SACO — In a sports year when nothing has been normal, it figured that there would be surprises – and very little decided – during the first round of the 101st Maine State Golf Association Amateur Championship at Biddeford-Saco Country Club on Tuesday.

Jon Humphrey, 29, a radio advertising salesman from Presque Isle playing the first Maine Am round of his career, shot a 1-under par 70 and is in a four-way tie for the lead in a closely bunched field. Nineteen players are within three shots of the lead, 33 within five shots.

“The last three years I’ve kind of taken the turn, playing better. I had a game plan today and stuck to it,” Humphrey said.

Also tied for the lead are Alex McGonagle, 20, of Portland; Armand Ouellette, 18, of Saco and a Biddeford-Saco member; and Drew Powell, 22, of Holden, who is entering his senior season on the Duke University team.

Ouellette and Powell posted their scores in the afternoon, when the wind picked up considerably. On Wednesday they will get the perceived advantage of a morning tee time.

“You can’t win the tournament on the first day but you can play your way into it and I feel I did that,” Ouellette said. “I think the afternoon had the tougher conditions.”

Of the leaders, only Powell has previously contended in the Maine Am, finishing in the top 10 three straight years, including fourth in 2018.

“The last four or five years I’ve been close, I just haven’t put three good rounds together,” Powell said. “I know I can play a really low round here. It suits my game. Positional golf and then wedge it close.”

Four players are one stroke off the lead after even-par 71s: defending champion Cole Anderson, 19, of Camden who plays at Florida State; 2018 U.S. Amateur qualifier Will Kannegieser, 22, of Minot; Cade Charron, 18, of Topsham; and Biddeford-Saco member Brian Angis, 28, of Biddeford.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, adjustments to play and atmosphere have been made. On the course, pins stayed in the hole at all times and players were not allowed to use caddies. Spectators were allowed, without having to wear face masks, but signs emphasized social distancing. All attendees were told to wear face masks if they entered a building, and only outside seating was available for snacks and beverages.

Players said they’ve already adjusted to the changes in play. They’ve been in place since golf courses in Maine reopened May 1 after a month-long closure. What they haven’t had is enough competition.

“I hit a lot of high-quality shots but then there were other shots that were just kind of sloppy,” said Anderson, who won last year by eight shots at Portland Country Club. “The thing that I was thinking about, this is all of ours first competitive round in quite awhile. So everybody is going to have to knock off some rust. I expected to play well but I also expected to run into some mental errors that you’re just not used to making.”

For Humphrey, who did not play college golf, everything was a new experience. He had only played Biddeford-Saco once before, on Monday, and barely broke 90 on the 6,358-yard, par-71 course that emphasizes placement over distance off the tee and tests players with sloping, undulating greens.

Was Tuesday’s round beginner’s luck?

“Let’s hope not. A lot of target golf out there and I hit a lot of fairways and greens, made up-and-downs when I needed them and putted well,” he said.

Similarly, McGonagle was not a player pegged as a top contender. But he scored lower than former champs Anderson, Johnny Hayes (1-over) and Ricky Jones (4-over), and young standouts like 2018 New England Amateur champion Reese McFarlane (4-over), Kannegeiser, and two-time Maine high school champion Caleb Manuel (2-over) who will play for UConn this fall, assuming there are college sports during the pandemic.

McGonagle, Deering’s top player in high school, has refined his game in two years playing for Methodist University, a competitive Division III program in North Carolina. He won his qualifying round with a 4-under 68 at Brunswick Golf Club.

“I’ve been playing pretty well recently so I was hoping for right around par so I can’t complain,” McGonagle said. “Going down to school and playing year-round has definitely helped.”

After Wednesday’s round, the field will be cut to the top 40 players plus ties for Thursday’s final round.


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