Maine's Reese McFarlane Delivers Wire-to-Wire Victory; Captures 89th New England Amateur Championship
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 19, 2018
FALMOUTH, Maine -- Reese McFarlane (Purpoodock Club - ME) had been looking forward to his 21st birthday for quite some time, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he would receive the greatest present of his life this week.
Two days after turning 21 years old, McFarlane – in front of a large gathering of friends, family and spectators at Portland Country Club – received the Harry B. McCracken, Jr. Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the New England Amateur Championship.
ONLINE: Final Results | Photo Gallery | Event Home
FEATURED BELOW: Mainers Find Success Close to Home | News & Notes
With his win, McFarlane becomes only the fifth player from Maine to win the New England Amateur Championship. He joins John Levinson (1936, ’37, ’47), John Sale (1969), Mark Plummer (1979, ’94), and Sean Gorgone (1991) as the only Mainers to win the event, and the first to win on home soil since Plummer in 1994 at Falmouth Country Club. Like McFarlane, Levinson won the first of his three titles at Portland CC as well.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” said McFarlane. “I started to realize walking down the 18th what it was going to be like, but it still hasn’t hit me yet.”
Today also marks the biggest victory for McFarlane, who is coming off his junior campaign at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“I can’t even remember the last time that I won, but I was probably 13 years old,” said McFarlane, who finished with a three-round score of 4-under par 206. “I felt like I could win the Maine Am and the New Am for a few years, but I have never really been able to get off to the right start and put all three rounds together.”
When the final scorecard was signed, McFarlane had successfully delivered a wire-to-wire victory in Falmouth in what ended up being a 54-hole stroke play event held over three days. After play was suspended on day one (Tuesday) due to rain and unplayable conditions, the event was reduced from the originally-scheduled 72 to 54 holes.
As a result, McFarlane – who had an afternoon starting time on day one – began his title pursuit on Wednesday and delivered the low-round of the championship – a 5-under par 65. He was then able to back up his first-round performance with a round of 1-under par 69 that began on Wednesday evening and was completed on Thursday. He capped off his victory with a 2-over par 72 on Thursday afternoon which was good enough for a two-stroke win.
“I had a lot of confidence with my tee ball,” said McFarlane about the difference maker this week. “It is a lot easier if you can just find the fairway off of every tee and not having to stress about the tee shots. The putter worked really well for me yesterday.”
Following the completion of his second round, McFarlane had just over three hours to rest, hydrate and refuel before he returned to the first tee where he was paired with Steven DiLisio (Salem CC – MA), who had moved into second place heading into the third round after posting a second-round score of 4-under par 66. The two were separated by three strokes at that time.
“I knew that it was going to be tough,” said McFarlane. “The wind started picking up. Earlier this morning it was fairly easy and it felt good, but as the day went on the greens got a little firmer and the wind was steady all day. I knew that I probably didn’t need to shoot several under par, and if I just kept even par in sight I would probably have a good chance.”
While DiLisio was unable to overtake the second-round leader, McFarlane was pushed most of the afternoon by Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood CC - CT), who made birdie on four of his first six holes and then chipped in from off the green on the 408-yard, par 4 9th hole to make the turn at 4-under par 31.
“I knew that I was there and in contention,” said Theodorakis, who was 35 yards off the green on that 9th hole. “I have played this tournament three times and each time I have been close to the lead, but this has been my most successful for sure.”
By the 11th hole, where the southpaw McFarlane left his 90-yard approach just short of the green which led to bogey, McFarlane had a mere two-stroke edge on Theodorakis, the 2016 Connecticut State High School Champion who is a member of the golf team at Campbell University.
At the time, McFarlane had no idea that his lead had been trimmed to two since Theodorakis was five groups ahead. However, McFarlane played as if his feet were to fire on the next three holes.
First on the 381-yard, par 4 12th hole, McFarlane watched his drive come to a rest near a tree. From a difficult spot, McFarlane made an aggressive but abbreviated swing from 100 yards out which settled five feet from the hole for birdie.
He followed up that birdie with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 392-yard, par 4 13th hole. On the very next hole, McFarlene pulled his iron shot off the tee on the 204-yard, par 3 14th hole and then left his second chip shot. He asked his caddie and good friend Ryan Collins pull the flagstick and then chipped in for par.
“That was huge,” said McFarlane. “I told Ryan right before that we were going to chip this one in and sure enough… That was a tough shot, so I was glad to get out of there with a par.”
It was a day when even his bad moments looked good. On the 412-yard, par 4 15th hole, McFarlane found himself with a downhill lie in the back bunker that he could only muscle into the fringe. He made an aggressive swing which left him with a six-foot putt for bogey that he walked in with confidence. It was a bogey that felt like a birdie.
“I wasn’t looking too closely at the leaderboard,” said McFarlane. “I knew that it was tough, so I figured that if I could just stay right around even par I would check the leaderboard when I got out of the woods and onto 16 and it all worked out.”
Theodorakis faded a bit with two bogeys and no birdies on the back nine to finish T3. He was one of three competitors to finish at 1-under par 209 for the event.
“It’s always fun being in contention,” said Theodorakis. “I enjoy it, and I don’t get nervous. I like being in contention and competing and maybe next time I can play better on the back nine.”
Finishing in second place was Drake Hull (Rutland CC – VT) who made birdie on his final two holes of the day to finish just two strokes back of McFarlane. Hull, who won his second straight Vermont Amateur Championship last week, was one of five competitors in this year’s New England Amateur Championship field who captured a 2018 state amateur title.
While many left Portland Country Club with much to be proud of, the day and the week belonged to just one competitor – Reese McFarlane. He delivered a commanding victory on his home soil to earn what will be a birthday celebration he will never forget.
“I am going to have a few drinks with my friends,” said McFarlane. “This is a good way to celebrate the birthday.”
Mainers Find Success Close to Home at New England Amateur Championship
Since the last time Maine hosted the New England Championship in 2012 at Falmouth CC, only seven players have made the 36-hole cut and played the final day. Whether the travel to the other New England states limits the amount of Maine players in the field when it’s an away game, or it’s the sheer talent from the rest of New England they’re up against, Maine players have had limited success in this championship in recent history.
That trend shifted at this year’s championship, as eight Maine players were among the 43 that made the cut to advance to the final round. Some of it may be that players are familiar with the layout at Portland CC, but the caliber of play in the Pine Tree State has also become more elevated in recent years.
Gavin Dugas of Pittsfield points to the younger players that are showing up and contending at these tournaments as part of Maine’s success.
"It’s being taken over by a lot of younger guys who can play,” says Dugas, who plays golf for Husson University in Bangor.
Part of Maine’s success has indeed come from the younger guard, as five of the eight players who made the cut this year have competed for the Maine team at the New England Junior Championship in the past.
Caleb Manuel, 16, is one of the talented youngsters Dugas alludes to. “I think we can definitely hold our own out there,” he admits.
The players are also familiar with the golf course at Portland CC, as the club hosts MSGA tournaments each year as part of their ongoing support of amateur golf in Maine.
“It helps that the event is at PCC. There’s more motivation to play well when it’s close to home,” says John Hayes of Portland. “It also doesn’t hurt to sleep in your own bed, either,” he adds with a wry smile.
Players visiting from the other New England states have raved about the golf course this week and will remember Portland CC when they return home. Based on the number of competitors from the Pine Tree State that made the cut this year and spent the championship near the top of the leaderboard, they might remember some of the player’s names as well.
News & Notes
Low Third Round: Two Bay State golfers - Jackson Lang (Nashawtuc CC - MA) and Matthew Organisak (Nashawtuc CC - MA) posted the low round on Thursday, a 3-under par 67. Both competitors finished with four birdies and one bogey apiece and, as a result of their performance, moved into the top 10 overall. Lang finished T6, while Organisak was T11.
A Look Towards 2019: The New England Amateur Championship will move to Vermont next season. The Quechee Club in Quechee, Vermont will host the 2019 New England Amateur Championship. The top twenty (20) and ties will be exempt into the 2019 New England Amateur Championship.
Round 2 Summary: When the second round came to an end, Reese McFarlane (Purpoodock Club - ME) held a four-stroke lead over Stephen DiLisio (Salem CC – MA), who had posted a second-round low score of 4-under par 66. One day earlier, McFarlane turned in the low round of the championship which was a 5-under par 65.
How We Go Here: The New England Amateur Championship is a 72-hole event that was reduced to 54 holes this week after heavy rain on Tuesday caused a suspension of play. The second round of play was completed on Thursday morning. The starting field was then reduced to the low 43 scorers who were repaired by score.
Age is Just a Number: At the age of 66, Mark Plummer (Augusta CC - ME) entered the championship as the oldest competitor in the field, but he played like a rising star. The two-time winner of this event - he captured the title in 1979 and 1994 - came up just shy of making the 36-hole cut after posting a two-round score of 6-over par 146. This year's cut line fell at 5-over par 145. Plummer was one of 68 competitors who returned to Falmouth on Thursday to complete his second round. He was sitting inside the cut line until he made bogey on his final two holes of the round. Plummer is one of only two competitors to have won both the New England Amateur Championship and the New England Senior Amateur Championship. The latter is a title he captured in 2007.
Next Up: The 2018 New England Junior Amateur Invitational will be held on August 12-14 at Longmeadow Country Club in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The third and final event on the NEGA schedule is the 2018 New England Senior Amateur Championship, which will be contested on September 18-19 at Burlington Country Club in Burlington, Vermont.