MANCHESTER, Maine — Ricky Jones is having a pretty good summer on the golf course.
On Thursday, he added another piece of hardware to his trophy collection when he captured the 94th Maine Amateur Championship at Augusta Country Club.
The two-shot victory by the Thomaston standout was his third in the tournament and also marked his third of the season in challenging competitions.
Last month, the 41-year-old Jones again claimed Maine’s spot in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. He departs Friday for Lorton, Va., where he will compete in his fourth Publinx national event.
Jones has been among the state’s top amateurs for a long time, but he had experienced a drought in major tournaments since winning the Bunyan in 2007.
Last winter, he embarked on a new conditioning regimen which he believes has been instrumental in his resurgence.
“Last year I was getting a little bit tired and not hitting it as far,” conceded Jones, who decided to get into better shape.
He rises early most mornings to participate in a CrossFit class that he said includes a well-rounded series of cardiovascular and weight training exercises.
Frustrated with his inability to come through and win tournaments in recent years, Jones got back into an exercise program because a similar approach had aided his play several years ago.
“I had lost some tournaments, so I just said, what else can I do, instead of finishing second or third, to be first?” he said.
He had made a similar commitment in 2002 (he won the Maine Amateur in 2003 and 2004), citing the trend in professional golf.
“If you look at the golfers on Tour, they’re all physically fit,” Jones said. “At the time it was the Tiger [Woods] era where he was physically fit and everybody was talking about being physically fit.”
Jones hopes the dedication to his fitness program will continue to pay dividends on the golf course.
Jones admitted he had a pretty good case of nerves before the start of Thursday’s final round.
But they weren’t the worst he had ever experienced.
“I was standing on the first tee and I was telling my caddie [Jon Hardy], the butterflies in my stomach are going, but not quite as bad as when I played Dustin Johnson in the U.S. Amateur and there’s a hundred people standing around,” he offered.
Johnson has gone on to have a successful career on the PGA Tour, winning seven events so far.
Jones played the Maine Amateur in the company of his good friend Harvey, who served as his caddie.
The two play together in the weekly Maine State Golf Association tournaments and are both members of the Samoset Resort in Rockport.
“It gives me someone to talk to,” said Jones, who enjoyed several light moments with Harvey during Thursday’s round.
“He’s kind of doing all the dirty work,” he added, pointing out Harvey’s help on looking at lines of putts as an important contribution.
Second-place finisher Tommy Stirling of Gorham also was the beneficiary of some sage advice from his caddie, two-time Maine Amateur winner Ron Brown.
Both men work at Golf and Ski Warehouse and Brown had promised Stirling he would carry his bag if he earned a spot in the final threesome.
Jones did a pretty good job remaining patient Thursday and a handful of times successfully resisted the urge to be aggressive with shots.
It even happened on the 18th fairway, with Jones comfortably ahead of Stirling.
“I had a three-stroke lead and I was like, should I take it over the creek [on my second shot] or lay up short?” he said. “I grabbed a club to go over it and then I was like, what am I doing? I have a three-shot lead.”
The 94th Maine Amateur marked the final amateur tournament for two Maine players.
Three-time Amateur champion Ryan Gay of Pittston and two-time tourney runner-up J.J. Harris of Bath are turning professional on Friday.
The players are scheduled to compete in a pro-am event at Bath Golf Club that will serve as their debut in the moneymaking ranks.
Harris finished third in the Maine Amateur with a two-day total of 2-over 212, while Gay was tied for fourth place at 213.
Longtime Maine golf star Mark Plummer had another strong performance at a Maine Amateur.
This time, the 13-time champion was playing on his home course. The 61-year-old Plummer took seventh place with a 216.
He shared the three-day event with brother Steve serving as his caddie but the tournament was somewhat bittersweet as their father, Stanley, died in May at age 92.