If the players in the 93rd Maine Amateur at the Sunday River Golf Club in Newry pause for a moment before that slippery, downhill putt or a five-iron to an elevated green and soak in the scenery, that three-footer may not seem so important.

Situated in the Jordan Bowl, the golf course has 360 degrees of world class views. And as for the golf, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course will provide a stern test for the 132-player field.

From the black tee markers, the par-72 course measures 7,130 yards, The course rating from those markers is 75.2 with a slope of 146. The 54-hole tournament, which starts Tuesday and runs through Thursday, will likely be played from a yardage in between the black and blue tee markers, likely between 6,700 and 6,800 yards. That’s plenty of golf for the state’s top amateurs.

A cut to the low 40 and ties will be made after Wednesday’s round.

“The course will be fair,” said Sam Marzenell, tournament director for the Maine State Golf Association.

“The winner will be someone who hits it very straight and is a great putter. The greens are very undulating and fast. “

Traditionally, Maine’s country clubs have hosted the bulk of the state amateurs. Golf courses like the Augusta Country Club, Portland CC, Martindale CC, Penobscot Valley CC and Kebo Valley Club have seen the most tournaments. This is the first time the tournament will be played significantly above sea level. Sunday River opened 18 holes in 2005.

“It’s going to be a good tournament,” said head professional James Gilleon.

“The course is in really good condition. I feel the course requires a lot of local knowledge. There’s a certain group of players in the tournament who have played the course a few times. I’m sure the golfers who haven’t played here have had a practice round or two,” he said.

While appearing imposing, the course offers one quality which could keep scores from soaring as a whole. The fairways are wide.

“The landing areas are generous,” said Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf, the course owner.

“The players should be able to keep the ball in play all day. It’s the approach shots that are tough. We built it that way. The greens are large and will be quick, but fair for the tournament.

Harris said the first two rounds should be played from a yardage mixing the blue and black tees, but he would like to see the final round played closer to the black tees.

“It’s a great test of golf from the black tees,” he said.

“All of these kids can hit it 270 to 300 yards of the tee. From the back tees, those are the distances the fairways widen. The winner is going to have to buckle down and let it happen. It’s a big, bad golf course when you play it back there.”

The yardage the tournament is played at and the pin positions are the call of the Maine State Golf Association which handles course setup.

Joe Alvarez of Hampden knows Sunday River well. He won a state Mid-Amateur title there. Alvarez has finished in the top 10 eight of the last nine years at the Maine Amateur. He won the inaugural state match play championship two years ago at the Augusta CC.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Alvarez,

“The course is in great shape.”

Alvarez said a mountain course presents different challenges with the elevation and possibly weather changes.

“There so much elevation that judging distances could be a challenge,” he said.

“There are a lot of downhill shots where the ball really flies. The course really tests your accuracy off the tee and on approaches. Putting wise, the greens are probably easier to putt than some of the Donald Ross greens we play,” he said.

Ryan Gay of Pittston is the defending champion. If Gay wins again, it will be his fourth Maine Amateur title which would tie him with Sean Gorgone and Issac Merrill Jr.

“You get 18 level lies on the tee boxes and not another one on the course,” said Gilleon, the 2001 Maine Open winner.

As for the winning score on this scenic, challenging golf course?

“I feel someone at even par for three rounds will be hoisting the trophy,” Gilleon said.

 

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