After 40 years of being on the sidelines covering Maine golf and high school sports, I was front and center last Thursday night at the 20th annual Maine Golf Hall of Fame induction banquet at the Poland Spring Resort.

An unfamiliar position for sure.

I was one of the inductees along with John Hickson, Al Noyes, Frank Tirabassi and Hiriam Ricker Jr. Hickson has been one of the top playing New England club professionals for several years. Noyes is a long-time Portland Country Club member who has won several Maine Seniors titles and had an interesting caddying background as a youth at the Augusta Country Club. Tirabassi was a Maine Interscholastic champion in 1936 and then the assistant and head pro at Riverside Golf Course in Portland for many years. Ricker was a two-time Maine Amateur champion in the 1920s whose family ran Poland Spring Resort where young “Hi” learned to play the game. Tirabassi and Ricker were honored posthumously.

And then there was me.

In a Steve Solloway column on my induction, Gary Rees, the Hall’s executive director, called me “a friend to Maine golf.”

I’m used to writing and talking about the athletic exploits of others, not myself. Each inductee gives a speech after being introduced by a friend or family member. I couldn’t have picked a better person for that assignment.

My niece, Shelby Marshall of Westborough, Mass., gave me an eloquent introduction. A week and a half before, Shelby interviewed me, another role reversal, to gain more information for her talk.

Then it was my turn to step up to the podium. I half-joked that my niece had done such a great job, I really didn’t need to say anything. In my years as a sportswriter, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to be in front of a microphone. My whole family, including my daughter, Lindsay, who arrived from Washington, D.C., where she works, was there along with numerous friends. It was time to step up to the plate.

In that Solloway piece, I said I would be a little nervous. And in the subsequent days, people at the golf course, in the office and elsewhere asked me how my speech was coming together.

Prior to the annual golf tournament that day, Blaine Davis, the former executive director of the Maine Golf Hall of Fame, half seriously, told me he didn’t come for the golf or the meal, but to hear my speech. Thanks, Blaine. No pressure.

Several hours before my big moment, the golf tournament allowed me to escape on the beautiful Links at Poland Spring on a glorious September day. The highlight of the scramble tournament came on our team’s 15th hole of the day, when my niece wedged in for an eagle on a par-4 hole. Shelby was a star softball player at York High and an All-Ivy League catcher at Brown University. She thought briefly of trying pro golf and took lessons from noted instructor Peter Kostis in Arizona. She hasn’t played much golf lately because of family and work obligations, but she can still hit the ball a long distance, as she did when she nearly drove the 18th hole, a 254-yard poke from the ladies’ tees.

A few hours later, I was prepared. I had worked on my speech for several weeks and fined tuned it in the days before. I talked about how my career has overlapped the way newspapers were produced with hot type and today’s technology. I talked about some of the people I have written about in golf, the great shots and tournaments I have witnessed, and the honor of being inducted in the Maine Golf Hall of Fame.

People told me they loved my speech. To borrow a baseball phrase, I hit it out of the ballpark.

I did so well that I’m thinking of becoming a public speaker.

Nah, on second thought, I think I’ll stick to writing.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: TomChardPPH