BELGRADE — Kyle Evans isn’t sure which holes at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club will drive the participants crazy in this week’s Maine Amateur Championship. Maybe it will be hole one. Maybe it will be hole seven. Maybe it will be the 558-yard par 5 hole 16, the longest hole on the course.

“The first, maybe it’s jitters. There’s no driving range, so people aren’t warmed up,” Evans, the longtime course director at Belgrade Lakes, said. “Seven demands accuracy. Keep it in the fairway and you’re going to do great.”

That Evans gets to talk about this at all makes him smile. Belgrade Lakes Golf Club has been open since 1999, and in those almost 20 years it has never hosted a tournament of the magnitude and prestige of the Maine Am. When defending champion Jack Wyman tees off Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., he’ll make history as the first golfer to play Belgrade Lakes in the tournament.

“Yeah, the Maine Amateur is always kind of a special time of year,” Wyman said. “It’s when everyone kind of gets together and gets to show off their best stuff, and this year it’s at Belgrade so it’s a treat for everyone. I think we’re all pretty excited to get up there and play.”

Getting the Maine Am to Belgrade Lakes happened quickly, last year, when the Maine State Golf Association needed to change venues due to the sale of Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.

“We knew that they weren’t happy with the condition of their golf course and we always want to provide top conditions for a championship of this caliber,” Nancy Storey, Executive Director of the MSGA, said in an email. “(Penobscot Valley’s) 100th anniversary is coming up and hopefully we’ll be able to consider them as a site for the championship in the year of their centennial.”

The MSGA has a list of criteria it uses to select courses to host the tournament. First is the course itself, it’s condition and challenge to the players. Other considerations include practice areas, parking, food facilities, scoring area and location. The MSGA tries to move the Maine Am around the state, avoiding the same region for more than two years in a row.

The ninth and 18th holes at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club share a double green. At bottom is the green for No. 9.

“We as a staff select sites based on input from players, our tournament committee and invitations from the clubs themselves. It is then approved by the tournament committee before we sign a contract and we try and schedule them five years out,” Storey said.

Although when it first opened, Belgrade Lakes’ clubhouse was a trailer, the course has checked off all the right boxes for hosting the Maine Am for years. The question was, did Belgrade Lakes want to host the Maine Amateur Championship?

Belgrade Lakes is a destination course. Featured in golf publications as one of the top public courses in Maine, as well as the nation for as long as it’s been open, Belgrade Lakes draws many golfers from around the country who have read about the course and want to play it for themselves. From July through September, greens fees at Belgrade Lakes are $175 with a cart. On a typical July day, the course hosts between 80 and 110 players.

Closing for three days to host the Maine Am at the height of the busy season was something Evans and the course directors had to discuss.

“For us to close three days in July, you know, that’s our season. We’re always very leery of that,” Evans said. “But it’s been almost 20 years now, and we feel it’s time to let some people see it. It’s a great venue for people to watch off the back deck here. They can see four holes and we think it’s going to be very exciting and worth our efforts to do something like this.

“We looked at it and looked at all angles as to what would be best for Belgrade Lakes. It just came out well with the MSGA, as well. The timing was there.”

Great Pond sits in the background of the first tee at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, site of the Maine Am this week.

Players qualified for the Maine Am were allowed to play a round at Belgrade Lakes for $30. Most took advantage of the offer, Evans said.

“You have to play here a few times to get a feeling for the greens and some of the different features we have out here, the right places to miss shots. You can be in a position where you’re dead,” Evans said.

Having the tournament at Belgrade Lakes is adding excitement. According to Storey, more players tried to qualify for this Maine Am than any other recent venue except the 2011 tournament at Portland Country Club.

“I’m very happy Belgrade was able to accommodate us this year. There’s no doubt they’re one of the premier facilities in Maine, and it’s obvious that our players are very excited to play there,” Storey said.

When told many players entered one of the three qualifying tournaments just for the chance to play Belgrade Lakes, Evans laughed.

“That’s pretty neat. That makes us feel good,” he said.

Current PGA pro Lucas Glover holds the Belgrade Lakes course record at 62, Evans said, and he’s looking forward to seeing if anybody can post low scores this week. Touring the course Monday morning, Evans pointed out a few holes that could challenge the field. Hole five is a 174-yard par 3, but depending on pin placement can be tricky.

“This green can grab you. It slopes a lot more than it looks,” Evans said.

Hole seven, one of the holes that first jumped to Evans’ mind when asked which could play toughest this week, is narrow. A bunker sits to the left of the green, with a grassy hollow to the right. Players can expect a tough right to left roll there. Holes eight and 12 are unique in that they share a tee box, although for tournament play, they will be separate. At 334 yards, hole 15 could be a drivable par 4 for some players. Of course, it’s immediately followed by the long 16, with a lone tree just off the left side of the fairway. The course will be mowed each morning during the tournament, Evans said.

“It’s going to a fun course to play for a few weeks, too. We’ve been prepping (for) after it. The greens are a little faster than usual and the rough is a little higher,” Evans said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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