FALMOUTH — This is how it starts. A putt lips around the hole and doesn’t fall. An approach shot is short and finds a bunker. Another putt lips. Birdies become pars, and pars become bogies, and next thing you know, the tournament has gotten away from you just 18 holes in.

What do you do now?

“I don’t care at this point, really. Just try to play well. I already lost the tournament. Just enjoy the next two days,” John Hayes IV said minutes after shooting a plus-7 77 on day one of the 100th Maine Amateur Championship, at Portland Country Club.

Hayes played in one of day one’s early groups, teeing off at 7:41 a.m., and in a group that brought the most combined talent to the tournament. Hayes won the Maine Am in 2015 at Waterville Country Club. He played alongside Andrew Slattery, who won the tournament in 2014 at the Woodlands Club, and Ricky Jones, who has three Maine Am titles to his credit, most recently 2013 at Augusta Country Club.

John Hayes of Purpoodock Club chips onto the green on the second hole at Portland Country Club on Tuesday during the first day of the Maine Amateur golf championship. Portland Press Herald photo by Ben McCanna

The only group on the course Monday with more combined Maine Amateur championships was the one including Mark Plummer, whose record 13 wins is the gold standard and throws the curve.

The round played by Jones, Hayes, and Slattery didn’t turn into a celebration of the recent history of the tournament. From hole one, it was a grind, with each player fighting frustration as well as the course.

“None of us played really well. It happens. Just one of those days,” Jones said.

All enter day two well behind leader Cole Anderson, who shot minus-5. Jones finished at plus-6 76, one stroke ahead of Hayes. Slattery shot 81, 11 over par, and wondered if he’d make the cut for Thursday’s final round.

“I’ve never missed a cut anytime I’ve played this (tournament). This will be the first time. I’m not giving up on it, that’s for sure,” Slattery said.

Slattery three putted hole two, his shot at par lipping the edge of the cup but not falling. Slattery;s tee shot on the par 3 fourth hole landed to the left and below the green. His attempt to chip on sailed the green. His next attempt to get on also sailed over the green, landing near where his tee shot has fallen.

“The fourth hole, I couldn’t get a ball to stick on the green. It was just a lot of little things added up. The back nine, I felt a little better, but it was too late by then,” Slattery said.

Last year at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, Hayes placed third, while Slattery was sixth and Jones 16th. At Brunswick Golf Club in 2017, Jones tied for fourth, Hayes tied for sixth, and Slattery was 12th. In 2016 at York Golf and Tennis Club, Jones placed second. These three did not win this tournament as a fluke. If they enter, they contend.

Day one of the Maine Am wasn’t great for a majority of the players. Only three of the 132 players finished the round under par: Anderson, Joe Alvarez (-2) and Garrett Olson (-2). It was that kind of day. It sounded like Slattery expects this will be the norm more than an aberration.

“It’s tough. As you start to get a little older, you lose time to play and practice a lot. I think that clearly shows today,” Slattery, now 30, said. “Five years ago, I had all the time in the world to play and practice. You’ve got to show up ready to play.”

After pulling his tee shot on 11 into the rough to the left of the fairway, not far from the cemetery abutting the hole, Slattery gently tossed his club. It arced end over end, a parabola of Slattery’s frustration. It’s frustrating not playing well when on the course with top notch competition. It’s somehow even more frustrating when none of you are playing your best.

Andrew Slattery of Martindale Country Club resets his ball on the green of the first hole on Tuesday during the first day of the Maine Amateur golf championship. Portland Press Herald photo by Ben McCanna

“It’s a disappointment not to play good with them. You look forward to playing with a group like that. Playing with someone like Ricky, as accomplished as he is, is always fun. Johnny, clearly is a really good player. We just didn’t show it today,” Slattery said.

“I’ve been paying with them for a long time. We had a good time out there,” Hayes said, waving his hand at the thought of any added pressure from playing with a pair of fellow former tournament champions.

What was troublesome, Hayes said, was the quick and fluctuating greens.

“I hit the ball actually well. I’m not used to greens this fast and undulated. I just had stone hands,” Hayes said.

On 15, Hayes dropped his club in frustration when his approach shot from the left of the fairway sailed the green. It was that kind of day.

Like Slattery, Hayes played a birdieless round. Jones looked on track for a solid round early. After a bogey on one, he birdied three and four. A bogey on five pulled Jones even again, and his score crept up from there. On 16, Jones’ approach chip hit the flag and ricocheted back off the green, where he had to chip again. Jones settled for a double bogey seven.

It was that kind of day.


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