If the players in the 93rd Maine Amateur at Sunday River Golf Club in Newry pause for a moment before that slippery, downhill putt or a 5-iron to an elevated green and soak in the scenery, the upcoming shot may not seem so important.

Situated in the Jordan Bowl, the golf course has 360 degrees of world class views. And the layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. will provide a stern test for the 132-player field.

From the black tee markers, the par-72 course measures 7,130 yards. The course rating from those markers is 75.2, with a slope of 146.

The 54-hole tournament, which runs Tuesday through Thursday, will likely be played from a yardage between the black and blue tee markers, between 6,700 and 6,800 yards.

That’s plenty of golf for the state’s top amateurs.

A cut to the low 40 and ties will be made after Wednesday’s round.

“The course will be fair,” said Sam Marzenell, tournament director for the Maine State Golf Association. “The winner will be someone who hits it very straight and is a great putter. The greens are very undulating and fast.”

Traditionally, Maine’s country clubs have hosted the bulk of the state amateurs. This is the first time Sunday River has hosted the event, and it’s the first time the tournament will be played significantly above sea level.

Sunday River opened 18 holes in 2005.

“It’s going to be a good tournament,” said head professional James Gilleon. “The course is in really good condition. I feel the course requires a lot of local knowledge. There’s a certain group of players in the tournament who have played the course a few times. I’m sure the golfers who haven’t played here have had a practice round or two.”

While appearing imposing, the course offers one quality that could keep scores from soaring: The fairways are wide.

“The landing areas are generous,” said Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf, the course owner.

“The players should be able to keep the ball in play all day. It’s the approach shots that are tough. We built it that way. The greens are large and will be quick, but fair for the tournament.

Harris said the first two rounds should be played from a yardage mixing the blue and black tees, but he would like to see the final round played closer to the black tees.

“It’s a great test of golf from the black tees,” he said.

“All of these kids can hit it 270 to 300 yards of the tee. From the back tees, those are the distances (where) the fairways widen.

“The winner is going to have to buckle down and let it happen. It’s a big, bad golf course when you play it back there.”

The Maine State Golf Association handles course setup and determine tees and pin positions.

Joe Alvarez of Hampden knows the course well, having won a state Mid-Amateur title there. Alvarez has finished in the top 10 eight of the last nine years, and won the inaugural state match play championship two years ago at Augusta Country Club.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Alvarez. “The course is in great shape.”

Alvarez said a mountain course presents different challenges, with the elevation and possible weather changes.

“There so much elevation that judging distances could be a challenge,” he said. “There are a lot of downhill shots where the ball really flies. The course really tests your accuracy off the tee and on approaches. Putting-wise, the greens are probably easier to putt than some of the Donald Ross greens we play.

Ryan Gay of Pittston is the defending champion. If Gay wins again, it will be his fourth Maine Amateur title, which would tie him with Sean Gorgone and Isaac Merrill Jr. for fifth on the all-time list, behind Mark Plummer (13), Dick Diversi (6), John Boyd (5) and Ray Lebel (5).

“You get 18 level lies on the tee boxes and not another one on the course,” said Gilleon, the 2001 Maine Open winner.

As for the winning score on this scenic, challenging golf course?

“I feel someone at even par for three rounds will be hoisting the trophy,” said Gilleon.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: TomChardPPH


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