Saturday, March 8, 2014
MANCHESTER – The Maine Amateur returned to the Augusta Country Club for the first time in 12 years, and golfers were greeted this week with a course that needed nearly a month of prep work.
“About a month ago, we talked to the (Maine State Golf Association) about our expectations and their expectations,” said Jason Hurd, general manager and PGA head golf pro at Augusta CC. “We talked green speeds, pin placements and how to make the course a challenge. We wanted it to be fair but we wanted to make it challenging.”
The MSGA determined pin placements and the rough was grown to three inches.
“The rough is the defense,” Hurd added. “We usually keep the rough at 2 inches or 2 1/2; inches. You want your course to have a name for itself.”
The recent stretch of wet weather hampered efforts to make the course as challenging as officials hoped.
Periods of rain resulted in softer greens, as was the case Wednesday.
“I think it played easier, to be honest,” said 13-time Maine Am champ Mark Plummer, who shot a 2-over par 72 Wednesday. “It’s just not as fast. You can hit it at the pin from anywhere. The water made it a little defenseless.”
Ryan Gay, who shot even 70 and trails leader Ricky Jones by six shots heading into the final round today, agreed.
“It’s definitely a little soft,” he said. “The weather has been brutal. Rain, rain, rain. It’s been tough for them to keep it in tournament condition.”
Club workers mowed the course at 4:30 Wednesday morning prior to the first group going out at 7.
Hurd acknowledged the weather has been a factor.
“It’s been a challenge,” he said, “and frustrating. “We haven’t been able to get out as much.”
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Some extra time on the putting green paid off for defending champ Seth Sweet, who shot a 1-over 71 Wednesday.
The Madison native made three birdies for a second straight day, but only had four bogeys compared to the eight he endured Tuesday.
He shot 5-over 75 in the first round.
“I played a lot better,” said Sweet, who attends Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “(Tuesday) was horrible. Just awful. I spent three hours after the round just working on my putting. I came out and hit the ball a lot better (Wednesday).”
Sweet made birdie putts on No. 1, No. 8 and the difficult par 4 13th, which measured 458 yards.
“I hit a good shot right down the middle and then a 5 iron to two feet of the pin,” he said. “It’s probably the toughest hole on the course. It felt good.”
Sweet finished the round with bogeys on No. 16 and No. 17.
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Former University of Maine men’s hockey goalie Alfie Michaud qualified for his second Maine Amateur in the last seven years.
Michaud, who backstopped the Black Bears to the 1999 national championship, shot an 11-over 81 Wednesday.
He failed to make the cut, but still cherished the experience of competing in the tournament.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I really enjoy it. It’s cool to see how guys Ryan Gay, Ricky Jones and Mark Plummer get around a course.”
Michaud, 36, lives in Vienna with his wife and three children. He runs a goalie school, Dream Catcher’s Hockey, out of Kents Hill.
He turned professional after the 1999 season at Maine.
“I’ve been a pro 15 years and a lot of people, myself included, never thought that would happen,” he said. “I love it. I mean I’m getting paid to play hockey.”
Michaud played in two National Hockey League games, for the Vancouver Canucks in 2000, but otherwise has bounced around.
He’s spent time in the American Hockey League as well as the East Coast Hockey League.
Michaud now plays goalie for Soenderjyske, a professional team based in Vojens, Denmark. He’s played there the last three years.
“I’m gone seven to nine months of the year but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Michaud said he picked up golf when he turned pro because it gave him something to do during his down time in the summer.
“I’ve been trying to qualify for the Maine Am for the last seven years,” he said. “So two out of seven isn’t bad.”
Bill Stewart – 621-5640