Seth Sweet’s freshman year at Old Dominion University has gone by quickly. The Madison native will complete his last final by May 9 then head back to Maine.

This week, Sweet is playing in the Conference USA Golf Championships in Texarcana, Ark. This year has been a learning experience for Sweet, who last summer won the Maine Amateur at age 17. The conference tournament is the sixth for Sweet this year, including one he played in last fall. Qualifying takes place each week and the competition is tough at the Division I school in Norfolk, Va.

“It’s pretty good experience,” Sweet said. “It’s definitely a lot different from what I’m used to.”

One major difference is the golf courses the Monarchs play.

“They’re long and they usually make the greens rock hard and really fast,” Sweet said.

Two weeks ago, Sweet shot 76-76 — 152 at the Cowboy Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz., finishing 66th overall.

“We were playing wedges in front of the green and they were flying off the back,” he said.

Sweet said instruction is available from the coaches but for the most part players are on their own. A couple of areas that need improvement in his game are course management and knowing where to miss and being able to work the ball.

“I’m still working on hitting a cut,” he said. “It’s just a confidence issue right now. I’ve definitely improved, it hasn’t really shown yet.”

Sweet, who is majoring in sports management with a minor in business, has done well in the classroom. In the fall, he posted a 3.14 grade point average and estimates it will be 3.7 this spring. He’s been invited to play in a couple of tournaments in Massachusetts this summer and plans to play the Maine Amateur and the Charlie’s Maine Open, both scheduled at the Augusta Country Club.

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J.W. Parks pro Mike Dugas is starting a PGA junior league which he hopes will catch on in central Maine. The league is open to boys and girls ages 8-13 and sanctioned by the PGA. There are about 10 clubs with teams in the state including Mere Creek in Brunswick. Freeport and Bath.

“It’s really the first thing targeted for that younger age junior,” Dugas said. “They get some exposure at MSGA (events). The unique thing about this is it’s going to be administered by PGA golf professionals.”

Dugas is trying to gather nine to 12 juniors who will then participate in three-person nine hole scrambles, each playing six holes with a partner. Play begins in June and teams play four to six matches before an all-star team is selected. That team will go on to a regional tournament and possibly the nationals.

“It’s like a Little League for golf,” Dugas said. “I’m really working hard to get more guys in central Maine to bite into this. We’re struggling to support the game and what a way to do it.”

Dugas has secured a sponsor in Sebasticook Valley Credit Union, so the cost of play is $25 for the season and includes a T-shirt for each player. Without sponsors, the cost is $75 per player and may include one practice a week in addition to matches. Participants don’t have to be a member of a club to play.

“You can just sign up,” Dugas said.

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Jason Hurd is the new general manager and PGA head golf professional at the Augusta Country Club. He replaces pro DJ Jennings and course superintendent Chris Barnicoat who served as interim general manager last year and retains his position as superintendent.

Hurd most recently served as general manager and head pro at a private club in El Dorado, Ark. Before that he served as Director of Golf for 12 years at the Bethel Inn and Country Club. In 2003 he was named Maine’s golf instructor of the year by Golf Digest.

Hurd sees his mission as increasing membership and getting the club more involved in the community. He would also like the ACC to offer more to families and kids.

“The excitement and enthusiasm, you can see it already, Hurd said.

CHIP SHOTS . . . Nearly all the courses in central Maine are open with a couple of exceptions and many are offering spring specials. Belgrade Lakes plans to open May 1 while Clinton has not set an opening date . . . Natanis Golf Course has 27 of its 36 holes open with hopes of opening all 36 by this weekend . . . Waterville Country Club opened Wednesday with fewer trees than it had last year. The 50-foot pine tree near the 10th green is no longer there. “The USGA did a report last year and said thin some trees,” Waterville pro Don Roberts said. “Healthier turf is the No. 1 thing.” . . . Augusta Country Club will host the Maine Amateur from July 9-11 and the Charlie’s Maine Open on July 29-30 . . . The Maine Women’s Amateur will be held July 29-31 at Brunswick .

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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