By JOHN GILLOOLY
JOURNAL SPORTS WRITER
PROVIDENCE, RI (August 17, 2006) -- Jason Pannone didn't waste any time taking the suspense out of the race for the R.I. Golf Association State Stroke Play title as the University of Rhode Island senior from East Greenwich birdied four of the first 10 holes in yesterday's final round of the 54-hole tournament at Triggs Memorial Golf course and rolled to his second championship in the last three years.
Pannone, who had taken a one-stroke lead after the first round and increased it to two strokes after the second round, fired a six-under 66 yesterday. That gave him a final 13-under 203 and a comfortable eight-stroke margin of victory.
Yesterday's performance marked the second time the former East Greenwich High All-Stater was six-under for the day in the three-day tournament. He had opened with a 66 in the first round on Tuesday, then added to his lead with a one-under 71 in the second round on Wednesday.
Yesterday he maintained his slim lead by parring the first four holes then began the charge that took the suspense out of the title race.
First he birdied the par-3 fifth hole. Then, after pars on six and seven, he carded back-to-back birdie-threes on eight and nine. That put him three-under for the day at the turn and gave him a six-stroke lead over his closest competition. He continued the surge at the start of the backside with a birdie-four on the 10th hole.
The outcome was long determined by the time Pannone reached the 18th green, but just for a little flourish he closed out his title run with a 40-foot birdie putt.
"It was a great week; I made a lot of putts and hit a lot of good shots," said Pannone, who also won the Stroke Play title in 2004.
Pannone's first order of business yesterday was to make sure that he didn't got off to the shaky start he suffered in Wednesday's second round when he bogeyed two of the first three holes.
"I think the first four holes are some of the toughest starting holes in the state. I just tried to get through the first four holes at even par, then just open it up and that's exactly what I did," said Pannone.
"Once I hit five and made a birdie there it kind of opened up the floor gates. I holed-out a bunker shot on five, so that made it a little easier," said Pannone with a laugh.
But the bunker shot on five was one of the only tough shots Pannone needed to make his birdies until his closing 40-foot putt on 18.
"After that it was 10- , 11-footers, maybe a 12-footer on nine," Pannone offered about his birdie productions.
When he was finished Pannone had carded 6 birdies and 12 pars.
"I hit it beautifully," Pannone continued. "I went to work on the range last night and figured out some little things. I probably hit 14 greens. I was really happy because it was a bogey-free round."
"I knew I had a pretty good lead coming around, but with the guys in this field you never what's going on so I never wanted to give an inch. I just wanted to keep making more birdies and more birdies and see how much I could open-up the lead."
Garrett Medeiros, the recent St. Raphael graduate, who started the day as Pannone's closest challenger two strokes off the pace, virtually fell out of the title race on the first hole yesterday when he carded a quadruple-bogey eight. Despite the disastrous start Medeiros still managed to finish the day only one-over par and took fourth place with a 212.
Wannamoisett's Charlie Blanchard, who had started the day three strokes off the pace, and recent Barrington High grad Dave McAndrew of RICC, who started yesterday four strokes back, shared runner-up honors.
Blanchard combined an even-par 35 on the front side with a one-under 36 on the back for a under-one 71 yesterday. After firing a one-over 36 on the front side yesterday, McAndrew finished with three birdies and six pars for the one-under 70 that pulled him into a deadlock with Blanchard.
For complete results, click on the tournament link above.