Toby Spector is in his fifth year playing professional golf, and the Waterville native’s season is off to a strong start.

“Things are going pretty well. I’m having a pretty good year,” Spector who now lives in Columbia, S.C., said. “I’m starting to see some better scores.”

Spector, 28, is playing quite a bit on the GPro Tour, a small professional golf circuit played on courses throughout South Carolina and North Carolina. On April 29-30, Spector placed third in a GPro Tour tournament at the Columbia (S.C.) Country Club, shooting a n 8-under par 136 over two days. Spector was consistent during the tournament, shooting 68 each day to take home $1,150.

In a tournament at Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. in late March, Spector tied for seventh place with a 4-under par, three-day score of 212. Spector is ranked 12th on the tour’s money list. Last year, Spector earned a GPro Tour win in late May at the Furman University Golf Course in Greenville, S.C. He said competition on the GPro Tour is strong and that it usually takes a score of 6- to 10-under par to win money.

Spector said he usually plays three professional tournaments per month.

“There’s 30 to 50 golfers just like me. A couple are going to get hot and you hope you’re one of them,” Spector said. “If you shoot two or three under every day, you can win some money. We’re all trying to get to the PGA tour or the tour (the PGA’s developmental tour).”

The recently-engaged Spector is in the middle of a three-week break from tournaments and will play his next GPro Tour event on June 2-3 at the Jones Course at Rock Barn in Conover, N.C. After that, he’ll head to Memphis to compete in a PGA qualifier for a spot in the St. Jude Classic.

“It would be nice to move up a level. Once you get in, you’re in. You have to give yourself the opportunity to qualify,” Spector said.

As an amateur player, Spector was the runner-up in the 2007 Maine Amateur Championship at the Waterville Country Club. Spector tied for second place at the 2006 Maine Amateur at Portland Country Club. As a senior at Waterville High in 2003, Spector won the Class A individual title.

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The Maine State Golf Association is looking to increase participation in its junior program. To that end, the MSGA held a junior golf open house at Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland earlier this month.

“We had 150 kids, one-third of which were girls,” Nancy Storey, MSGA director, said.

Zach Golojuch, the MSGA’s director of junior golf, said he expects some growth in junior golf this summer.

“A majority of the kids we saw at the open house we’ve never seen before,” Golojuch said. “It’s good to see younger kids introduced to the game of golf.”

High school golf in Maine has good participation numbers, Storey said. She’d like to see growth at the middle school level.

“A lot of parents don’t want their kids to be home alone after school. Sending them to a course for a couple hours to play nine holes, rather than be home alone, is an option. It’s a place they can go and feel safe. Parents can feel safe knowing their kids are being watched over,” Storey said.

The MSGA is coordinating this summer with organizations like the PGA and American Junior Golf Association to make sure they are not scheduling events on the same days. The website features a calendar, with each organizations events color-coded. The PGA’s Drive, Chip and Putt contest for children ages 7-15 will be held at Val Halla on May 31. The MSGA’s junior golf tournament, which are held all summer at courses throughout the state, begin June 24 at Belgrade Lakes.

The MSGA Junior Championship is Aug. 4-5 at Toddy Brook Golf Course in North Yarmouth. The AJGA Championship will be Aug. 24-27 at Sugarloaf, just before the start of the high school golf season.

Getting younger players interested in golf is key, because unlike many other sports it can be played long after high school or college competition is over, Golojuch said.

“Golf is one of those sports you can play your whole life,” Golojuch said.

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Chip shots: Another central Maine golf course will open this weekend. Sugarloaf Golf Course in Carrabassett Valley opens Friday for its 30th season. On its website, Sugarloaf called the course’s opening day conditions the best in the 30-year history of the course… The MSGA’s next mid-week tournament will be at Augusta Country Club on Tuesday.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM