AUGUSTA — It has been a tough last few months for the grounds crew at Augusta Country Club. According to club general manager Jason Hurd, the brutal winter weather caused a lot of damage to the greens — four of which had to be replanted entirely.

“The course has really come a long way, obviously we had a lot of damage early on,” he said. “The greens won’t be going as fast as they used to but they’ll be certainly rolling true and looking a lot better.”

Despite all the damage this past winter, Hurd said the course is in good shape and will certainly be ready for the 2014 Charlie’s Maine Open. The tournament is set to begin Monday with 156 players — 120 professionals and 36 amateurs — set to tee off in the two-day tournament.

One of those players teeing off in the first group Monday at 7:30 a.m. will be defending champ Evan Harmeling, of Andover, Mass. Last year the former Princeton University golfer carded a seven-under-par 133 to hold off Jesse Speirs (Memphis, Tenn.) and Geoffrey Sisk (Marshfield, Mass.) by one stroke for the win. Harmeling will be joined in the first group Monday by 2008 Open champ John Hickson and 2014 Maine Amateur champ Andrew Slattery, of Minot.

Former champions Don Robertson (1980), Mike San Filippo (1991), Joe Clark Jr. (1992), Jerry Diphilippo (1995), Sisk (1996), Joe Cioe (1998), Ryan Ouellette (2002), Shawn Warren (2004), Ricky Jones (2006) and Michael Carbone (2011) are each in the field this year.

Also competing in the tournament will be Portland’s Joe Walp, who battled Slattery for the Maine Am title earlier this month only to come up one stroke short. Walp will be teeing off at 12:30 p.m. with David Chung (Orlando, Fla.) and Bryan Bigley (Schenectady, N.Y.). Luke Ruffing, the 2014 Maranacook Community Maranacook High School graduate who tied for seventh at the Maine Amateur, will tee off at 8:40 a.m. with San Filippo and Dave Bartasius (Poland).

Augusta’s Mark Plummer is scheduled to tee off at 9:20 a.m. Monday in search of his first Open title. The 13-time Maine Amateur winner — who withdrew from this year’s Maine Am due to personal reasons — said that he has been playing well recently heading into the tournament.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve started to play better the last week or two,” Plummer said. “I’ve probably been playing as well as I have for a while.

“… I’ve played there I don’t know how many times — more than I can remember. I don’t have to worry about knowing the golf course, that’s for sure. Everything else being equal I’ve got a little bit of an advantage.”

Pittston’s Ryan Gay will be looking to make a splash as the Gardiner Area High School product has been playing full time since graduating from St. John’s University.

“It’s been one of the busiest summers I’ve had competitively that’s for sure,” Gay said. “I actually didn’t graduate until this past January but I spent this past winter in Orlando (playing golf).”

Gay — who is trying to work his way onto the Tour — said he is excited to get back out on his home course.

“The Maine open draws a pretty good field because the purse is good,” Gay said. “I haven’t been around to play Augusta much because of the traveling but it’s a course I know pretty well.

“Hopefully I can use some home course knowledge and I can get a few bounces to go my way.”

Out-of-state challengers will also be a plenty in the two-day tournament. Ian Thimble — winner of the 105th Massachusetts Open — is set to tee off at 9:30 a.m. Thimble outlasted fellow Maine Open entrant Eric Dugas, as well as Kyle Gallo and Matt Parziale in a three-hole playoff to win the title. Richie Werenski, the 2014 Vermont Open winner, is also in the field.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

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Twitter: Evan_Crawley

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