AUBURN, Maine — With a bright sun finally shining on a golf tournament, Jesse Speirs of Bangor tore up both Martindale Country Club and the field in the 90th Maine Amateur Golf Championship.
Speirs posted the lone under-par round of the tournament Thursday, a 3-under 68, for a two-day total of 3-under-par 139. He holds a three-stroke lead over defending champion Ryan Gay of Pittston, who posted a second straight even-par 71 for 142.
Two-time Amateur winner Ricky Jones of Thomaston is third at 146 after turning in a round of 72.
Jay Plourd of Portland, Scott Sirois of Portland and Ashley Fifield of Westbrook are tied for fourth at 148. Plourd posted a 73 Thursday, Sirois a 75 and Fifield a 71.
The field was cut to the low 40 and ties for today’s final round.
As for tearing up the golf course, that came on the 15th hole when his 8-iron approach shot from 160 yards hit the cup on the fly.
“It took out the left side like it was hit by a mortar,” said Speirs, whose ball then kicked right and stopped about 20 feet away. He two-putted for par.
“That was a tough break,” said Speirs of his approach shot. “I had a long uphill putt instead of a tap-in birdie.”
But he knows it could have been worse.
“I consider myself lucky it stayed on the green,” Speirs said.
Gay, who finished more than three hours after Speirs, was impressed.
“That was a good round he put together out there,” said Gay. “The pins were not easy.”
Especially No. 15 after Speirs nailed it.
A rules official rebuilt it with toothpicks holding the turf together, according to Maine State Golf Association Executive Director Nancy Storey. That allowed some groups to play the hole until the grounds crew could recut it.
Meanwhile, Gay thought he could have fared better.
“I definitely thought the players in the morning could go lower,” said Gay. “I guess that’s why I’m more disappointed with my round.
“I’ve been hitting the ball so well [coming into the tourney], I thought I could [keep doing it]. Today, I hit it so poorly; I don’t know where that came from.”
The players didn’t blame the golf course, which was still soggy in places, for any of their woes.
“The course played tough, but it was in good shape,” said Joe Alvarez of Hampden, who started the day tied for third but fell back after shooting a 79 Thursday.
The consensus seemed to be that the pin placements were the biggest challenge.
“There were some holes that the ball spun back more than I expected,” said Speirs, including the last hole, when his second shot from about 150 yards hit the center of the green, hopped once and spun back off the green.
“It was tough getting back to the pins. You’ve just got to be patient,” Speirs said.
Speirs birdied the second hole but bogeyed the next two and stayed over par until he birdied No. 7. He then birdied 10, 13 and 18 to go 3 under.
Gay parred his first six holes, then birdied No. 7 and bogeyed No. 9 to turn at even par. He parred the first eight holes on the back — including a superb save on 13 after he hit his tee shot into the trees on the right — before making a birdie on the par-5 18th.
It’s familiar territory for Gay because he was three back last year when he overtook Jones and Mark Plummer of Manchester for the title.
He will try to do the same again today.
“I’ve got to go out tomorrow and be a little more aggressive,” said Gay. “I’ll have to attack some pins tomorrow.”
Jones, who has to catch a 5 p.m. flight today from Portland to get to the Public Links championship in Oklahoma, hasn’t completely written off this tournament.
“I’ve shot 60 before, so you never know,” he said with a laugh.
Speirs has his own plan for victory.
“Keep taking trouble out of play and keep hitting to the right side of the hole,” he said.
It worked for the first two rounds.