VASSALBORO, Maine — After three years of trying, Sam Grindle of Deer Isle-Stonington High School finally won the Class C state schoolboy golf title that had eluded him.
“I had a chance last year,” said Grindle. “I lost by two [to Seth Sweet of Madison], but definitely this year the goal was to win.”
The Mariners’ senior battled cold and windy conditions to shoot a 4-under-par 68 Saturday on the Arrowhead Course at Natanis Golf Course and buried the field by six strokes.
Mike Caron of Gorham won the Class A boys crown, recording a 3-over-par 75 on the Tomahawk Course to win by a stroke, while Reese McFarlane of Cape Elizabeth won Class B by three strokes after posting a 74 on Tomahawk.
Alice Hwang of Bangor didn’t feel that she played well, but the Ram junior shot an 84 on Arrowhead to edge last year’s runner-up, Monica Austin of Yarmouth, by a stroke.
Grindle’s victory completes a strong season, and especially strong postseason.
He won the Penobscot Valley Conference title by seven strokes by shooting an even-par 72 at JaTo Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln in September, then posted a 69 in last week’s state Class C team tournament on the same Arrowhead Course as Saturday’s individual competition.
“It helped [playing Arrowhead again],” said Grindle. “I’ve played [Natanis] at least two or three times a year ever since freshman year, so I know it pretty well.”
Grindle shot a 75 in the states his freshman year, 80 the next year and 72 last year — all at Natanis — before this breakthrough season.
He credits increased play for his improvement.
“I haven’t taken many lessons, but I have been playing a lot more,” he said.
Combining familiarity with the course and better putting helped him get off to a fast start.
“My opening hole [the par-3 10th], I actually hit pin-high and spun back to 20, 25 feet,” Grindle said. “Making that putt gave me a lot of confidence. And I made [birdies on] three out of the first four holes. After that you can kind of pick your shots rather than take chances.”
Zach Deblois of state C team champ St. Dominic Academy of Auburn was only two strokes behind after eight holes and battling to stay close.
But Grindle hit his approach shot on 18 to within 3 feet while Deblois, playing in the same foursome, flew his over the green. Grindle birdied the hole while Deblois bogeyed.
Deblois knew any hope of catching his friend was probably over at that point.
“I knew going to the front nine I would have to be 4 under to have a chance,” said Deblois.
But Grindle picked up two more strokes as he saved par on the par-5 first hole while Deblois made double bogey.
“He just ran away with it. He’s playing really good,” said Deblois.
Grindle, though, didn’t want to fall into the trap of playing as if it was over.
“It’s tough when you’re playing in the [top] group. You’re trying to beat them and think that will be enough,” said Grindle, “but you’ve got to play the course, too, because everyone out there can have a good day.”
Deblois and Mark Corrella of Ashland tied for second at 74, followed by Tom Spagnola of Waynflete with 77 and Taylor Morang of Winthrop at 78.
In Class B, McFarlane was the early favorite after carding a 69 in last week’s team play.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well this week,” said McFarlane, a sophomore who refused to blame the conditions for the five-stroke difference. “I think it was windier last week. I didn’t recover as well this week.”
Red Desmith of Yarmouth and Luke Ruffing of Maranacook of Readfield tied for second at 77, and Liam Porter of Hermon and Kyle Cone of York tied for fourth at 79.
“Anyone could have done it, there are a bunch of good players,” said McFarlane.
For Caron in Class A, his 75 and victory came down to making a 10-foot putt on the 18th hole, his final one.
“Eighteen was definitely special,” the senior said. “Last week, I made triple bogey [for 77]. I made birdie today. It was nice revenge.”
Brad Smith of Brunswick posted a 76 to finish second, followed by Thomas Murray (78) of Bangor, Ben Bell (79) of Sanford and Brenden Hall of Scarborough and Tyler O’Connor of Mount Ararat of Topsham at 80.
Among the schoolgirls, Hwang was upset with her play but not with the result.
“It wasn’t my best score,” she said, “but it’s still something to be proud of.”
With a shotgun start, most of the players finish about the same time, but some tees had two foursomes starting on them. That meant there would be some delay getting the last batch.
“It was the most agonizing 10 minutes waiting for the last group to come in,” said Hwang.
Austin’s 85 was a six-stroke improvement over a year ago. Sarah Hansen of Greely of Cumberland Center and Paige Fogg of Westbrook tied for third at 86 and Grace King (87) of Yarmouth was fifth. Defending champion Ali Prescott of Fort Kent withdrew due to illness, according to the MPA.