May 21, 2018
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Mass. golfer rallies to win Charlie’s Maine Open, edges Bangor native Jesse Speirs by 1 stroke

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

MANCHESTER, Maine — Evan Harmeling overcame back-to-back bogeys on the back nine and rallied with four late birdies Tuesday to shoot a 3-under-par 67 and earn top honors at the Charlie’s Maine Open Championship golf tournament at Augusta Country Club.

Harmeling, from Andover, Mass., set himself up for a tap-in birdie on the 18th hole to finish with a two-round total of 133, 7 under par for the tournament. The Princeton University graduate took home the $10,000 first-place prize from the purse of nearly $51,000.

Harmeling, who turned 25 on Monday, shook off his two bad holes and hit his stride down the stretch.

“Not that he was out of it by any stretch, but to have the finish that he did after bogeying the first two holes on the back, that’s what you have to do to win. That was definitely the difference,” said Nick Antonelli, who played in a threesome with Harmeling and Jon McLean.

Bangor native Jesse Speirs fired a second-round 66 and Geoff Sisk of Marshfield, Mass., came in at 67 to tie for second place at 134. Antonelli, of Atkinson, N.H., finished alone in fourth place at 135, while Jeb Buchanan of Loudonville, N.Y., Ted Brown of Glen Allen, Va., and McLean, of Weston, Fla., tied for fifth at 136.

First-round leader Mack Duke of Oxley, Ala., who plays at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, shot a 3-over 73 and wound up in a tie for 13th place. Greater Bangor Open winner Jesse Larson of Mendon, Vt., was tied for 23rd at 140 and defending champion Dustin Cone of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., tied for 81st at 149.

Rounding out the top 10 were Andrew Mason of Huntington Valley, Pa., Marc France of Burlington, N.C., Eric Onesi of Bear, Del., John Elliott of Westerly, R.I., and Eddie Kirby of Wakefield, R.I., all of whom tied for eighth at 137.

Shawn Warren of Cape Elizabeth, who works at Nonesuch River Golf Course in Scarborough, was the leading Maine pro at 140 (70-70).

Tom Bean of Manchester emerged as the top amateur among the 20 players who advanced to the second round. The Augusta Country Club member shot consecutive 69s for a 138.

Harmeling, who earned his first professional victory in June at the Massachusetts Open — and donated the $15,000 winnings to One Fund Boston, a charity that aids victims of the Boston Marathon bombings — experienced only a brief struggle on Tuesday.

He crossed Route 201 to the back nine with at least a share of the lead at 5 under, but wound up bogeying the 10th and 11th holes — his only bogeys of the tournament.

“I probably shouldn’t have hit driver on [No.] 10. It was my first driver of the day,” said Harmeling, who had been cautioned by a friend to leave the driver in the bag at Augusta.

“The [approach] shot on 11 was just a bad shot coming in,” he continued. “I had a perfect yardage, I just didn’t really think about the wind.”

However, Harmeling got it back together, carding birdies on Nos. 13, 15, 17 and 18 to slip past Speirs and Sisk and avert a third straight playoff to determine the tournament winner.

The 13th hole proved a bit of a turning point.

“I finally made a putt on 13,” he said. “I hit a good shot in there and had about a 12-footer up the hill and made that, which was good. I was reeling a little bit after 10 and 11.”

Harmeling, Antonelli and McLean all were battling for a share of the lead on the back nine, a dynamic that proved beneficial for all of them. When Antonelli birdied the par-3 17th hole, Harmeling was challenged.

He followed by making a similar downhill putt for birdie.

“When Nick made that, that was to put him at 5 [under],” Harmeling said. “I needed to make mine to stay ahead of him, which was good.”

In the meantime, Speirs and Sisk had put together strong rounds and arrived at the clubhouse with a share of the lead with a few groups still on the course.

Speirs, who is based out of Memphis, Tenn., began the day three shots off the lead. He shot a bogey-free round of 66, one that included a closing birdie on 18 after he chipped out of the rough on the back side of the green to set up a 4-footer.

“I played pretty good,” Speirs said on the practice green only moments after finding out Harmeling had won.

“I didn’t have any bogeys today. I had some good saves,” said the 2009 Maine Amateur champ. “I missed a couple birdies and I just didn’t take advantage of 14, 16, even 15.”

Sisk, who was two shots back after the first round, double-bogeyed No. 9 but responded with five birdies on the back nine.

He had an opportunity to get another stroke back on the 18th hole, but his approach shot landed on the back side of the green. He then left an eagle putt 8 feet short and settled for a birdie.

The left-handed Antonelli also had a chance to get himself into potential playoff. However, his approach shot on 18 landed in the rough left of the green, thwarting his eagle bid.

“I knew I was close and I thought if I could make 3 and, at worst, 4 on 18, I could be right there,” he said. “Sure enough, I made 5 and came up two [strokes] short.”

Ultimately, Antonelli gave kudos to Harmeling.

“Evan played great, he deserved it,” Antonelli said. “That turnaround was awesome. He really wasn’t in much trouble all day.”

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