Reese McFarlane (David Colt photo)
FALMOUTH, Maine (July 19, 2018) -- Reese McFarlane 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.
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 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 65. He then was able to back up his first-round performance with a round of 1-under 69 that began on Wednesday evening and was completed on Thursday. He capped off his victory with a 2-over 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, 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, who made birdie on four of his first six holes and then chipped in from off the green on the 408-yard, par-4 ninth hole to make the turn at 4-under 31.
“I knew that I was there and in contention,” said Theodorakis, who was 35 yards off the green on that ninth 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 5 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 short. 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 T-3. He was one of three competitors to finish at 1-under 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, 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.”