ORONO — Defending champion Ryan Gay of Pittston charged out of the gate Sunday and roared to a five-stroke victory in the Harris Golf Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament.
Gay, who started the day four strokes behind leader Ricky Jones of Thomaston, birdied three of his first five holes at Penobscot Valley Country Club en route to a 3-under-par 69 and a two-day total of 141. He opened with a 2-over-par 72 Saturday at Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor.
Jones, a four-time Bunyan winner, tied for second with Bradford Tufts of Marblehead, Mass., at 146. Jones bogeyed three straight holes early in the round and finished with a 78. Tufts matched Gay’s 69, Sunday’s best score.
Joe Alvarez of Hampden, who started the day tied with Gay and Shawn Gepfert of Topsham for second, struggled on the back nine and finished fourth with 76—148. JJ Harris (72 Sunday) of Bath and Gepfert (76) tied Alvarez for fourth.
“Any time you make birdies early in the round, you put pressure on the leaders,” said Gay.
“You can’t just play for pars until the 10th hole because then they feel comfortable,” he added. “You’ve got to put the pedal down as soon as you tee off.”
Gay came close to making birdie on the first hole when he hit the flagstick, then did birdie the next two holes. He added a third birdie on No. 5 after nearly holing his approach shot from 68 yards. He was left with a 3-foot putt.
“It’s not like I was putting great,” said Gay. “I was hitting everything to tap-in range.”
After finishing the first nine with a two-stroke lead, Gay tapped in for another birdie on 10 and then rolled in a 40-footer on 12 for his final bird.
“I had a good line on that one,” Gay said. “I picked a spot where I wanted to hit, it broke about 6 or 7 feet. I rolled it over the spot, it hit the back of the cup and dropped in.”
By then he was six shots head of Jones and Alvarez, who were in his group, and Tufts, who was several groups ahead.
Gay continued to play aggressively.
“When your game plan is working, you don’t want to stray too far from it,” he said.
That got him into a little trouble when he bogeyed 13 and 14. Jones double-bogeyed 13 while Alvarez parred, but they both also bogeyed 14.
Gay parred out from there, closing the door on his challengers.
He didn’t regret keeping the hammer down on his opponents.
“Whenever you get 4 or 5 under and you can get it to 9 or 10, you try to because that’s what makes (a round) special,” Gay said.
“Instead, it went the other way,” he continued. “I was fortunate it was enough today.”
After posting three straight bogeys on Nos. 4-6, he pointed to a par on the 453-yard, par-5 seventh hole as being a key factor.
“I thought I hit a great (second) shot in, but it went over the green,” said Jones, who went on to par the hole.
“Then I just didn’t care anymore,” he said.
Jones couldn’t point to a particular reason why his round crumbled.
“There are a lot of birdies out there, but if you don’t make them, that’s the way it goes,” said Jones.
“That’s just the way it is. I’ve got nothing (to explain it),” he added.
Alvarez thought the slow round, nearly six hours long, could have been a factor. It was similar on Saturday.
“We could’ve played two rounds today in the time it took to play one,” said Alvarez.
He did say he wasn’t striking the ball well either day.
“I just hit it bad, just like (Saturday). And when you’re standing around a lot, it’s not easy to get motivated to get it going,” said Alvarez, who won the 2008 Bunyan.
He gave credit to Gay, though, for persevering.
“Ryan played well. He deserved to win,” said Alvarez.
In the other divisions, Dan Dalfonso of West Rockport won B flight with a 160 total, Eric Fowle of Portland took C flight with a 162 and Bourke O’Brien of Portland won in D with a 178. Dalfonso shot a 74 at PVCC Sunday, while Fowle had an 82 and O’Brien a 91 at Kebo.
For the women, Micki Meggison of Gorham topped A flight with 172, Heidi Haylock of Hartford won in B with 181, Jody Lyford won in C with 187 and Catherine Studley earned top honors in D with 203. Meggison posted an 83 and Haylock an 86 at PVCC Sunday, and Lyford carded a 100 and Studley a 113 at Kebo.