PORTLAND – Eric Higgins of Kennebunk won the Maine Amateur three years ago at Waterville Country Club. A little over a year ago, he turned pro. Like most fledging mini-tour players, Higgins is searching for a performance that can give his professional career a kick start.

That could happen over the next two days in the Charlie’s Portland Maine Open at Riverside Golf Course. There’ll be plenty of challenges facing Higgins, as two-thirds of the field is composed of professionals.

Higgins is encouraged by a good performance in last week’s Massachusetts Open, where he tied for 16th.

“I made some putts,” said Higgins, who had rounds of 69, 71 and 73 at the Wellesley Country Club.

“I’m looking forward to this week. Hopefully, I’ll play well.”

This is the second year for the tournament in its current incarnation, since the Portland Open and Maine Open merged. A total of 159 golfers are entered. There will be a cut after 18 holes for Wednesday’s final round.

Since turning pro, Higgins has had mixed results.

“I’ve had some good tournaments and I’ve had some bad tournaments,” he said.

“I played in the Cape Cod Open and the Vermont Open. I realized what I had to work on and played well in the Mass Open. I was happy with the consistency. I’m just going to go out and have fun over the next two days.”

Higgins has a 9 a.m. tee time with amateurs Mack Duke of Rockport and Zack Sweet of Madison.

The tournament has its usual mix of regional mini-tour players, club pros and amateurs.

The defending champion is Jim Renner of Plainville, Mass. He shot 129 last year to win by three shots.

Winners know they have to shoot low at Riverside, where birdies are frequent.

Shawn Warren of Windham could be contending on Wednesday. Warren, an assistant pro at Falmouth Country Club, has played well this season in New England PGA Chapter tournaments. He won the 2004 Maine Open as an amateur.

Other former Maine Open winners in the field are Don Robertson (1981), Joe Clark Jr. (1992), David Cummings (1994), Jerry DiPhilippo (1995). Kyle Gallo (1999), Ryan Ouellette (2002), Ricky Jones (2006) and John Hickson (2008).

Jones, an amateur and a two-time Maine Amateur champion, won the tournament at Fox Ridge Golf Course in Auburn, as did Hickson two years later.

Top Maine pros playing include Bob Darling Jr., host pro Ron Bibeau, Mike Baker of Hermon and Keegan Fennessy of Minot.

Leading the amateur contingent is Ryan Gay of Pittston, who was low amateur in last year’s tournament with rounds of 70 and 73.

Other top amateurs entered along with Gay and Jones are Mark Plummer, Jason Gall, Scott Sirois. Jason Harris, David Gushee, John Hayes IV, Matt Greenleaf, Mike Lee, Joe Alvarez and D.J. Honan.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]