13-time Maine Am champion Mark Plummer tees off on the first hole at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club to begin his second round Wednesday. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Kyle Evans wasn’t sure how the week was going to go.

The course director at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club was confident the celebrated venue would succeed in its first Maine Amateur Championship challenge, but there were still unknowns. There were over 130 golfers coming through, congesting the course for two days, with many of them coming back for a third. There was a different group in charge of how the course would be structured, with the Maine State Golf Association calling the shots on green speed, rough length and hole distance. There was the looming matter of how an intimate course, designed to cater to small groups, would handle one of the state’s largest events.

Evans didn’t need to worry. He got the answers he was hoping for.

“We were very pleased in how it turned out,” he said. “We didn’t know what to expect. It’s the first time we’ve had people playing (a tournament) three days in a row, so it went very well, and we’re very pleased with it.”

By the time the tournament came to a close on Thursday afternoon, with Jack Wyman celebrating his second straight title, Belgrade Lakes had provided a fitting backdrop to one of the state’s most prestigious tournaments. The elevation changes throughout the holes and undulating greens gave most of Maine’s best amateur players a test, and the course’s scenic beauty — particularly the vistas provided by the drop approaching the ninth and 18th greens — measured up to the event’s high standards.

There were some hiccups — the course ran out of parking early all three days — but overall, the course deemed Maine’s best aced the test.

“People really liked the conditions and they thought it was a great test. It’s a beautiful golf course and they liked what they saw,” Evans said. “We’re glad to have people see it and glad to have some good players come in here and give it a test.”

That was one area Evans never had to worry about. Ever since it began landing on lists ranking the best courses in Maine and the United States, turning the nearly-20-year-old vista into a tourist destination, Belgrade Lakes has had to meet high expectations daily.

“That’s what we do every day here,” Evans said. “Every day is a tournament, really, in our minds. We make it as good as we possibly can for the customers who play that day.”

To host the Maine Am, however, Evans and everyone else running Belgrade Lakes had to let the MSGA have its say. That meant slower greens, so that all pin placements could be used. It meant closer tees, to encourage more players to go for the green on par 5s. It meant toning down the difficulty of the course, looking to strike the balance of testing the top players without burying the higher handicappers in the field.

“That’s their gig. It’s their tournament, their show,” Evans said. “For the most part, it was their complete setup.”

It made for a less imposing setup — nine players broke 70, the previous course record for tournament play — but Evans said it also made for a good tournament, and a memorable experience for the course’s staff.

“We were psyched to have new people see the course, a lot of spectators who had never been here before,” he said. “It was fun, it was great for the staff, everyone had a good time showing off the golf course.”

• • •

Fresh off of a disappointing week, Gavin Dugas is putting himself back into the fray.

The 21-year-old, who plays out of J.W. Parks Golf Course and for Husson University, is one of two area golfers, along with Augusta Country Club’s Mark Plummer, playing in this week’s New England Amateur at Portland Country Club. It comes after Dugas missed the cut in the Maine Am, and he said he’s looking to bounce back against an even deeper field.

“I’m coming off a pretty bad experience at the Maine Am, so I’m not expecting a ton,” Dugas said. “I’d like to make the cut and play some good golf. That would kind of build my confidence back up after a rough week last week.”

Dugas missed the 11-over cut after posting rounds of 3-over 74 and then 10-over 81 at Belgrade Lakes. He shot 4-over on the front nine both days, and though he bounced back with a 1-under back on Tuesday, he couldn’t salvage the round on Wednesday.

“Both days, on the front nine, I struggled,” he said. “The second day … I just couldn’t get anything going on the back nine either. My driving wasn’t great, so I was hitting it into the trees off the tee and making too many big numbers.”

Dugas said a strong showing at the New England Am would be a good result to build off of, especially with qualifying for U.S. Amateur and potential spots in the State of Maine Championship and Maine Open awaiting.

“It’s more just being able to know you can compete with the people that are playing this,” he said. “(It builds) your confidence up to see that you can compete with the people from all around New England.”

As for moving on from the Maine Am, Dugas said he’s already gotten started.

“(My confidence) took a hit a little bit,” he said. “But you’ve got to shake it off and head into the next week, kind of forget about what happened. Move on and see what next week brings.”

• • •

Mark Plummer hasn’t won a Maine Am since 2002, but the 13-time champion may not be finished, according to the man who’s won the last two.

“Mark could easily win it in the next few years,” said Wyman, who played with Plummer the first two days. “He’s still got the game to do it.”

Plummer made the cut, shooting 74, 75 and 78 to finish tied for 25th, but Wyman said he was impressed with the 66-year-old.

“Even in the New England Am (this) week, he can still do it,” Wyman said. “He didn’t putt well the last two days, but his ball-striking is certainly good enough to compete with anyone out here.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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