After a long winter, the golf season has arrived. Spring, however, seems stuck in traffic. Nevertheless, the faithful are happy to chase the little white ball.
For golfers who like to play in tournaments, the Paul Bunyan always has represented their opening day.
This year’s tournament carries extra significance because the Bunyan will hold its 50th annual tournament June 7-8 in Orono and Bar Harbor.
“There aren’t a lot of tournaments that have that longevity,” said Matt Barnard, communications director for Harris Golf, the tournament owner. “The spirit of the event has stayed consistent with the players. Golfers are continually mentioning how many Bunyans they’ve played in.”
The Bangor Daily News started the tournament in 1965. A subsidiary of the newspaper ran it for a few years before Skip Chappelle, the former University of Maine men’s basketball coach, took it over.
Chappelle handed it to Harris Golf of Bath, which has run it for five years. Harris Golf owns six courses in the state, including Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, one of the tournament’s two courses, with Kebo Valley of Bar Harbor.
In its heyday, the Bunyan was a three-day, 54-hole tournament on three courses that attracted more than 500 golfers. Now it’s two days of 36 holes and a full field is 288 golfers. Barnard is confident it will be a full field.
“We’re more than halfway there and ahead of last year’s pace,” he said.
As part of the celebration, the field will be treated to a banquet that’s included in the $99 entry fee. It will be from 5-8 p.m. June 7 at Penobscot Valley.
“You don’t have to be there at the start,” said Barnard of the banquet. “Food will be available for the duration. It will allow the later starters at Kebo Valley a chance to get there.”
The opening round for Class A and B players will be at Penobscot Valley; C and D players will be at Kebo Valley. They’ll switch courses for the second round.
There also will be a women’s division.
The deadline to enter the tournament is May 16.
Both defending champions, Ricky Jones of Thomaston – who has won five Bunyan tournaments – and Stephanie Babin of Biddeford-Saco will be back. Also entered is Casey Catell, a co-champion with Jason K. Harris in 2012. Catell tied for fifth place gross last year.
The tournament attracts golfers from all corners of the state and even some from outside.
“We have a group from Georgia that’s been playing for four straight years,” said Barnard. “The leader of the group used to live in Maine and played in the Bunyan every year. We also have some golfers from Saint John, New Brunswick, playing.”
Barnard said that Penobscot Valley and Kebo Valley have come through the winter in excellent condition.
For further information on the tournament, go to www.bunyangolf.com.
TEE TO GREEN: The Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth has a new management team with the hiring of Ken Young as general manager, Tony Decker as head golf pro and Rob Knott as golf superintendent. Young has extensive experience in golf course operations and has worked at some of the top courses in the country, including as general manager at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, the site of eight U.S. Opens. Most recently, Young was at the Quechee Club in Quechee, Vermont, from 2006-13. Decker was an assistant pro at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth for 11 years and was executive director of the Maine chapter of the New England PGA for 14 years. Decker was the New England PGA assistant pro of the year in 2012 and won the Horton Smith Award from the NEPGA in 2003 and 2008 for contributions to golf education. Decker graduated from Deering High in 1987, USM in 1991 and gained his Class A status as a pro in 1996. Knott has over 20 years experience and was most recently the senior assistant superintendent at Shelter Harbor in Charlestown, Rhode Island. A Gorham native, Knott graduated from USM with a degree in psychology and added a turfgrass management degree from North Carolina State.
Nonesuch River in Scarborough is offering an Intro To Golf program from May 14 to Sept. 3. For $450, participants can play seven days a week after 5:30 p.m. and get lessons every Wednesday between 5 and 7 p.m. on the range. If you don’t own clubs, the package includes rental clubs. The Nonesuch owner, Dan Hourihan, said the transition from lessons on the range to playing on the course can be intimidating and this program aims at lessening that. “It’s kind of an out-of-the-box way to grow the sport,” he said. To sign up, call the course at 883-0007, visit www.nonesuchgolf.com or go to the course.
Eric Lutz. the new head pro at Nonesuch, was a starter at Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach last year. Lutz also is a former assistant pro at Purpoodock. Mike Worroll, the former head pro at Purpoodock, will be a teaching pro at Nonesuch while looking to play in more tournaments.
Shawn Warren will be a teaching pro at Falmouth when he isn’t playing on the New England circuit, where last year he won the Skip Wogan Award as the region’s top player. Jason K. Harris is the new head pro at Penobscot Valley. Mike Vella is the new golf course superintendent at Wilson Lake in Wilton. Jim Fairbanks and Abby Spector return as golf profesionals for a second straight year at Dunegrass. Spector is being inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday with eight others.
Winter damage to Belgrade Lakes forced the Maine State Golf Association to reschedule two tournaments. The club team championship will be played June 22 and the inaugural senior club team championship will be July 17.
Samoset Resort assistant pro Alex Plummer said the course is in great shape. Although winter kill has taken a toll on several Maine courses, there are others that escaped the damage and are in good spring condition. One of those is Dunegrass, which hosted the first MSGA senior tour tournament Tuesday.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: