Maine Open: French, Barrett lead by two after first round

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Peter French, of Franklin, Mass., plays on Tuesday on the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Photo)

Chelso Barrett putts on the ninth green on Tuesday on the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Photo)

MANCHESTER — The way Peter French has been playing golf this summer, a brief lightning delay wasn’t going to throw off his game at the annual Charlie’s Maine Open.

French was on the 12th green when the lightning delay came at 3:31 p.m. When play resumed a half hour later, French kept his strong round at Augusta Country Club going.

“I’ve just kind of been building on everything all summer,” French said. “I’ve been playing good all summer. I’ve been making strides in the right direction.”

French, of Franklin, Mass., shot a six-under par 64 and enters the final round Wednesday tied with Chelso Barrett of Henniker, New Hampshire, for the lead after the opener of the two-day tournament. French and Barrett will be joined in the final group by John Vanderlaan of Southbury, Connecticut, who shot a 66. The final group is scheduled to tee off at noon.

“I just hit some shots in there close and had some pretty easy birdie looks. I didn’t really do anything spectacular. I kind of plodded away all day and hit some shots,” said Barrett, whose round was complete well before the half-hour delay.

French and Barrett hold a two-stroke lead over a group of seven golfers at minus-4 66. Among that group is two-time defending Maine Amateur champion Jack Wyman of South Freeport. Wyman was 6-under before back-to-back bogeys on 17 and 18 pulled him closer to the pack. The bogey on 17 was the result of a three-putt.

“I just missed that birdie putt, and I just lost focus there on the little tap-in and it cost me,” said Wyman, who was the low amateur player at Charlie’s Maine Open last year. “Kind of had a tough finish there, but I’m still happy. I played well.”

Mark Plummer, a 13-time Maine Amateur champ, shot a 1-over 71. He was the third-lowest amateur behind Wyman and Aidan Boyce (1-under 69). Amateurs Eric Dugas (Pittsfield) and Jason Gall (Augusta) each carded a 2-over 72. Joining them in the final round Wednesday are Michael Nowak (Belgrade), Mitchell Tarrio (Augusta) and Taylor Morang (Winthrop), who each shot a 4-over 74.

French entered the tournament as one of the hotter golfers in the field. He shot 10-under on the opening day of the New Hampshire Open last month. He ended up placing fifth in the tournament. At the Vermont Open in June, French was in the final group on the final day, before finishing tied for 13th. French also tied for fifth at the Massachusetts Open in June.

On Tuesday, French was steady, with no bogeys and six birdies. His birdie on the 540-yard, par-5 18th hole tied him with Barrett for the lead.

“I was really hitting the ball kind of streaky today. My putter on the front side was hot, and I made the birdies I could. Other ones, I saved pars and kept it steady all day,” French said. “When I get on my good stretches, quite rarely do I put myself in those bad positions or let bad mistakes compile.”

French was on the 12th green when the horn sounded, letting the players know play was halted with lightning in the area. Rain never fell and play resumed a half hour later. The break didn’t bother French, he said, and was much easier to handle than a delay he endured earlier this season on the Mackenzie Tour of the Canadian PGA.

“In Canada, we finished 17 holes and had to stay an extra night, wake up, and play one hole the next day,” said French, 24, who has been a pro since late in 2016.

Barrett’s round was almost as consistent as French’s. Barrett’s lone bogey came on the fourth hole, but he followed that with three consecutive birdies. Barrett also birdied 18.

French and Barrett are making their second appearance at the Charlie’s Maine Open after debuting last summer. Neither played well last year, and both were eager to take another crack at the Augusta Country Club course.

“It’s a really short golf course, and last year I played in kind of conservative off the tee. It almost made it more difficult. I’m just trying to be aggressive off the tee this year and give myself birdie looks,” Barrett said.

Last year’s winner, JD Dornes of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was 3-under with a 67 and is tied for 10th, three shots off the lead. Dornes played a bogey-free round, saying he felt he left some birdie chances on the course.

“It’s always good to come back to a place you played well before. This course, it looks good to me. I didn’t feel like I played all that great today. I didn’t make any bogeys, though, which was nice,” Dornes said. “I should have a chance going into (Wednesday). Just being there last year, being able to get it done, it will help me going into tomorrow.”

Temperatures were in the high 80s and low 90s for much of the day, with a heat index approaching 100 degrees. Players said with plenty of water available on the course, and many using carts, the heat wasn’t a big factor in their play.

“It gets a little hot out there, but as long as you drink a lot of water, you’re fine,” Dornes said.

Peter French, of Franklin, Mass., plays on Tuesday on the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Photo)

Peter French, of Franklin, Mass., plays on Tuesday on the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Photo)

John Elliott, of Westerly, R.I., had a four-under-par on Tuesday on the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Photo)

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