CUMBERLAND, Maine — What Will Kannegieser didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.
The Minot native had no idea what rested on his birdie putt on the 18th hole Wednesday. He’s glad he was unaware.
“I wasn’t sure it would be enough,” said the Gould Academy junior. “That’s probably why I wasn’t shaking over it. It was a lot better that I didn’t know. That’s why I didn’t back off.”
That three-footer proved to be the difference as Kannegieser won the Maine Junior Amateur Championship at Val Halla Golf Course. The Martindale golfer finished the day with a 4-over 75 in the boys 15-17 age group.
With his first round of 73, that gave him a two-day total of 148, one stroke better than Manchester’s Luke Ruffing.
“It’s been a dream to win this,” Kannegieser said. “I’ve played in this since I was 10. I haven’t played in all of them because of baseball once or twice.”
Falmouth’s Joe Lesniak took third at 150 followed by Seward Matel at 152. George Doolan, who was tied for the lead entering the final round, finished at 153 along with Drew Powell of Bangor and Mike Caron.
“The conditions were much tougher today,” said Ruffing, who shot a 75 after a first round of 74. “It was definitely more windy, which affects me because I have a higher ball flight.”
Ruffing had a chance at his own birdie on the 18th. His attempt on a six-footer came up short.
“I just didn’t make the putts when it mattered,” Ruffing said. “I knew in my mind that I needed it, just to help me sleep well. I bogeyed the hole yesterday. I just wanted a birdie so bad. The green slowed it down. It was straight downhill, and it just stopped.”
Kannegieser struggled after his two-over 73 Tuesday. He started in similar fashion with a bogey and double bogey. He then bogeyed the fourth hole before getting a birdie on the fifth. He bogeyed three of the next four holes to finish the front frustrated and at 40.
“The last two days, I started out bogey and double bogey,” Kannegieser said. “I made a couple really bad bogeys on six and seven. I birdied the eighth and that kind of steadied the ship. It wasn’t a great day, but I got through it.”
On the back, he birded the 14th but gave that back a hole later. He had a bird on 16 but bogeyed 17.
“What really worked out for me is that I didn’t know,” said Kannegieser, who thought he was behind when he sank his birdie putt on 16. “If I’d known it could have been a different story. I doubt I would have birdied 16 just because I would have known I was that close.”
On 18, his approach shot on the par 5 went long and to the left. He had debated on his club but chose a 3-wood.
“I knew it might be a little too much, but I thought it would be better long than short,” he said.
His chip from the left side put him within three feet of the hole, giving him the opportunity at a birdie.
“I was surprised it didn’t get closer,” Kannegieser said. “That was one of the best shots I hit all day.”
When he approached the putt, he had no idea it was for the win. He didn’t discover he had won until he was at the scorer’s table. He was thinking a playoff might be his best chance.
“I still thought I was behind,” said Kannegieser, who was unaware he was tied when teeing off on 18. “Good thing I didn’t know.”
Kannegieser was rushing off to New York City after his round. He’s flying out with the Gould Academy ski team for two weeks of training in Chile. He won’t be able to play in next week’s New England Amateur. Cape Elizabeth’s Reese McFarlane will take his place.
Ruffing didn’t know how important his birdie putt on 18 was, but he thought he could make it.
“I thought that putt for birdie was huge, and it turned out to be the margin of defeat,” said Ruffing, who has finished second in the high school state championships twice. “I just missed the putt.”
Lesniak jumped in the standings with a 72 on the final day. Matel had a 73. Doolan, the co-leader with Kannegieser to start the day, shot an 80. Powell, who was tied with Ruffing one shot from the leaders, shot a 79.
“All three of us had chances to go ahead today,” said Kannegieser, who was in the final group with Doolan and Powell. “I’d say I ground it out the best. I made putts and made shots when I absolutely needed to.”
In the girls 15-17 group, Presque Isle’s Jenna Hallett preserved her lead with an 80 for a total of 166. She shot an 86 on Tuesday. Fairfield’s Kelsie Dessent shot an 86 to take second at 182.
In the 13-14 boys division, Eric Dugas shot a final round 75 to win with a two-day total of 155. Carter Pearl was second at 162. First-round leader Cole Anderson shot an 84 and finished at 162.
Cape’s Thomas Higgins won the boys 12-under group. He finished with a 42 for a two-day total of 81. Max Altenaur was second with a total of 89.
Newcastle’s Bailey Plourde won the 13-14 girls. She shot a 90 in the final round for a total of 172. Erin Holmes was second at 183.