Four golfers from Maine and one with ties to the state advanced through U.S. Open local qualifying this month and will play in 36-hole sectional qualifying June 6.

There are 11 sectional tournaments. Get through that rigid test, and it’s on to the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., from June 16-19.

As mentioned last week, Shawn Warren of Windham was one of the Mainers who advanced. Also making it through local qualifying were Eric Higgins of Kennebunk, Toby Spector of Waterville, Sean Gorgone, formerly of Topsham, and Mack Duke, who summers in Rockport and played in the Maine State Golf Association junior program. Duke played in last year’s Maine Amateur at Kebo Valley before turning pro.

Warren qualified in Western Massachusetts. Higgins and Gorgone qualified in Lake Mary, Fla. Spector made it in Pinehurst, N.C.; and Duke, from Loxley, Ala., advanced in Birmingham, Ala.

Higgins and Warren will play in the sectionals at Summit, N.J. Higgins returned from Florida last week and will be working part-time at Cape Arundel in Kennebunkport. Higgins and Warren will play practice rounds at the course next weekend. This will be Warren’s second trip to the sectionals and Higgins’ first. Warren is an assistant pro at Falmouth and plays in New England PGA sectional tournaments.

Warren appears to be playing his best golf and feels he has a good chance to qualify for the U.S. Open.

“I’m playing well enough that I don’t think I’m a long shot to get in,” said Warren. “If I continue to do the things I’ve been doing, I don’t see why I can’t make it. I’ve had some pretty good rounds considering the spring conditions we’ve played in.”

Higgins shot a 67 on May 19, in his first competitive round in three months because of tendinitis in his elbow. Gorgone, who lives in Apopka, Fla., also shot 67.

“I had no expectations,” said Higgins, who won the Maine Amateur in 2007, the year after Warren won it. “I didn’t touch a club until April. It was a good feeling to play well. At the sectionals, I’m just going to enjoy the experience.”

Higgins worked at Coral Creek Country Club in Placida, Fla., last winter.

The biggest change in Warren’s game is the long putter in his bag. Warren was convinced to go with it by a fellow pro, Joe Cioe, who caddied for him at the local qualifier and will do the same at the sectionals.

“I’ve been using it for just over a year,” said Warren. “It took me a year to adjust to it but I’m finally putting great. I’m a lot more consistent. For a long time I was an average putter. I’d have my moments when I really putted well with my regular putter. In order to get to the next level I had to become a great putter.”

The last Mainer to play in a U.S. Open was Casey Bourque of Biddeford in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. Before that, it was Gorgone in 1991 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.

 

TEE TO GREEN: Ricky Jones of Thomaston and Seth Sweet of Madison are alternates from Wednesday’s USGA Public Links qualifier at Brunswick Golf Club. Jones shot a pair of 73s. Sweet went 74-77. Mac Gilbert of St. Georges, Quebec, shot 71-73 to earn the lone spot available for the national tournament, which will be held at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., from June 27 to July 2.

Two teams tied for first place in the recent club team championship at Belgrade Lakes. Steve Bouthot, David Cook, Scott Dewitt and Keith Patterson II of Biddeford-Saco, and Tom Bean, Ryan Gay, Mark Plummer and Jim Quinn of Augusta both shot 6-under 136.

At the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, Cole Kelly, Jim Lomac, Brian Maloney and Gary Fontaine went 1-2-3-4 on the ninth hole, a downhill 170-yarder.

Lomac had the birdie, only to be topped by Kelly’s hole-in-one.

Lomac hit his 5-iron shot to a foot. Kelly then took an unusual route to the cup. A left-hander, he pushed his shot slightly. It caromed off the mound beyond the sand trap, took a right turn and rolled straight into the cup. It was Kelly’s third career hole-in-one.

As for Lomac, who has played the game for 50 years, he hit the purest shot of the group but was denied his first ace.

“I’ve come close but I’ve never had one. Everyone was hollering because my shot came close to going in, and then Cole steps up and knocks it in,” he said.

The one consolation: his group won the weekly Saturday match.

A final reminder that the deadline to enter the men’s Maine Amateur is Thursday.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: TomChardPPH