May 22, 2018
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Gay wins rain-shortened Bunyan golf tourney


     BAR HARBOR — Ryan Gay of Pittston added another feather to his golf cap when he won the rain-shortened Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament by two strokes Sunday.

Gay, who won the Maine Amateur Golf Championship in 2008, shot a 2-under-par 68 at Kebo Valley Golf Club to win the A flight and post the low tournament score.

After Saturday’s rounds at Kebo and Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono were washed out, the A flight at Kebo and C flight at Penoby were able to finish Sunday, but the B and D flights (at Kebo and PVCC, respectively) were caught in another heavy downpour late in the afternoon. Some were able to finish, but about half could not.

Mike Norris of Newburgh, the 1999 Bunyan champ, finished second overall at 70 as he played in the tourney for the first time since his victory.

Defending champion Jason Harvey of Bangor, four-time Bunyan winner Ricky Jones of Thomaston and 2009 Maine Mid-Amateur winner Scott Sirois of Portland tied for third at 72.

Fifteen-year-old Seth Sweet of Madison challenged Gay’s score when he was 2-under par after 13 holes, but hazards and a bunker led to three bogeys and a double bogey over the final five holes and left him in a group at 73.

Timothy Black shot a 74 at Kebo to win the B flight, Mike Dube of Biddeford posted an 81 at PVCC to top C flight and Matt Gilman recorded an 85 at PVCC to take D honors.

Gay, 19, just finished his freshman year at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the weekend precipitation made a definite impression.

“I haven’t seen rain in 10 months, until [Saturday],” said Gay.

He and his fellow competitors probably would have been happy to go a couple more days before seeing the skies open up like they did Sunday.

But Gay handled it better than the rest of the field, which had been capped at 288 players, but was expanded to more than 300 when people on the waiting list were added.

“I didn’t hit the ball great, but I made a lot of putts, which saved my round,” said Gay.

Actually, he three-putted the first hole, from 10 feet.

“I hit a good putt on the first hole, but I had the speed wrong,” he said.

It didn’t get him down, though. He felt it gave him a good gauge for the rest of his putts.

And it showed.

“I birdied the next three holes,” he said. “I made a 20-footer on No. 2, a 15-footer on No. 3 and another 20-footer on No. 4.”

After parring the next four holes, Gay bogeyed No. 9, birdied 10, bogeyed 11, birdied 14, bogeyed 15 and birdied 16.

“That’s my game right now,” he said. “Lots for birdies and lots of bogeys.”

Gay attributed that to adjustments he has been making.

“I’ve been working on my swing a lot,” he said. “My misses are bad,” but the good swings are better.

That has caused other aspects of his game to sour a bit.

“I’ve been hitting a lot of balls,” Gay said, “so I’ve been neglecting my short game.”

Specifically, it’s his play near the greens.

“Chipping is what I’ve got to work on,” he said.

Once he’s on the greens, though, he’s all right.

“My putting saved me,” he said. “I just knew I had to give myself looks at birdies. If you get looks at birdies, you’re not going to give many strokes back [to par].”

Norris decided that he’d get back into the tournament this year. Last year was the first time the tournament went for two days. Previously, it had been three days.

“I play both of these courses pretty well,” said Norris, “and since it went to two days, there are no work [conflicts].”

Norris has been playing a little more often this year, and that entered into his decision, also.

“I’ve been playing twice a week and playing pretty good,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Two days, I can compete.’“

He was sorry to see Saturday’s round washed out.

“Penoby is good for my length,” said Norris. “Penoby was going to be the course [for him] as far as going low.”

He was sure he would have to be under par to have a chance to win.

After Norris, 52, parred the first four holes, he decided to try to force the issue by going for the green in two on the par-5 fifth hole.

“I hit a 3-iron over the creek [which sits at the bottom of a steep hill and can’t be seen from the fairway] and was on in two, but I three-putted,” Norris said. “I thought that was an opportunity lost.”

He hit a “bad 5-iron” on the uphill, par-3 sixth and made bogey, but got that stroke back with a birdie on 7. He started another par string, eight in a row this time, until he got under par with a birdie on 16.

Norris tried to squeeze out at least one more birdie over the final two holes but couldn’t.

He had a bad lie on the rough on the left side of the 17th fairway and made bogey. He had to get up and down on 18 to save par.

Harvey, 26, was realistic regarding his chances of defending.

“This field is as good and deep as any I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “I was just trying to shoot a low score.”

He struggled some, though, especially at the end when he bogeyed the final three holes. His mistakes finally caught up with him.

“You can only grind so long before the course jumps up and bites you,” he said with a smile.

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