The star of the show for the 99th Maine Amateur golf championship is likely to be the course.

For the first time, the three-round event will be played at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club. Since it opened in 1999, the course has drawn rave reviews for its scenic views, with fairways guarded by towering pines and piles of gray stone. It’s the only New England course in Golf Digest’s 2018 100 Greatest Public Courses.

“It is a spectacular course,” said defending champion Jack Wyman, 27, a South Freeport resident who plays out of Portland Country Club. “It’s a destination point for a lot of people.”

The opening round for the field of 132 golfers is Tuesday. The low 40 scores plus ties after 36 holes will advance to Thursday’s final round – and earn an exemption for the 100th Maine Amateur in 2019.

With par 5s reachable in two shots, particularly on the front nine, opportunities are available.

“I think the winner will probably have played the par 5s the lowest scoring-wise,” said the 2015 champion, John Hayes IV, 28, of Portland (Sable Oaks). “The greens are pretty hilly and undulated so it could make it pretty hard to make some birdies on those shorter holes. The course is definitely gettable. The course is in great shape and the view is obviously amazing.”

The event is one of the six tournaments that will be staged by the Maine State Golf Association over the next five weeks.

The 62nd New England Women’s Amateur starts the action Monday with the first of three rounds at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth.

Then comes the 89th New England Amateur (July 17-19) at Portland Country Club in Falmouth; the Maine Women’s Amateur (July 23-25) at Rockland Golf Club; the Junior Amateur (July 31-Aug. 1) at Brunswick Golf Club; and the Charlie’s Maine Open for professionals and amateurs (Aug. 7-8) at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester.

This is the first year the MSGA is in charge of competitive golf for women. The state’s two women’s golf organizations (Women’s Maine State Golf Association and Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association) merged with the MSGA.

“We’re all very excited to be hosting all of this,” said Nancy Storey, the MSGA’s executive director. “We’re ready for it. We’ll just be glad to see the second week of August.”

Maine’s best male amateurs (2.4 handicap or less) also can make the trip to The Ledges in York for a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier July 23.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger events:

Maine Amateur

Six former champions are in the field. Wyman, Hayes and the 2014 winner, Andrew Slattery, 29, of Minot (Martindale) are candidates to win a second title. Ron Brown, 69, of Cumberland Foreside (Portland Country Club), the winner in 1975 and ’99, is the oldest player in the field. Three-time winner Ricky Jones, 46, of Thomaston (Samoset) won as recently as 2013 and was runner-up in 2016. Jones said he’s played sparingly this year. He said the same thing last year and finished tied for fourth, four shots off Wyman’s pace. Mark Plummer, 66, of Manchester (Augusta Country Club), a 13-time Maine Am winner, is the Maine Senior champion.

Reese McFarlane, 20, of Cape Elizabeth (Purpoodock) leads a strong group of younger players that includes Florida State recruit Cole Anderson of Camden (Samoset).

McFarlane is coming off a sophomore season for Colonial Athletic Association champion UNC-Wilmington. This summer he’s shot a 12-under 60 at Fairlawn Golf & Country Club in Poland and a 7-under 64 at Webhannet in Kennebunk in MSGA one-day events.

“My good buddy Reese McFarlane has been playing really well,” said Hayes. “And Cole Anderson, he could be one of the best juniors to ever come out of Maine.”

Anderson finished third last year at Brunswick Golf Club, one stroke behind runner-up Sam Grindle, who is not playing this year.

Jones said younger, bigger hitters will have an advantage on the par 5s but winning comes down to, “Putting. That’s what every golf tournament comes down to.”

New England Women’s Amateur

Maine’s best women golfers are all college age, now that three-time Maine women’s amateur champion Staci Creech has moved to Colorado with her husband, Karlton, the former University of Maine athletic director.

Mara Tiger is a newcomer to Maine. Bailey Plourde of Newcastle is a two-time Maine women’s am runner-up. Both compete in the Division III Southern Athletic Association (Tiger for Oglethorpe in Atlanta, Plourde for Centre College in Danville, Kentucky) and are the low handicaps among Maine’s 27 entries. Plourde is coming off a strong freshman season, being named the SAA Newcomer of the Year, and all-region and All-American Scholar by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.

Plourde was Maine’s best finisher in the 2016 NEWGA, placing 15th. Last year, Creech (fourth) and Erin Holmes of Cumberland (eighth) were the only Mainers in the top 30, with Holmes winning the junior division. Holmes was a consistent contributor as a freshman for Bucknell of the Division I Patriot League.

Abby Spector, in 2001, is Maine’s only NEWGA champion and Spector (1999 and 2002) and Mary Ouellette (1989) are the only Mainers to finish second.

The overall favorites will tee off in Monday’s first group. Sophie Dipetrillo of Dover, Massachusetts, capped her junior season at the University of Richmond as the Patriot League individual champion and Player of the Year. Hannah Ghelfi, the 2017 NEWGA runner-up from Falmouth, Massachusetts, plays for the University of Michigan. Shannon Johnson of Norton, Massachusetts, is the veteran in the group. She was a 2016 finalist and 2017 semifinalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

New England Men’s Amateur

Plummer is the last Maine golfer to win the New England Am, in 1994 when the tournament was held at Falmouth Country Club. Plummer also won in 1979. Sean Gorgone (1992) is the only other Maine golfer to win since the tournament went to a stroke-play format in 1971.

In the past six years, only nine men from Maine have made the cut to play in the final round. Matt Hutchins, the 2016 Maine Am champ who now lives in Naples, Florida, is the only top-10 finisher in the past five years. In 2012, Hayes tied for fifth and Judd Parsons of York Golf & Tennis tied for 10th at Falmouth Country Club.

Wyman, who made the cut in 2015, thinks Maine’s contingent will fare better this year.

“There are a handful of golfers, if not more, that can definitely compete at Portland,” Wyman said. “It’s our home state and a course we’re all familiar with.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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