They’re teammates during the regular season. But for this week, at the Maine Am, Husson University golfers Gavin Dugas and Taylor Morang are just two more rivals after the same goal.

There’s no bitterness between the two Eagles and good friends. But there isn’t any sharing of Brunswick Golf Course secrets, either.

“We have a good relationship,” said Morang, a Winthrop native and player out of Augusta Country Club. “It’s good for the team to build up decent players so that we can really be competitive with one another and make each other better.”

That doesn’t stretch to the summer, though? Any plans to meet up at Brunswick, play some practice rounds and hammer out a strategy?

“Not much,” Morang said. “I’m just looking to come out and have some fun.”

The two players could wind up in the same foursome before the week is up after playing themselves into contention during the first round. Morang is at 3-over, tied for 33rd and seven strokes behind leader Sam Grindle (-4) of Island Country Club. Pittsfield’s and JW Parks Golf Course’s Dugas, meanwhile, is at even par and tied for ninth at an event in which he finished tied for fifth a season ago.

They went about their rounds in different ways. Dugas, who did play the course and share tips but with his brother Eric, started strong and was 2-under at the turn, draining a long putt on the par-3 second hole, before a 2-over back nine brought him back to even.

“I made a 30-footer for birdie. … Then I made a pretty good birdie on (nine). That kind of got me going,” he said. “But then I just made a couple of bad swings on the back nine that took it away. … I couldn’t get anything to go on the back.”

Morang, meanwhile, seemed on track for another lackluster showing after missing the cut last year in his first Maine Am, posting a 5-over front nine. But he recovered to birdie three times on the back and go 2-under, putting himself at 3-over and in striking distance with an excellent round Wednesday.

“I just kind of hit the reset button on the 10th hole, and just gave myself good chances to make some putts. And they started rolling,” said Morang, who was 33rd in the Division III tournament, while Dugas placed 16th. “I always feel better going into the back nine, because I feel like I’ve figured out what’s going on. Hopefully, I can start doing that earlier tomorrow.”

A fine round could put Morang in a rare position in this tournament, given last year’s tie for 64th place. It wouldn’t be an unusual spot for Dugas, however, giving him the confidence that his game can be enough to beat anyone’s in the next couple of days.

“I know I can play with the guys out here, I can shoot the numbers that everyone else is shooting. I have high expectations for this tournament,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be there.”

• • •

Joe Baker flirted with his first Maine Am title last year, settling for third when Matt Hutchins buried the rest of the field on the final day.

Back in the tournament again, Baker went right back to work climbing to the top of the leaderboard.

A member of Martindale Country Club, the 31-year-old Baker turned heads playing out of the fourth group of the day, shooting a 3-under 69 to go into the clubhouse with the lead. The afternoon ended with Baker in second, one shot behind Grindle, but the Auburn resident is close enough to entertain thoughts that this could be the year.

“(Last year) made me realize I could win if I play good golf,” he said. “Anything could happen, I’ve just got to continue to keep plugging along and playing well. I hit it good today, so if I hit it good tomorrow, I should be in pretty good position.”

Baker, who said he’s played between 13 and 15 Maine Ams and been competing since he was 15, was close enough to taste it last year, going into the final round only one shot back of leader Ricky Jones. He played well on the tough York Golf and Tennis Club course, shooting 2-over, but Hutchins snatched the title away with a remarkable final-round 65.

“Last year I putted good. I didn’t hit the ball extremely well, but I putted really well,” he said. “This year I’ve been hitting it really good and just haven’t been hitting as many putts. But (I’ll be OK) as long as I still shoot a decent number and limit my mistakes.”

Who knows? He could be in position to win, which he acknowledged would be a boon for his career.

“It’d be a great accomplishment,” he said. “This is what everybody gears up for all year long. Everyone aims for this one tournament, and that’s pretty much what we play for all year. It’d be awesome.”

• • •

The greens at Brunswick haven’t been diabolical and the rough hasn’t been confounding. Yet.

But the Maine Am players know things could be getting tougher, very soon.

“It’s not that bad. I think there are some low scores out there,” said Samoset Resort player and Camden Hills rising junior Cole Anderson, who shot even par and is tied for ninth. “But I think they’re only going to make it harder after these next two days. I think they’ll start tucking some pins and try to dry this place out a little bit, get it a little faster.”

“It’s for sure going to play tougher as it goes on,” said Biddeford-Saco’s Brett Braasch, who shot 9 over. “If they want to lengthen it out and kind of play the pins in tougher locations, the greens are pretty small. Numbers could get pretty high up there.”

The course isn’t exactly a breeze as is. The par-4 sixth hole is demanding at over 460 yards, and players pointed to the par-3 fourth (over 215 yards) and par-5 ninth, with its more than 600 yards of length and approach shot over water, as equally threatening stumbling blocks.

“There are, like, five or six holes that are really pivotal,” said Jason Gall, an Augusta native and current Cumberland resident playing out of Portland Country Club, who shot 2 over and is tied for 19th. “You could make a huge number, easy. Knock it into the woods by mistake and add two shots to the score.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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