Arnold Palmer smiles after winning the 1986 Unionmutual Seniors Golf Classic at Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth. Press Herald file photo

This week’s Live and Work in Maine Open is not the first professional golf tournament to be held in the state. Here is a historical look at other Maine events involving pro golfers.

New England Classic: What is now called the Korn Ferry Tour began in 1990 as the Ben Hogan Tour, changing names for the first time prior to the 1993 season. From 1990-93 the New England Classic at Woodlands Club in Falmouth was a tour stop for the pros aspiring to reach the PGA. The 1990 winner, Brandel Chamblee, is now a regular studio analyst on the Golf Channel. The 1993 winner John Morse earned his PGA Tour card that season at age 35 and would win the Hawaiian Open in 1995.

Unionmutual Seniors Golf Classic: Held from 1984-1996 at Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, this tournament was not officially part of the PGA Seniors Tour but it did draw some of the sport’s biggest stars. They included Arnold Palmer, who earned what would be his next-to-last tournament victory and $38,000 at Purpoodock on Sept. 28, 1986, besting the invitational field by three shots with rounds of 65-67-68 and gaining new fans to Arnie’s Army. The tournament used a match play format in 1984 but realized that could be counter-productive when Palmer lost in the opening round.

Charlie’s Maine Open: Maine’s annual professional open tournament, the Maine Open dates to 1918. 2019 winner Jason Millard earned $7,000. But in its past, The Maine Open – like other state opens – would draw up-and-comers and established players in pro golf. Bob Toski, the leading money winner on the 1954 PGA Tour, won the 1959 Maine Open. Notable runner-up finishers were Dave Eichelberger in 1970, and Lanny Wadkins and Jim Dent tying behind amateur Steve Robbins in 1971. Eichelberger would win four PGA Tour events. Wadkins, the 1970 U.S. Amateur champ, won 21 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 PGA Championship. Dent, one of the first black golfers to reach the PGA Tour, won 12 times on the Seniors Tour. Dana Quigley, the 1984 winner, won 11 times on the PGA Seniors Tour after turning 50 in 1997.

Greater Bangor Open: Similar to the Maine Open, this event drew some big names (including Wadkins) to Bangor Municipal in the early 1970s and typically had a larger purse than the Maine Open. In the mid-1990s, first prize was worth $10,000 (roughly equivalent to $18,000 today) and former tennis grand slam winner Ivan Lendl played in the 1996 event. The tourney’s 52-year run came to end after the 2018 event, which paid only $7,000 to the winner. Several other “open” tournaments have dotted Maine’s golfing landscape over the years. Some lasted for decades and others for only a year, like the 54-hole Bicentennial Open in 1976 at Aroostook Valley Country Club, which is located in both Maine and Canada. Wayne Levi won the event. Levi went on to win 12 times on the PGA Tour and was the 1990 PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Legends Tour: The official seniors (45-and-older) tour for the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the Legends Tour made stops at Falmouth Country Club in 2012 and 2013. The first year the tournament was sponsored by Hannaford and offered an overall purse of $200,000 for a 40-player field, with Sheri Turner winning the event and $30,000. When Hannaford dropped sponsorship, the tournament was rebranded the Harris Golf Charity Classic (the Harris family owns Falmouth Country Club). Rosie Jones, who had tied for second in 2012, won the 2013 event.

Pepsi Skins Challenge: This event was the brainchild of Sanford native Peter Kostis, the pro golfer turned TV analyst and instructor. The Pepsi Skins Challenge was really more exhibition than tournament. Kostis brought in some big names, which in turn led to large crowds coming to see Falmouth Country Club after it opened in 1988. Among the pros who participated were Tom Kite, Bobby Wadkins, Davis Love III, Tom Purtzer, Gary Koch, Ken Green, and Mark Calcavecchia.


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