Portland Country Club head pro John Boswell looked out his pro shop window one rainy day a few years ago to see a solitary figure chipping and putting on the practice green.

It was Barrett Nichols, who at 100 years old was working on his game.

“Barrett was the only person on the property,” said Boswell. “It was pouring rain.”

Weather conditions aside, it wasn’t unusual to see Nichols practicing. Three years ago, he was still playing five times a week, puffing on his numerous cigars in the course of a day and driving his Cadillac. On June 11, Maine lost a golfing legend as Nichols died at 108. Nichols was born in Bath on Dec. 14, 1901.

Nichols was a member of the Portland Country Club for “forever” as Maine Seniors historian and fellow PCC member John Sullivan said. Nichols played Portland Country Club in 1911 or 1912 when it was located in the Thornton Heights section of South Portland.

Sullivan, in his book on the history of the Maine Seniors Golf Association published in 2007, wrote of a funny exchange with Nichols one day while playing the 14th hole at PCC.

Quoting Sullivan from his book: “We were waiting for a foursome to get off the green. To make conversation, I commented that this was a pretty par-3 with the rocky ledges on both sides and plantings at the rear of the green. Barrett does not waste words, but indicated agreement. I then asked Barrett when he first played PCC. After thinking a few minutes, he said about 1911 or 1912 at the invitation of Dr. Lincoln. I thought about that answer for a while as it preceded World War I. Then I asked Barrett if the hole was laid out then pretty much as it is now. He looked at me with a grin and said, “Hell, Sullivan, the Portland Country Club was not here then, it was located in South Portland at Thornton Heights.”

Often Nichols would join Sullivan in a foursome at the club.

“Barrett was always looking for someone to play with,” said Sullivan. “All of his comtempories had passed away.”

Anyone who played with Nichols knew he had no patience for slow play.

“We were playing the ninth hole at Portland and I’m addressing the ball on the right side of the tee, getting ready to swing,” said Sullivan.

“All of a sudden, I hear the sound of club hitting ball. Barrett had just hit his tee shot on the left side of the tee. If Barrett wasn’t on the course playing, he was on the driving range or on the putting green. He always had a cigar in his mouth with a ring of smoke around his head. He was a unique character.”

In his prime, Nichols was a strong player who carried a handicap of around 5 or 6. He won the Maine Seniors Golf Association championship in 1968 and 1970. As he grew older and his skills diminished, Nichols had a hard time accepting it. Even in his 100s, he was looking to improve. When he returned from Florida for the winter, he would ask Boswell to take a look at his swing.

Nichols ran Maine Savings Bank for years as its treasurer and chief executive officer. He became a member of the Maine Seniors Golf Association in 1957.

Three years ago he played in the Association’s 75th anniversary tournament at the Brunswick Golf Course. In 2007, he was inducted into the Maine Golf Hall of Fame.

The New England Senior Golfers’ Association, the second-oldest seniors golf association in the country, named its annual net tournament the Barrett C. Nichols tournament.

Nichols was also a member of the Meadows Country Club in Sarasota, Fla. Its annual senior championship is known as the Barrett Nichols Senior Club Championship. In 2001, Barrett and his son, Barry, won the Meadows member-guest tournament. On the last hole, Nichols blasted a sand shot from 40 yards to within 10 feet. His son made the putt to win the tournament.

Nichols could be abrupt and would curse on occasion.

“Deep down he was a real softie,” said his nephew, Tom Sawyer of Falmouth.

“He had a lady who came in to clean his apartment in Florida,” said Sawyer. “She had a daughter who was going to college. When Barrett heard that the daughter was having trouble paying her tuition, Barrett helped pay it.”

 

TEE TO GREEN: After a rough start to the season, Riverside Golf Course should be in good shape for the Charlies Portland/Maine Open. “The course is looking really good,” said head pro Ron Bibeau. “We had some issues early but the course has come back fine.” The tournament is June 29-30 with the pro-am June 28.

The Portland Country Club has a new irrigation system and refurbished practice range. The old irrigation system was more than 25 years old. The practice range offers more hitting area. Those additions come just in time for the New England PGA championship that the course is hosting with The Woodlands on Aug. 24-26. The field will be split between Portland and Woodlands for the first two rounds. After a 36-hole cut, the field will play at the Woodlands.

The state qualifier for the U.S. Public Links tournament will be Wednesday at Riverside.

The ninth annual Blue and White Golf Classic took place June 11 at Bath with 205 players. A record $38,500 was raised for the Morse High scholarship. The winning gross team was Roland Barter, David Barter, Todd Barter and Greg Hollingsworth with a 48. The winning net team with a 31 was Jason Lemont, Andy Arnall, Jeff Morrison, Chris Cunningham and Blaine Wallace.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]