BELGRADE — Cole Anderson has big things in his rearview mirror, and even bigger things coming up. But the rising Camden Hills senior, whose impressive golfing resume includes a spot in last year’s U.S. Amateur championship and an upcoming career at Florida State, still holds one of his home state’s most prestigious tournaments in high regard.

“We look at this as kind of the peak in my schedule,” he said. “It’s cool because you know all the guys and it’s the best players in the state and it’s a ton of fun, the venues are always great. … It’s a big one for me.”

Anderson certainly played like it Tuesday, taking the first-round lead at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club with a 5-under 66. He played a nearly error-free round, bogeying one hole but offsetting it with six birdies, four of which came on the back nine.

“I just played really solid,” he said.

He wasn’t alone. High schools were well represented all throughout day one. Mt. Ararat’s Caleb Manuel, a rising junior at Mt. Ararat, fired a 69 and is tied for fourth, while Class C state champion Logan Thompson of Mattanawcook (73), Gorham’s Lucas Roop (76) and Kents Hill’s Mitchell Tarrio (77) are within reach of top-10s.

With players like Cheverus’s Conner MacDonald (83), Erskine’s Conner Paine (83) and Cape Elizabeth’s Ryan Collins (80) also in the mix, the scoreboard at Belgrade Lakes in July looked a little like Natanis Golf Course’s for the high school championships in the fall.

“It doesn’t matter what group we’re in, what the mixture is,” Thompson said. “We always have a fun time with each other, so it’s always a good time playing with these guys.”

Those bonds extend beyond the fall and into the summer tournaments, where the state’s most talented teenagers continue to cross paths. And where they’re always happy to end up in each other’s groups.

Logan Thompson plays during the Maine Amateur Championship on Tuesday at the Belgrade Golf Club. He finished with a 73. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“I play with these guys throughout my whole junior career, every MSGA event and Maine Ams, all that,” said Thompson, who won four straight Class C individual titles before graduating this June. “I love all those guys, most of us have become really good friends and it’s just fun to compete against them.”

Anderson acknowledged that as well, mentioning that he prepared for the Maine Am by playing with Mt. Ararat’s Cade Charron, Cam Cox and Manuel.

“We’ve sort of developed this group of guys that all push each other, and it’s pretty fun,” Anderson said. “Whether it’s in high school or just in summer, we sort of keep track of how everybody else is doing.”

• • •

Year after year, Joe Alvarez has been in the running for a Maine Am title.

He hasn’t broken through yet, but he will have another chance after a 2-under 69 put him into the second round three strokes behind Anderson.

“This is the one I really want,” he said. “I’ve said it many times, I just haven’t put it together for the full three days. Hopefully this week will be different.”

Brian Bilodeau, of Martindale, shot an 80 on first day of play in the Maine Amateur Championship on Tuesday at the Belgrade Golf Club. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

So far, it’s been more of the same. Alvarez finished in the top 10 in three of the last four years, and he put himself back in the mix Tuesday with a round that included three birdies and one bogey.

As for what keeps Alvarez near the top of a perennially tough field, the Webhannet Golf Club player could only shrug.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “I generally hit it fairly straight, so I can keep myself out of getting in a lot of trouble. And when I putt well, I have a chance. That’s usually my bread and butter.”

Now that he’s hanging around again, Alvarez is confident he can make the move that’s eluded him so far.

“Being within a few shots after the first day, that’s fine,” he said. “You can’t win it on the first day. You can shoot yourself out of it, so at least I didn’t do that today. I’ve got a chance, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll put together another nice round.”

• • •

For many of the players in the Maine Am field, this year’s tournament is a coveted chance to play at one of the state’s most celebrated courses.

For one, however, Tuesday was just another day on the links.

Mark Plummer plays in the Maine Amateur Championship on Tuesday at the Belgrade Golf Club. He finished with a 74. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Michael Nowak is the only Belgrade Lakes member in the field, and the 57-year-old had a strong showing on his home course, shooting an even-par 71 to end the day tied for 10th.

The Rome resident, who runs Kennebec Pharmacy and Home Care, said knowing the ins and outs of the host course helped him post the solid score.

“A big part is knowing the greens and where to leave the ball on the greens. You learn that when you play here, and I probably have played here more than anybody here,” he said. “But all that being said, it’s one thing to know what to do. It’s another thing to be able to do it.”

The opportunity to play at his home course persuaded Nowak, once a frequent Maine Am player, to give the tournament a try after what were, he estimated, five years away from the event. He said he felt nerves at first, but began to find his rhythm on the way to a 2-under 34 on the back nine.

“It’s kind of night-and-day between playing golf with your buddies and then playing in the tournament,” he said. “I haven’t done a lot of that.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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