The State of Maine Championship will be held Aug. 27-29 at Sugarloaf, but according to veteran Maine golfers it will not be the event it once was.
When started back in 1989, primarily as a project promoted by Augusta Country Club pro Al Biondi, it became an extremely popular event. The field was good when it was played at the Bethel Inn course, but it became more popular when it moved to Sugarloaf in 1992, and it was not unusual for the tournament to contain 120 players.
It was outstanding competition in those days, and it was a party for the entire field.
In recent years, the size of the field has been reduced, and this year the expected entries are from 40 to 60, which will mean the prize money for the pro and senior pro champions will not be as great as it was during the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century.
The reason for the smaller field was explained by Randy Hodsdon, the Maine State Golf Association Tournament Manager, who played in this tournament during its heyday.
“The shrinking numbers are the product of a different culture among Maine golf pros,” he said. “They do not participate in as many pro-am tournaments as they once did. In those days, there was a pro-am every Monday from April into October.”
Hodsdon then put his finger on the number problem.
“Pros are finding it hard to leave their clubs to play in tournaments,” he said.
Don Doyon, who is in his first season as New England PGA Section Operations Manager, is in charge of putting together the State of Maine Championship, and he will be taking entries almost to the last moment. Doyon is familiar with Maine because for 14 years he worked for the MSGA, retiring early this year as its Director of Member Services and Course Ratings.
He is hopeful that this stroke play event will make a comeback in 2018, as it offers four divisions: Pro, Senior Pro, Amateur and Senior Amateur. The schedule calls for a pro-am on Aug. 27, followed by two rounds of stroke play on Aug. 28 and 29. The sponsor this year is Five-Star Cars, which sells golf carts.
Past champions include Bob Darling of Fox Ridge (1996, 2998, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2015) and current Fox Ridge pro Jerry Diphilippo (twice in the 1990s).
With Labor Day weekend upcoming, there is minimal tournament action on the horizon. Women’s weekly events are Aug. 28 at Bangor Municipal and Sunday River, and the MSGA Senior Amateur is Aug. 28-29 at Waterville, with the weekend tour Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at Norway.