More golf courses have opened across the state in the last week. While that is cause for celebration, more encouraging is that most courses made it through the winter in good shape. That’s quite a difference from last year, when many courses in Maine and around New England suffered ice damage.

An early coat of insulating snow helped golf courses survive the elements.

“The consensus among the pros I’ve talked to is that their courses came through in good shape,” said Waterville Country Club pro Don Roberts. “I think we’re in the same boat. Our course is really good. The fairways are beautiful.”

Before many of them could see the grass at the start of April, golf course superintendents were optimistic. Back then, they said there wasn’t much ice on their greens. It appears their optimism was well founded.

Waterville opened nine holes on Friday – the original nine (the current Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 18). Weather depending, Roberts hopes the rest of the course could open early this week.

Waterville will host the men’s Maine Amateur Championship early in July. A year ago, it hosted the Women’s State Amateur.

A sampling of courses around the state found good conditions to be the rule rather than the exception.

Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn was one of the hardest hit courses last year.

“It’s a complete turnaround,” said head pro Bob Darling Jr. “We have no winter damage.”

The Maine State Golf Association got its tournament schedule under way Friday and Saturday with a weekly amateur at Fox Ridge.

“If you asked me two weeks ago if I thought we would be able to play the MSGA tournament this weekend, I would have said no. But the snow melted quickly and we’re ready to go,” said Darling.

Fox Ridge opened Thursday. Other public courses opening in the past week have been Riverside in Portland, Spring Meadows in Gray, Sable Oaks in South Portland, Rockland, Val Halla in Cumberland, Biddeford-Saco, Province Lake in Parsonsfield, Penobscot Valley in Orono, and Deep Brook in Saco.

The Links at Outlook in South Berwick opened 18 holes on April 18.

“All the greens are open,” said head pro Dave Paskowski. “We’ve already mowed the greens, tees and approaches. Everything is rolling pretty nice.”

Riverside started last season with 11 temporary greens on its 18-hole North course.

“All the greens came through. We have no issues,” said Ryan Scott, Riverside’s general manager.

“We’re looking for the weather to warm up. I haven’t heard of any bad greens in the state.”

Based on what he’s seen so far, Jim Fairbanks, director of golf at Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach, said, “I think it’s going to be a tremendous year of golf for a lot of courses. We came through the winter well. It was like a perfect winter for golf courses.”

Dunegrass will host the Maine Chapter of the New England PGA Championship June 2-3.

Brian Bickford, the head pro at Val Halla and the Cumberland recreation director, is also looking forward to a memorable season at the course.

“The greens are in good shape,” said Bickford. “Our bad actors as far as some greens are much better than they usually are. When the superintendent is optimistic, the golf pro is optimistic.”

Val Halla is celebrate its 50th anniversary. The big celebration will be July 5, with all kinds of activities planned.

In honor of the anniversary, Val Halla was awarded the state Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be played Sept. 12-13. Usually the tournament is split between two nearby courses, but Val Halla gets the entire event.

Reports from golfers who have played Old Marsh in Wells and The Ledges in York were that both are in excellent condition.

TEE TO GREEN: The first Maine State Golf Association Seniors tournament, postponed at Dunegrass because of rain on April 21, has been rescheduled for May 13. The State of Maine Championship at Sugarloaf has been moved to Aug. 10-11.

Of this weekend’s first MSGA weekly amateur at Fox Ridge, Mike Doran of the MSGA said: “Everyone was very excited to get going. It’s been a long time coming. The difference between this year and last is like night and day. The courses are starting to green up.”

Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or:

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