OAKLAND – One thing Lance Libby wasn’t lacking Tuesday was knowledge of the golf course.
When the 22-year old teed off in the morning, he had all the confidence in the world that he knew how to play the Waterville Country Club. That’s because he’s worked at the course for six years.
On a day where precision and placement were vital, Libby knew just where he had to be.
“Off the tee, I left myself in good places,” said Libby. “I’m comfortable with every tee shot because I know where I have to hit.”
The recent Husson graduate used his familiarity to shoot a 1-under-par 69 to take the first-round lead in the 88th Maine Amateur. The second round continues today, and the top 40 players and ties advance to Thursday’s final round.
“I made a lot of pars,” said Libby. “I was pretty solid overall.”
Libby had a one-shot lead on a handful of golfers, including 13-time winner Mark Plummer. Also tied at 70 were Minot’s Keegan Fennessy, Joe Alvarez and Eric Higgins. Rumford native Todd Kirn was close behind at 71. Toby Spector, Ricky Jones and Gary Manoogian all followed with a 72.
Libby’s former teammate at Husson, Ross McGee, shot a 71, but was disqualified for submitting an incorrect scorecard. McGee mistakenly turned in a card with an even-par 70 because of a wrong score on the final hole.
With the heavy rains Monday and lingering fog, the course was a bit softer in the morning. The greens were slick, but only got faster as the day progressed and the sun and wind dried things out.
“It was definitely the best time to play,” said Plummer, who played in the second group. “Earlier is always better. I just tried to keep the ball below the hole and played to the middle of the greens and made pars.”
Libby also had an early start. He had a safe round, with a 3-putt bogey on 13 and a birdie on the 15th.
“I was pretty conservative,” said Libby. “I didn’t try to crush it or do anything I don’t usually do. Everyday, I’ll just try to shoot par and if I make a few birdies, great. If I don’t, I’ll try better the next day.”
It was a birdie on 18 that gave Libby the one-stroke lead. His approach shot stopped within 10 feet of the hole. The putt was one he’d made a number of times at Waterville.
“I didn’t hit a really good drive,” said Libby. “I hit it a little right and hit a lob wedge from about 80 yards and left it in a good spot, just uphill, right to left. It was an easy putt.”
Plummer had an equally solid round to tie for second. He bogeyed No. 8 because of a three-putt, but sank a 10-footer for birdie on the 14th.
“I was pleased,” said Plummer. “I hit the ball good. I made a few putts. I never really got into much trouble. It was a fairly stress-free round.”
Kirn was 1-under after four holes but had a triple-bogey on No. 5. He rebounded with a pair of birdies on the back.
“You just try not to make any mistakes,” said Kirn, a former member of Oakdale Country Club in Mexico.
Kirn was among the leaders last year and finished tied for third. That was after reaching the semifinals in match play the previous two years.
“Every year you play, you realize that the first couple of days you just try to get in position,” said Kirn, an optometrist in Sanford, who nearly didn’t play this year because he has three young children. “If you can get into striking distance, that would be good.”
Spector was 3-under after nine holes, but struggled on the back. He finished at 72, even after a birdie on the 18th. Spector was a former member at Waterville and played his home matches there in high school.
“It fell apart after nine,” said Spector. “I didn’t keep it in play. I hit the ball all over the place on the back nine. I was kind of all over the golf course on the first nine too, but I got lucky and kept it reasonable. But, then it caught up to me on the back nine.”