AUBURN – Now I understand why John Daly walks around with an unfiltered cigarette surgically attached to his sunburned lips and mainlines caffeine.

And he’s probably never waved a short iron over the wind-whipped horror show known as No. 5 at Fox Ridge Golf Club.

One hundred twenty victims of various renown addressed a ball Tuesday at Maine golf’s answer to Rubik’s Cube, Sudoku, Jenga and every other puzzle whose creator you’ve wished to assassinate.

Charlie’s Motor Mall shelled out a goodly amount to underwrite the Maine Open again this summer, but let’s just say Alka-Seltzer would be a worthy associate sponsor for the 202-yard par-3 from hell.

Plop-plop was the predominant sound from the Pac-Man shaped pond surrounding the tiered and fiendishly unreceptive green below. The idea of all three players in your group landing a Titleist on terra firma was ludicrous.

“You beat 80 out of 100 players if you put it on the green,” said Peter Matthews, the club professional at Western View Golf Course in Augusta.

Yeah, that’s about the size of it.

Many of the favorites to win this tournament teed off Tuesday morning before the sun was high enough in the sky to singe your neck. Eight of the first 18 players baptized a ball at No. 5, which acts as No. 14 on the reversed nines at this tournament. Those who didn’t get wet should consider buying a Powerball ticket if they were blessed enough to two-putt the undulating stamp with the punitive pin placement.

The first six hours of self-abuse at Fox Ridge’s signature landing strip yielded one birdie and a thousand obscenities.

“You look at that flag and it isn’t moving now, but we know we’ve had some wind gusts of at least 15 to 20 mph today,” said Maine State Golf Association tournament administrator Randy Hodsdon.

“This hole is twice as hard as No. 17 at the TPC at Sawgrass,” he continued, invoking an infamous island hole in Ponte Vedra, Fla. “I know. I’ve been there.”

Point given.

Back in the heyday of sports anthology shows, one of them aired highlights from an event at Sawgrass purporting to identify the World’s Worst Golfer. I vaguely remember some pot-bellied hacker teeing up 16 times before unleashing a pill that didn’t wind up as alligator bait.

And there’s the difference. Take it from Maine’s worst golfer: Under Tuesday’s conditions, many of us could reload 40, even 50 times and never land our sacrifice to the golfing gods on a patch of green real estate. Unless algae counts.

Trio after trio of trained professionals and distinguished amateurs stood toe-to-toe with the monster, and too many individuals walked away looking like Judge Smails from “Caddyshack.”

Poor David Havens. The Belgrade pro cast his first drive upon the waters, shy enough of the target that it entitled him to a drop from the ladies, um, I mean red tees. Take two (from 75 yards, as the buzzard flies) flirtatiously bounced twice within spitting distance of the cup before sashaying into the soup like a Mexican jumping bean.

“No!” Havens bellowed. To his credit, it was one of the few exclamations or exchanges we can publish.

Matthews sheepishly pleaded guilty after his overture landed on the isthmus but plunged into the canal.

“I can’t hit it any better than that,” he reasoned before using his putter and pitching wedge as a set of tongs to pluck his ball from the muck. “That’s the best I’ve got.”

Humor – like the majestic beauty of this hole, from a safe distance – was in the eye of the beholder.

Moments after his own misadventure, Matthews stood atop the adjacent black tee at No. 6 and listened to past champion Mike Colandro’s approach hit the green like a ping-pong table and find the drink.

His guttural guffaw channeled Statler and Waldorf, the two tuxedoed geezers who used to sit in the balcony and heckle the Muppets.

“Right in the middle of the green,” Matthews marveled, “and it rolls in the water.”

Colandro, who starred on the Australian PGA Tour and once shot a 67 in the U.S. Open at Baltusrol, was ready to send the course architect for a swim equipped with cement shoes. His brief encounter with rules official Jay Vreeland resulted in a sarcastic, “Can I hit now? Thank you,” followed by at least one audible F-bomb. Which was returned for another listener’s benefit.

“Some of these guys have been playing golf for 25 (expletive) years,” Vreeland muttered, “and they don’t know how to take a drop.”

Oh, they’re going to learn. Two more days of this and these guys will know how to drop, smoke and swear with the best. If they aren’t driven to a new profession or hobby in the meantime.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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