MANCHESTER — Measuring around 6,300 yards from the tips, the Augusta Country Club appears defenseless against a field of long hitters at this year’s Charlie’s Maine Open Championship .

A full field of 156 golfers, including 120 pros, will tee off this morning in the two-day, 36-hole tournament. Four of the Par 4s may be driveable for big hitters willing to take a risk, but thick rough and fast greens reward those who are patient.

“The rough is going to be thick,” said three-time Maine Amateur champ Ryan Gay, a club member who recently turned pro. “The greens are going to be firm and fast. You’ve got to stay below the hole.”

Dustin Cone, a Vermont native and Florida resident, used his driver just once last year in winning the tournament at Augusta in a playoff against fellow Florida pro Jimmy Lytle. Cone, who won the tournament in 2010 at Riverside, shot 3-under 137 on the Par 70 course and won after Lytle three-putted the first playoff hole. Both are in the field today along with a number of former champions.

“We’ve got pros from Florida all up and down the East Coast,” ACC general manager and PGA head professional Jason Hurd said. “There’s lots of Maine pros in it, too.”

Golfers will tee off in groups of three on both the first and 10th holes at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. There will be no cut for pros, but the amateur field will be cut to 20 golfers after the first day. A total of almost $51,000 is at stake with $10,000 expected to go to the winner. Cone pocketed $9,000 for his victory last year.

Former winners in the field include Jerry DiPhilippo of Gorham (1995), Geoff Sisk of Marshfield, Mass. (1996), Ryan Ouellette of Pflugerville, Texas (2002), Shawn Warren of Windham (2004), Ricky Jones of Thomaston (2206), John Hickson of Topsham (2008), Cone (2010, 2012) and Michael Carbone of Brewster, Mass. (2011).

Warren and Jones are among 10 players who have won the tournament as amateurs. Warren, who has since turned pro, won the State of Maine Championship recently at Sugarloaf, while Jones won his third Maine Amateur title two weeks ago at Augusta, shooting 6-under par over three rounds.

Gay is among a contingent of Augusta Country Club members that include 13-time Maine Amateur champion Mark Plummer and Jason Gall. He turned pro after the Maine Amateur and said he is willing to take risks in the right situation.

“I hit more drivers because I’m more familiar with the course than most people,” he said. “It kind of depends on the weather. (As a pro) you’ve got to shoot lower scores to win. You’ve got to play aggressively. One or two under par is not going to win.”

Charlie’s Motor Mall, founded by ACC member Charlie Shuman, is the major sponsor of the event. Shuman was instrumental in getting the tournament back in Augusta last year for the first time since 1960. Overall, this will be the 10th time the club has hosted the 95-year-old tournament.

Sunday, over 20 foursomes competed in the Pro Am with all proceeds going to the Maine State Golf Association’s scholarship fund. This year. The MSGA committed $72,000 in scholarships to 12 high school students from around the state.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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