BANGOR, Maine — Eric Steger of Rocky Hill, Conn. played in the New Hampshire Open earlier this week and said “it took me four hours to get up to that [tournament] and since I was already way up here, I figured I might as well keep going.”
So he drove to Bangor for his first Greater Bangor Open and he left with the best win and largest paycheck of his young career.
The 24-year-old Steger fired a 3-under par 66 on Saturday to finish with a 9-under par 129, two shots better than New Hampshire Open champ Jesse Larson of Rutland, Vt.
The 24-year-old Steger had shared the lead with Larson after Thursday’s first round with a 6-under-par 63.
Friday’s second round was rained out which turned the tournament into a 36-hole affair.
The golfers had a near-perfect day for golf on Saturday with a sun-drenched course, a sometimes blustery wind and low humidity. The course was wet in spots and the greens were soft which enabled the golfers to shoot for the flag sticks without fearing that the ball would roll off the greens.
Steger earned $9,000 for the win. Larson pocketed $5,000 for second.
Mark Baldwin of Gilford, N.H., Ted Brown of Glen Allen Va., Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet, S.C., Dustin Cone of Stuart, Fla., and Jon McLean of Weston, Fla., tied for third with 6-under-par 132s.
“This was easily my biggest win,” said Steger, who was a former first team All-Mid American Conference golfer at Ball State University (Ind.). “I won two West Florida tournaments over the winter but the paychecks weren’t nearly as big as this one.”
“I came into the day trying to have as much fun as possible. Being in the last group [with Larson and McLean], I knew it was going to be a good experience no matter what. Whether I won or got fourth, I was going to learn something. Luckily, I came out on top,” said Steger.
Steger and Larson were tied at 9-under par coming to the 400-yard, par-four 14th hole.
McLean, who was two shots back, drove the ball behind a tree and had to punch the ball out into the fairway. He subsequently bogeyed the hole after his 12-foot par putt rolled just two inches inch short of the cup.
Steger and Larson each drove the ball into the rough and eventually found themselves staring at eight-foot par putts.
Steger’s putt lipped out and Larson slid his putt two and half feet past the hole.
Steger tapped in for bogey but Larson rushed his putt and it lipped out, resulting in a double bogey.
That gave Steger the lead for good.
“That was just terrible,” said Larson. “It was a mental mistake….unacceptable. But I’ll learn from it. You’ve got to make sure you go through your routine. [After missing the first putt], I got up and tried to rush the next one in. I didn’t remember to put it in the middle of the cup.”
“That was an unfortunate mistake for him to make at that time,” said Steger.
Each parred the 15th hole but McLean bogeyed it to fall back to 5 under,
Steger extended his lead on the par-three 16th with a 20-foot birdie putt. Larson missed an eight-foot birdie putt as the ball slid right.
“It was a lot closer than I thought it was going to be. Off the tee, I thought it was going to be 35 feet away,” said Steger. “I had made a couple of straight putts already today and that one was straight, too. I just wanted to get my speed [right] and it went right in the center.
“That was big because Jesse had a chance to make [a birdie] putt and he didn’t,” added Steger.
“It was a matter of who made putts. I hit it in the fairway. I put myself in position. I hit some decent iron shots,” said Larson. “Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.
“Second isn’t bad. I’ll learn from it and try to get better,” added the 28-year-old Larson.
Both golfers parred the final two holes.
Larson barely missed a big breaking birdie putt on No. 17 as the ball rolled just around the left of the cup.
Baldwin was very much in the hunt at 8-under par through 13 holes.
“I had a 12-foot putt on 14 to get to nine under but I three-putted and that kind of deflated me a bit,” said Baldwin.
Mack Duke of Loxley, Ala., defending champ Will Mitchell of Bowmanville, Ontario, and Beon Yeong Lee of Montreal finished with 133s while Pittsfield’s Mike Dugas and Jhared Hack of Sanford, Fla. turned in 134s.
Pittston’s Ryan Gay, playing in his second pro tournament, was one of five golfers at 135 along with 2010 GBO winner Scott Hawley of Shrewsbury, Mass., John Elliott of Bristol, Conn, Ryan Zylstra of Glen Allen, Va., and Mike Welch of North Quincy, Mass.
Michael Carbone and Eric Dugas, both of Brewster, Mass., and Lowell Miller of Saylorsburg, Pa. were at 136.
Bangor’s Jesse Speirs, the 2011 GBO winner, was one of six golfers at 137 along with 2009 GBO winner Marc Hurtubise of Chambly, Quebec, who had the day’s low score with a 5-under 64.
The low senior pro was Kerry Johnston of Indio, Calif., with a 138 and Deer Isle’s Sam Grindle was the low amateur at 139.
Larson birdied the first two holes to jump out to a two-shot advantage but Steger answered with birdies on four and five to draw even with Larson.
“Jesse got off to a hot start and I wasn’t really feeling it. I hit some wayward shots. But my short game saved me and I managed my game real well,” said Steger.
Steger nailed a 30-foot putt on No. 4 to trigger his round.
“That started everything,” said Steger. “It was real long. I had to go up and back over. I was just trying to get my speed right and it went dead in the middle.
“Then I chipped it real close on the next one and, just like that, I went from two down to tied,” said Steger.