July 29, 2013

Maine Open: High-risk, high-reward challenge

Several short par 4s at Augusta Country Club may look tempting for long hitters.

By GARY HAWKINS Kennebec Journal

MANCHESTER - Measuring around 6,300 yards, Augusta Country Club appears defenseless against a field of long hitters at the Charlie's Maine Open championship .

click image to enlarge

Dustin Cone, a two-time Maine Open champion, used a patient strategy to win last year’s event at Augusta Country Club, which is hosting the two-day tournament again this week.

John Patriquin/2011 Press Herald file

CHARLIE'S MAINE OPEN

WHEN: Monday and Tuesday

WHERE: Augusta Country Club, Manchester

2012 CHAMP: Dustin Cone, Florida

A field of 156, including 120 pros, will tee off Monday morning in the two-day, 36-hole tournament. Four of the par 4s may be driveable for big hitters willing to take a risk, but thick rough and fast greens could reward those who are patient.

"The rough is going to be thick," said three-time Maine Amateur champion Ryan Gay, an Augusta Country Club member who recently turned pro. "The greens are going to be firm and fast. You've got to stay below the hole."

Dustin Cone, a Vermont native and Florida resident, used his driver just once last year in winning the tournament at Augusta in a playoff against fellow Florida pro Jimmy Lytle. Cone, who also won the tournament in 2010 at Riverside, shot a 3-under 137 and won when Lytle three-putted the first playoff hole. Both are in the field again, along with several former champions.

"We've got pros from Florida all up and down the East Coast," said ACC general manager and PGA head professional Jason Hurd. "There's lots of Maine pros in it, too."

Golfers will tee off in groups of three on both the first and 10th holes, starting at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. There will be no cut for pros, but the amateur field will be cut to 20 after the first day. A total of almost $51,000 is at stake, with $10,000 expected to go to the winner. Cone pocketed $9,000 last year.

Former winners in the field include Jerry DiPhilippo of Gorham (1995), Geoff Sisk of Marshfield, Mass. (1996), Ryan Ouellette of Pflugerville, Texas (2002), Shawn Warren of Windham (2004), Ricky Jones of Thomaston (2206), John Hickson of Topsham (2008), Cone (2010, 2012) and Michael Carbone of Brewster, Mass. (2011).

Warren and Jones are among 10 players who have won the tournament as amateurs. Warren, who has since turned pro, won the State of Maine Championship recently at Sugarloaf, and Jones won his third Maine Amateur title two weeks ago at Augusta, shooting 6-under par over three rounds.

Gay is among a contingent of Augusta Country Club members that include 13-time Maine Amateur champion Mark Plummer and Jason Gall. He turned pro after the Maine Amateur and said he is willing to take risks in the right situation.

"I hit more drivers because I'm more familiar with the course than most people," he said. "It kind of depends on the weather. (As a pro) you've got to shoot lower scores to win. You've got to play aggressively. One- or 2-under par is not going to win."

Charlie's Motor Mall, founded by ACC member Charlie Shuman, is the major sponsor. Shuman was instrumental in getting the tournament back to Augusta last year for the first time since 1960. This will be the 10th time the club has hosted the 95-year-old tournament.

Sunday, more than 20 foursomes competed in a pro-am, with all proceeds going to the Maine State Golf Association's scholarship fund. The MSGA committed $72,000 in scholarships this year to 12 high school students from around the state. 

Kennebec Journal's Gary Hawkins can be contacted at 621-5638 or at:

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

 

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