Jack Wyman practices hitting from out of a sand trap at the Portland Country Club in Falmouth last August. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald

While recreational golfers across Maine have been able to get in their round over the last couple weeks, young pro golfers are left to play practice rounds and watch as tournament after tournament is taken off the board due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“It kind of takes away from what I expected this summer, competitive-wise,” said Gavin Dugas, a Pittsfield native who went pro last year.

South Freeport’s Jack Wyman went pro after posting back-to-back strong amateur seasons in 2017 and 2018, winning the Maine Am in each of those years. Wyman spent the winter in the Orlando, Florida area, playing mini tour and qualifying events. This spring, Wyman planned to enter qualifying school for PGA Canada’s Mackenzie Tour. On Tuesday, the United States and Canada announced the border will remain closed for non-essential travel until June 21, meaning even if the Q school was underway, Wyman could not participate.

“Q School is postponed and we’re waiting to see if they have it,” Wyman said.

Max Bolduc hits a ball into play at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester on Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Dugas planned to play in two qualifying tournaments for the Korn Ferry Tour, including the tour’s scheduled tournament at Falmouth Country Club on June 8-14. Those tournaments were canceled.

“It kind of puts a damper on things,” Dugas said. “It’s been stalled.”

Recently, Dugas has been able to play and work on his game at JW Parks, the Pittsfield course owned and operated by his family. Before the course was ready to play, and before the state allowed courses to open, Dugas was able to play using JW Parks’ indoor simulator.

The cancelation of all tournaments leaves a void, but the loss of Charlie’s Maine Open — which was to be played at the Augusta Country Club on June 30 and July 1 — is particularly stinging. With a majority of the tournament’s field typically comprised of out-of-state players, the tournament could not be played and conform to Maine’s current 14-day quarantine rules for visitors.

“I was pumped. The Maine Open is always one I put on my calendar and get psyched for,” said Wyman, who tied for seventh place in the tournament last year. In 2018, Wyman was the top amateur in the tournament, and tied for ninth overall. Wyman also was low amateur in Charlie’s Maine Open in 2017.

Wyman has been back home in Maine for a month, and has been playing a few rounds over the last two weeks to keep his game sharp. A qualifier at Ellington Ridge Country Club for the Travelers Championship Open in late June in Cromwell, Connecticut is, at the moment, still on the schedule. With so many other tournaments canceled, Wyman’s energy is currently focused on that qualifier at Ellington Ridge (Ellington, Connecticut), from which the low two scores will earn a spot in the Travelers tournament.

A diabetic, Wyman understands the extra caution being used to ensure players health and safety before resuming tournaments.

“I get things on my calendar and I try to gear up for that. You’ve got to look forward to something,” Wyman said.

The Maine State Golf Association is considering a tournament for Maine-based players later this summer, in place of the Maine Open.

 

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As of Tuesday, the Maine Amateur Championship is still scheduled for July 7-9 at Biddeford-Saco Country Club. Four one-day qualifying tournaments are set for June: June 9 at Willowdale Golf Club in Scarborough, June 11 at Brunswick Golf Club, June 16 at Poland Springs Golf Club, and June 18 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course.

Charlie Shuman watches his ball roll on to a green at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester on Tuesday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

If the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the Maine Am, it will be the first time the tournament would not be held since 1943 and 1944, during World War II. Biddeford-Saco is set to host the tournament for the fourth time, and the first since 2008. That year, Gardiner’s Ryan Gay won the first of his three Maine Am titles in four years, winning again at Kebo Valley in 2010 and Portland Country Club in 2011.

 

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Maine courses are adjusting well to the new rules regarding social distancing and the health of players. Mainers working at golf courses in other parts of the country are adjusting, too.

Fairfield native Ross McGee is the player services manager at The Club at the Strand in Naples, Florida. McGee said his club never closed, although others nearby did. The rules at The Club at the Strand are similar to those at Maine courses. All players are mandated to bring their own towels, and it’s one player per cart unless they live together.

All ball washers and rakes have been removed from the course, McGee said, and the flagstick is not to be touched. Each hole is fitted so the ball barely goes below ground, making it easy for players to touch their golf ball without grabbing the flag.

The course scaled back hours in April, but are back to normal hours, McGee said. As in Maine, golf is providing people with a welcome distraction in stressful times.

“We are doing record business and many members have stayed here (in the Naples area) to avoid other hot spot areas they call home for the summer,” McGee said.

 

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The sun is out and tee times are filling up — fast.

AJ Kavanaugh, director of golf at Brunswick Golf Club, said Tuesday that his course is seeing a big turnout as people seek permissible recreation activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Golfers play the ninth hole at Brunswick Golf Club on a sun-splashed Tuesday morning. Submitted photo

“We are busy, overwhelmingly busy,” he said. “The course is in fantastic shape and we’re having good weather. And there’s a lot of people with not a lot to do.”

Kavanaugh estimated about 200 golfers are playing each day, with tee times available from 7:36 a.m. to 5:48 p.m. That number increases over the weekend.

Tuesday also marked the return of the club’s Twilight League, which has 96 golfers.

“We’ve been over 100 but we do 12-minute tee times and double-sided tees,” said Kavanaugh, who added the club’s Ladies League is set to begin in June. “We can go off at No. 1 and No. 10. We social distance and we are set up well there.”

The club is set to host a Maine State Golf Association event on June 5-6, and then possibly a Maine Amateur qualifier on June 11.

“A few things are still up in the air,” Kavanaugh said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

 

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Over two-weeks into the state’s phased reopening, golf courses are getting used to the new rules and restrictions.

At The Bath Golf Club, golfers have come in steadily.

“I think overall things have gone smoothly for us,” said Sean McCarthy, director of operations for Resurrection Golf. “We focused on reading everything to the letter and uphold the governor’s intentions. Customer and staff safety is the first priority. People have been staying in their car for ten minutes before, no one is staying after and we have gotten the touchless pay going and so we have no complaints. We are happy to be open.”

McCarthy runs four different golf courses in the state, and he said at The Bath Golf Club, it’s been a smooth transition with new rules in place.

“We’ve just laid out the entire workflow and process for the day,” McCarthy said. “Golf carts are a good example. The easiest way to do it is to spray a sanitizer through a hand pump sprayer and let all of it dry and let it become sanitized. We have different cards to put on the carts to tell the difference, and in high-traffic times we have someone directing traffic between clean and dirty golf carts.”

For golfers, it’s business as usual.

“I play probably once a week, maybe twice,” avid golfer and Greely High School girls basketball coach Todd Flaherty said. “We normally have a Tuesday game out here and I can see some of the regulars so that’s pretty normal. Wednesday is usually league night but that’s been postponed until June 11. Usually 40 people show up on league night so we are taking some time to figure it out.

“To me, I never saw why golf was closed in the first place. It’s a socially distanced sport so, no, no problems at all. Not touching the flag isn’t a big deal, no rakes in the sand pits, that’s not a big deal. It’s been pretty normal.”

McCarthy said that league nights have had to be delayed but golfers have been patient with the changes.

For 8-year-old Cameron McCarren, there hasn’t been any change in routine. Once golf courses opened back up, McCarren joined his father, Joshua Logan, almost everyday to golf at The Bath Golf Club. On Tuesday, McCarren and Logan were waiting in the parking lot for Logan’s father to golf.

 “We come here everyday,” McCarren said. “I started playing five years ago. I just like the tee box.”

Logan said his son can drive the ball 170 yards, so it’s no wonder McCarren’s favorite part of golf is the tee box.

 

Sports editor Bill Stewart and staff writer Adam Robinson contributed to this report.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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