet below the cup on the first hole, and Wiseman – who had hit his approach shot right of the green, then chipped well beyond the cup and bogeyed the hole – eventually conceded the birdie putt.
Jones led the rest of the way.
He won the third hole when Wiseman shanked his approach shot on the short par 5 and could only make bogey. Jones two-putted for par and was 2 up.
Wiseman cut the lead in half with a par on the 210-yard, par-3 seventh hole, but Jones quickly restored the margin when Wiseman conceded his 6-foot birdie putt on No. 8.
“If you’re in the lead and your opponent hits a great shot, it’s no big deal,” said Jones. “You just go on.”
Jones doubled his lead when he sank a 10-foot birdie putt on 10 and Wiseman, who was already lying four, conceded Jones’ 5-foot par putt on the par-3 12th.
Wiseman whittled away at the lead again with a miraculous birdie on the par-5 14th hole, but he could get no closer.
They halved the 15th hole with pars, then Jones ended it on the next hole.
Both players hit good drives on the short but treacherous hole, but Wiseman suffered another shank that kicked back out of the trees, but left him 90 yards short of the green.
“I think I was standing too close to the ball and hit it right on the hosel,” said Wiseman. “Stuff happens. You gotta live with it and move on.”
Jones made sure there was no moving on, though. He knocked his approach shot 10 feet below the cup, ensuring a par at worst.
When Wiseman knocked his third shot over the green and ran his chip shot well past the hole coming back, he conceded Jones’ putt and the match.
“It’s a game, I play it as a game,” said Wiseman, who admitted he might have been a little tired playing his seventh round in five days.
He was happy with the way the week turned out, though.
“Second is good enough for me,” he said.
Jones had an idea what Wiseman might have been going through.
“It’s tough to play in the final group,” he said.
“Last year, when I played Jay [Livingston] in the final, the first five or six holes I was in a daze,” said Jones. “I was still thinking back to the morning round. It took me a while to step back [and clear his head].”
Going through last year’s experience was a key ingredient to this year’s win, according to Jones.
“Any kid’s goal growing up is to someday win the Amateur,” he said. “Once you do, there’s less pressure.”
The two had fun all the way around, no matter how each was playing at a particular time.
“I love to play with Cash,” said Jones, who also played with him during the first two days of medal-play qualifying.
“We have a great time every time we play,” said Jones, who also beat Wiseman for the Mid-Amateur (25 and older) title last fall.