It was only added to the schedule as an emergency option. But after a successful first running for the Maine Event, Maine State Golf Association executive director Brian Bickford said he sees it sticking around for a while.

“Based on the feedback, I think it’s an event that we want to run again. I don’t think it’s a one-and-done,” he said. “Where it fits in the schedule, I’ll figure that out for next year. But we don’t want to have a one-and-done. There was too much positive feedback.”

The Maine Event became a reality after the Maine Open, the annual professional tournament, was canceled for this season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Maine Event was open to only Maine golfers but featured professionals, top amateurs, talented juniors and the state’s best female players all playing together in a unique setup.

Bickford acknowledged that the success of the Maine Event, which was sponsored by Charlie’s Motor Mall and won by Brian Bilodeau by one stroke over Caleb Manuel, has the MSGA taking a harder look at the Maine Open.

“Right now, we’re kind of going to talk about that,” Bickford said. “If the Maine Event had flopped and it was a one-and-done, then we might go back to the Maine Open. But with the Maine Event being as strong as it was, I think the feeling is we’ve got to revisit what we’re going to do with the Maine Open.”

The Maine Event wasn’t without its snags, as a scheduling conflict at Augusta Country Club forced the tournament to relocate from Augusta to Waterville Country Club after the first round. But Bickford said the change in venue went smoothly, and even gave the competition another quirk.

“Our fear was always that someone would go to the wrong venue the following day, but I think we were pretty clear in our communication,” he said. “And frankly, a lot of people liked the fact that it was across two venues, as opposed to two days at one venue. They liked the variety a little bit. We’re going to have to debrief on that. That might be an attraction.”

So too, Bickford said, was the chance to play against talented players from all categories.

“I think (a highlight) was mixing up the tee times,” he said, “so that it wasn’t the traditional, same people that you play with. Being able to have Ruby Haylock, the Maine (Women’s) Amateur champion, Cole Anderson, the men’s Maine Amateur champion, and Mark Plummer, the 13-time champion, all play together. That wouldn’t happen in any other event.”

• • •

This fall, high school golfers will have to hit the ground running.

The Maine Principals Association announced earlier that the start of the season was being moved up, to Sept. 8 for the first practices and Sept. 18 for the first competitions. That’s a chunk out of the season for all sports, but for golf, which held its team state championships on Oct. 5 last year, that leaves just a small sliver of time for teams to play, and for any players still waiting to dig their clubs out to find a rhythm and knock off the rust.

“I give kids a call and say ‘Are you playing, are you playing,’ and my only hope is that they’re playing on their own,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said. “The shortened season is going to make it tough for schools, especially (for) kids that may be great athletes, but they don’t really pick up a club until the tryout. (Normally) they have two-plus weeks or three weeks of every day golf to try to get the swing back. We don’t have that really now.”

Johnson said the teams with players who are on the course frequently during the summer will be further ahead than in most seasons.

“The schools that have kids that are a little more dedicated to start out themselves and have the initiative, they may have a definite advantage over schools that are fairly decent, but the kids didn’t put any time in beforehand,” he said.

Apple Valley Golf Course owner and Gardiner coach Chad Hopkins, however, said he’s seen an uptick in high schoolers playing golf this summer, particularly with other sports and activities being halted or limited by the coronavirus.

“I’ve got more high school golfers playing out here at Apple Valley this year than ever,” he said. “Quite often, there’s a dozen of them that will play anywhere from 18 to 36, sometimes even more holes a day on the average. So the excuses for some of these kids isn’t really there. They can’t blame the COVID, they can’t blame the shortened season, none of that stuff. If anything, they should have been more prepared for the season when it comes.”

Hopkins said this summer has been particularly friendly for high schoolers looking for a head start.

“This is definitely the year that, from my understanding, any course that you talk to, they’ve offered some kind of discounted junior rate,” Hopkins said. “I give free golf to all of my high school kids. … I know Augusta Country Club offered an unbelievable (rate) for them to be a member. … This year isn’t a year of excuses.”

• • •

The home course knowledge paid off for Daniel Falcone.

Falcone won the Senior Amateur Championship on his home track of Riverside Golf Course on Wednesday, finishing the two rounds at 1 under and then beating Michael O’Brien on the first playoff hole.

Falcone and O’Brien both shot 71 the first day, then 72 the next to make the playoff.

Gary Manoogian and Len Cole tied for third at even par, and Roland Myers and James O’Sullivan tied for fifth at 1 over. Augusta Country Club’s Glenn Furth held the lead on Wednesday before falling back to ninth at 3 over, and Mark Plummer finished 10th at 4 over, a shot back of his fellow Augusta member.


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