With chores completed, Gay opens defense of Maine Amateur Golf title

Posted July 11, 2011, at 8:16 p.m.

It might seem like all defending Maine Amateur champion Ryan Gay of Pittston does is play golf since he plays it so well, but that’s not quite the case.

Gay’s parents, Tim and Carol, still have chores for him as well as an occasional odd job at their small businesses.

“He plays around his work schedule,” said Tim Gay, who admitted that finding golf time is probably easier than if Ryan was working for someone else.

“Being his parents, we can be pretty flexible with his schedule,” said Tim Gay.

That flexibility is allowing Ryan to defend his title at Portland Country Club in Falmouth Foreside starting Tuesday.

The 54-hole tournament conducted by the Maine State Golf Association continues through Thursday with the 132-player field trimmed after Wednesday’s round to the low 40 and ties for the finale round.

Ryan, 20, agreed that his days are pretty full.

“I’ve never had a summer job, really. Mostly, I do chores around the house,” said Gay, who will be a junior at the University of New Mexico in the fall. “Mowing the lawn, doing stuff around the house, yard work, working on the boat. Whatever needs to be done, painting, anything.”

“Between the two of us and the golf, there’s plenty for him to do,” said Tim Gay.

Almost every day, Ryan Gay takes the 20-minute drive to Augusta Country Club in Manchester, his home club. If he can get there around noon, he might play with a group that tees off then or he might practice.

“Every day, I at least hit balls or work on chipping and putting,” said Gay, who has already defended one title this year, the Harris Golf Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament in June.

His coach at New Mexico also assigned him some summer work, asking Gay to improve his accuracy off the tee.

“He wants me to get the driver, the tee ball, in play more often,” said Gay. “So, I’ve shortened my backswing. I’m trying to keep the swing as compact as possible.”

It appears to be working.

“I’m hitting the ball really straight now,” he said. “I’m hitting it a little shorter, but I can afford to give up a little distance for accuracy.”

That will come in handy at Portland Country Club, a par-70 layout which plays to more than 6,400 yards but rewards accuracy more than length on most holes.

“Definitely, no question,” said Gay, who has played the course several times this year in anticipation of this event, including a practice round Monday. “You have to be accurate off the tee because you have to be so precise with your second shot.”

Many of the greens have slopes and ridges that can be intimidating if an approach shot goes awry.

“You have to keep the ball in the right spot on the greens,” said Gay, who also played in the Maine Amateur the last time it was held at Portland Country Club, in 2006.

That experience will help keep his mind at ease during the tournament.

“I’ve gotten very comfortable with (the course),” said Gay. “It’s my favorite place to play in the state.”

Gay points to two-time Maine Amateur winner Ricky Jones of Thomaston and Jason Gall of Augusta as possible contenders. They tied for second last year a stroke behind Gay at Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor.

“Ricky’s a great player, a good putter, and this course sets up well for him,” said Gay of Jones, who has also won the Bunyan four times.

Gay also put Mark Plummer of Manchester on the list. One of Plummer’s 13 Amateur titles came at Portland CC in 1982.

Gay also mentioned younger players such as Matt Greenleaf of Portland, Ashley Fifield of Westbrook, Joe Baker of Oxford and JJ Harris of Bath. Gay played with Baker and Harris on Monday.

Other contenders could include Joe Alvarez of Hampden, the 2008 Bunyan champ; Marc Siewertsen of Westbrook, Seth Sweet of Madison and Joe Walp of Portland. Sweet and Walp have qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship next week.

“There are a lot of good young players coming out of the state right now,” said Gay.

And Gay has worked his way to the top of that list.

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