At age 42, still top-notch performer

Thomaston golfer Jones qualifies for Mid-Amateur Championships

Thomaston resident calls tournament his 'favorite'
By Ken Waltz | Aug 07, 2014
Photo by: Ken Waltz Ricky Jones watches the flight of his tee shot during a recent tournament.

East Falmouth, Mass. — Ricky Jones has competed in hundreds of golf tournaments in his life, some big and some small, but none that hold a closer place to his heart then the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships.

The 42-year-old Thomaston resident again qualified for that prestigious tournament with a strong performance on Monday, Aug. 4 at the Mid-Amateur Sectional qualifier on the par-72 (36-36) The Golf Club of Cape Cod.

Jones finished 34-38—72 to place fourth. The top five finishers qualified.

Jones, who is the 5,604th-ranked amateur in the world, said he was "lucky enough to qualify for my favorite tournament."

"I got off to a slow start parring the first two holes and bogeying the third, in which those holes were really good opportunities to make birdies based on the length," Jones said. "However, I played really good for the next 11 holes, birdieing four, five, nine, 10 and 14 and only bogeying 13 to get to minus-3 for the round with only four holes left.

"At that point, I figured if I just made four pars on the final holes I would easily qualify as typically 1-under usually makes it in. Unfortunately, I bogeyed 15, and doubled 17 due to poor tee shots that found trouble and was very happy when I realized those mistakes were not going to cost me a qualifying spot."

The Mid-Amateur Championship, both a stroke and match play event, will be Saturday through Thursday, Sept. 6-11 at the Saucon Valley County Club (Old Course) in Bethleham, Pa.

Like the U.S. Amateur, the Mid-Am consists of two days of stroke play for the 256 qualifiers, then the leading 64 competitors play a knockout competition via match play to decide the champion.

The United States Golf Association specifically intended the Mid-Am as a championship for post-college golfers who were not pursuing golf as a career, as virtually all golfers who pursue a professional career decide to do so no later than their early 20s, stated the USGA website. This was most likely a response to the fact that less than half of all U.S. Amateur qualifiers are 25 or older, and most older golfers found themselves disadvantaged in competing against college golfers who typically play much more often.

Thus, one of the reason's Jones calls the Mid-Am his "favorite" tournament.

Jordan Burke of Needham cruised to a 3-under 69 to earn medalist honors by carding four birdies, and beat Mike Dunham of Concord, Mass. and Brian Higgins of Bellingham, Mass. by two strokes in the Mid-Am qualifier on Cape Cod.

The qualifiers from the event were: Jordan Burke, Needham, Mass., 35-34–69; Mike Dunham, Concord, Mass., 35-36–71 and Brian Higgins, Bellingham, Mass., 36-35–71; Jones, Thomaston, Maine, 34-38–72; and Doug Clapp, Walpole, Mass., 34-39–73.

"The U.S. Mid-Amateur is my favorite tournament because there is a more relaxed atmosphere than with the US Amateur and US Amateur Public Links," Jones said. "Everyone [at the Mid-Am] has a different career outside of playing golf, so we all play golf because we enjoy the game and the competition. Most of the guys there all face the same obstacles as me, trying to juggle work, family and finding time to practice, which makes the playing field more level.

"I feel if I play well, I have a good chance of going far into match play. Plus, everyone there is old enough to have a couple drinks and relax after the round and relate to the things outside of golf, whereas the average age at the other tournaments is usually around 19-20."

Jones is certainly no stranger to golf success. He is a member of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame for his golf prowess and continues to play at a high level, capable of winning most tournaments he enters.

The current Samoset Resort Golf Club member and longtime Rockland Golf Club member won the Midcoast-held Seacoast Security Classic by 15 shots in late June. He holds the RGC course 18-hole stroke record with an eye-opening 60.

His golf resume is extensive and impressive. He has won three Maine Amateur titles, five Paul Bunyan championships, the Maine Open crown, six Mid-Maine Amateurs, he is a three-time U.S. Amateur qualifier, three-time Publinks qualifier and now four-time Mid-Amateur qualifier.

Since the Seacoast in June, he has played in three events, including placing fifth at the Maine Amateur at the Woodlands and he failed to qualify for the US Amateur when he shot 3-over for two rounds at the Ledges. He finished sixth in the event, but there was only two spots (5-under was the second spot).

Additionally, Jones shot 75 in the one-day Maine Open, after the first day got wiped out due to inclement weather.

"I was playing better going into the Maine Amateur and felt better about my game during the US Amateur qualifier, but then I took a couple weeks off to coach a 14U ASA softball team for a couple tournaments — which we did awesome, winning the second tournament in Sidney. Overall, my game is finally starting to come around as the weather has cooperated and I have been able to practice as I shot 7-under 64 at the weekly MSGA in Gorham two weeks ago and shot 6-under 66 at Riverside in this past Saturday's weekly MSGA."

Jones said he feels good about upcoming tournaments as he has bundle of state/national tournaments left this season, which include the Maine Match Play, US Mid-Amateur, Maine Mid-Amateur and U.S. State Team in French Lick, Ind., home to Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.

Jones was a standout for state Class A champion Rockland District High School back in the day and starred in golf at Division I University of Maine in Orono.

Jones lives in Thomaston with his wife, Christienne, and children, Chloe, 13, and Rhys, 9.

The Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club will be set up at 7,091 yards and will play to a par of 36-35–71. The Weyhill Course at Saucon Valley Country Club, which will serve as the companion course for the two days of stroke-play qualifying, will be set up at 7,054 yards and play to a par of 36-35–71.

The championship is open to any amateur golfer who is 25 years old by Sept. 6 with a USGA Handicap Index® not exceeding 3.4.

The USGA accepted 3,891 entries for the 2014 championship, which was 348 fewer than in 2013. The record of 5,271 entries was set in 1997.

Sectional qualifying, conducted over 18 holes, was scheduled between July 16 and Aug. 6, at 68 sites throughout the country.

Twenty-one golfers were exempt from qualifying based on past performances in USGA championships, other elite amateur competitions or by being among the top 400 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) as of the close of entries.

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Ken Waltz
Sports Director
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.

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