BANGOR, Maine — For Will Mitchell of Bowmanville, Ontario, last week probably seemed more like vacation than work.
“Something that helped keep me relax this week was having a couple friends here and we had fun every night doing something and not getting into any trouble for once, which was nice,” said Mitchell, a 26-year-old touring pro who won the 46th Greater Bangor Open golf tournament Saturday in his first appearance.
Mitchell, who already had won the long drive contest Wednesday, pocketed $9,000 for Saturday’s win after he posted a 3-under-par 66 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course for a three-day total of 9-under-par 198.
Rich Berberian Jr. of Derry, N.H., ran off five birdies in a row on the front nine to close on Mitchell, who started the day two strokes ahead of the field and four ahead of Berberian.
Berberian was stymied on the back nine, though, getting only one more birdie as he put up the best round of this year’s GBO, a 63, and came in at 8-under 199.
Mitchell said that the fun he and his friends had after they discovered that there was an amusement facility behind their hotel on the Odlin Road was a key to his victory.
“They had batting cages, go-karts and mini golf,” said Mitchell, a big smile on his face.
“I used to play baseball competitively up to the stage where players start really throwing junk,” said Mitchell. “… I won some home run derbies in Ontario and was really into baseball, but golf drew me away from that.”
When they saw the batting cages, they were hooked.
“I hadn’t been in a cage in years, and so we stepped in there. … Straight to the 90-plus miles an hour. None of us could crowd the plate; we were just all a bunch of chickens, taking basically fast bunts at the ball at 90 mph. We stood there for hours and just had a blast [Friday] night.”
When he arrived at Bangor Muni on Saturday, though, he was all business.
Mitchell started fast, making birdie on the first hole and adding two more on Nos. 4 and 5 to get to 9 under par. He stayed there until suffering bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 that dropped him into a tie with Berberian.
Berberian started his birdie streak on No. 4 and birdied everything through No. 8. After a par on No. 9, he turned at 7 under for the tournament.
Mitchell birdied 10 to regain the lead, but then bogeyed 11 and 12 to fall a stroke behind Berberian.
Mitchell didn’t know that, and didn’t want to know that. He just wanted to play his own game and he quickly put it back together.
After Berberian’s birdie putt on 13 lipped out, Mitchell birdied it and was tied again.
Berberian regained the lead temporarily when he birdied 17 as Mitchell prepared to play 16.
But Mitchell ran in an 8-foot putt for birdie on 16 and and a 10-foot birdie putt on 17 to pull ahead for the first time since the eighth hole. He parred 18 to preserve a win he didn’t know he had earned until he was headed to the scoring tent.
In fact, he tapped in his par putt to complete his round before one of the members of his threesome, Louis-Pierre Godin, finished. Usually, the presumptive winner finishes last so any cheering from the fans doesn’t bother the other golfers as they complete their rounds.
“Honestly, my hands were shaking a bit there,” Mitchell said. “I just kind of wanted to get it over with so I could start breathing again…. It was either faint or knock it in, so I decided to knock it in.”
Mitchell had been told that 6 under was second place, but he discovered Berberian was 8 under.
“I’m probably glad I didn’t know that standing in 18 fairway,” said Mitchell, smiling again. “I don’t know if I could have pulled the 5-iron back [for the approach shot] as easily as I did.”
Alexis Anghert of Quebec City, Quebec, finished third at 200 after shooting a 64 Saturday, and Paul Parajeckas of Woburn, Mass., and Jesse Larson of Mendon, Vt., tied for fourth at 201. Parajeckas shot a 65 Saturday, Larson a 66.
Defending champion Jesse Speirs, a Bangor native now living in Memphis, Tenn., shot a 67 and tied for ninth at 204.
Jason Harvey of Bangor crafted a second straight under-par round, a 68 that included a triple bogey on the last hole, and took low amateur honors at 206.
Mitchell and his friends returned home soon after the tournament ended as Mitchell had to get back for the second stage of qualifying for the Canadian Open on Monday.
He has high hopes for the qualifier now.
“I’d been playing solid but never been able to pull out a win, so this was a huge step,” he said. “I think it’s going to be something to build on from here as I start traveling again and roll it into the Canadian Open.”
He said he had been playing well before the GBO, just not very much and he didn’t have a lot to show for it.
“I bought a house recently with my fiancee, and I had purposely taken some time off to enjoy the house and enjoy the debt we had just got into,” he said, that smile lighting up his face again.
The first-place check may come in handy there.
“This is my biggest check ever, by $4,000,” he said.
If he keeps putting a little bit into the batting cages at each tournament, that house may be paid off in no time.