It wouldn’t be difficult to find a golfer in Maine who was excited about the sport’s return on Friday.

Good luck, though, finding someone who showed it the way Fred Harlow did.

In the early hours of the morning, Harlow — commonly known as “Derf” — was out on the course at The Meadows Golf Club in Litchfield. And there he stayed, into the afternoon. Through one round, and then another. And another. In rain that sometimes drizzled, sometimes poured, and was always miserable.

Drew Bonifant column photo

“I showed up this morning, and it was a little damp,” he said. “I was the only one here, so I just went out.”

In weather that was bad enough Friday to keep most of the state’s die-hard players home, Derf couldn’t get enough. He teed off before 7 a.m. and played 18 holes. Then he played another 18. Then, at around 2:30 p.m., he headed out again for yet another 18 — after a change of clothes, of course, since playing in that weather was only slightly drier than taking a walk through a water hazard.

Fifty-four holes is crazy. For anyone. The most holes I’ve played in a day is 30, and I felt afterward like I had climbed a mountain.

So why did the 55-year-old Derf do it?

Simple enough. He missed it.

The opportunity to play again came after Gov. Mills this week unveiled a multi-phased plan to boost the economy, which included reopening golf courses.

“I really love to hit golf balls. It doesn’t matter where they go,” said Derf, who lives in Richmond. “I just like to hit them, and I like the camaraderie of the guys I play with here. To miss that in the spring after winter, it was crazy. That’s the one thing we all look forward to.”

And there’s no question, many players around the state, from the scratch golfers to the Sunday hackers, shared those sentiments. They, too, like Derf, were “mad” when they heard that the courses were closed in April, and the game was put on hold for who knew how long.

And a few of those players also braved the elements on Friday. Brandon Bearce, a sophomore on the Waterville Senior High School golf team, was out at Waterville Country Club with 2019 graduate Jack Thompson for a 10:25 tee time. For them, rain wasn’t going to get in the way of getting back out on the course.

“I got a tee time right when I heard it was coming back,” Bearce said. “I just really enjoy playing a lot, and I want to get better. There are certain goals I have for the season, and I want to be able to accomplish them.”

“I thought they should have kept them open,” Thompson added, “but I’m glad they’re open now.”

Still, no one made the day of it that Derf did, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone at The Meadows.

“Let’s say it’s snowing, three or four inches at a time, and you see one car in the parking lot and it looks like someone is out golfing. That’s him, every time,” director of golf Lucas Worrell said. “He’s dedicated, year-round. … At our course, he’s our year-round soldier.”

Worrell, 25, has played rounds with Derf, and said he’s not the kind of player to sulk over wayward drives or missed three-footers.

“Unless his face is covered, the first thing you see is just a great big smile he’s always got,” Worrell said. “Every time he’s on the course, there’s no care in the world.”

That was the case Friday. Derf saw the positives with the hand the weather dealt him. Everyone else saw a day to do anything but play golf. Derf saw a whole course to himself, a 5,300-yard playground.

“I was going to play at least 18, then I’d see how the weather was,” he said. “(The rain) was steady, but it wasn’t miserable. And it was definitely playable. These greens are in great shape.”

Derf carded a 94 and 104 in his first two rounds, then got ready for the third. At that point, why stop? And stop he didn’t — Derf carded a 90 in his third and final round.

Fred “Derf” Harlow golfs in the rain around 8:18 a.m. Friday at the Meadows Golf Club in Litchfield. He was the first golfer who played the course Friday, the first day courses in the state were allowed to open. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“One of the reasons you can get that many holes into a day is if there’s no one else here, which is the case today,” he said. “So I’m taking advantage of that. I’m not holding anybody up and I’m not catching up with anyone.”

Sounds reasonable. But still, it’s the thinking of a madman, isn’t it? Playing three full rounds, back-to-back, in “ah, screw it, let’s try again tomorrow” weather? Go try it yourself. By the fifth hole, with standing water in your golf shoes, you’ll be looking for the most direct path to the parking lot.

But not everyone is Derf.

“For me and guys my age, this is our exercise. And this is definitely my exercise,” he said. “I love it here.”

After Friday, that’s not in question.

 

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