Dennis Walch of Westbrook didn’t start playing golf until he was in his 40s, but it wasn’t too long before he became addicted.

“I used to hack it up pretty good, but I loved it,” he said.

Walch, a retired Westbrook High teacher and coach, bought “The Maine Golf Guide” by Bob Labbance and David Cornwell to learn of courses to play.

“Everytime I played a course in the book, I would mark it down,” said Walch, 63.

He soon had a goal of playing every public golf course in Maine.

“That book was my inspiration. When I get something in my mind, I get a little crazy about doing it,” he said.

Twenty-two years later, Walch has written his own book — “The Greens of Maine — I Played Them All.” The book includes 148 public courses but doesn’t include any private courses, although Walch also has played a few of those and hopes to play them all.

He offers his experiences, descriptions of each course, memorable holes and history.

The courses are arranged in four regions: southern, coastal, central and northern.

The book has an attractive glossy cover and back. Inside are glossy color photos, taken by Walch, of picturesque holes. Also included is a list, by year, of when each course opened.

When Walch began his quest to play every course, the idea of writing a book about it hadn’t crossed his mind. It wasn’t until a few years later after he started crisscrossing the state that the seed was planted.

Walch’s father-in-law, Paul Phelan, an author and former newspaper reporter, told him “there’s a book in you.”

“He kept bugging me. I didn’t know if he was needling me or what,” said Walch.

The obsessive part of his personality took over.

“As I played more courses and after seeing the movie ‘Bucket List’ with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I said ‘Why not?’ Once I started writing about the courses, I couldn’t stop,” he said.

Having played many of the courses several years before, Walch didn’t have trouble remembering the courses or the holes. He collects scorecards. That helped him, but one trait helped more than anything.

“I have a photographic memory of golf holes,” he said. “I forget people’s names and can’t remember details of other things, but golf holes I remember. I can tell you most things about a hole I’ve played.”

Even though he was thorough with his research, a few courses were left out inadvertently at first.

“The last course I played to complete the book was Northeast Harbor in the fall of 2009, but then I found two more,” said Walch.

Just prior to publication, Walch decided to take more pictures of Wilson Lake in Wilton because he wasn’t happy with the ones he had taken. Driving to the course, he discovered another course he didn’t know about.

“It was Hebron Pines in Hebron, a nine-holer,” he said.

Since he decided to write the book after he had played the majority of the courses, Walch hadn’t taken any pictures. He estimates he traveled an additional 3,500 miles for that.

On a trip to Aroostook County, Walch once played five courses in a day. When he got to the last course, Long Lake in St. David, the owner wouldn’t let him play because it was league night and only golfers in the league could play at that time.

“I’ve got to play the course,” Walch said to the owner. The owner asked what Walch’s handicap was and fit in him with the league players. The next day, he played four more County courses.

Walch often is asked what his favorite Maine course is. His diplomatic response: “Whatever course I’m playing.”

Walch was allowed to play for free at the majority of courses, after he told operators that he was trying to play every course in the state and was writing a book.

After finishing his book, he had to figure out how to get it published. Fortunately, he has a family connection to the publishing business. Walch’s uncle was J. Weston Walch, the founder of Walch Publishing in Portland.

“I called my cousin, Peter Walch, who I hadn’t seen in 35 years,” said Walch. “I told him I had written a book and wondered how I could get it published. He put me in touch with the company’s production manager.

“It didn’t hurt that my name was Walch. The company doesn’t do personal books. They publish school textbooks.”

So far, 270 copies have been printed and 140 have been sold. With the golf season arriving, Walch is hopeful there’ll be demand for more copies.

“Golf nuts want to know everything about golf,” said Walch. “They can use this book as a reference guide to all public golf courses in Maine or just enjoy some of my experiences in playing them all.

 

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