Because of the course’s length, history has shown that some higher-handicap golfers shy away from Maine State Golf Association events at Fox Ridge in Auburn, but not May 17 and 18.

“We were told by some players that it was their most enjoyable round of the year,” Nancy Storey, MSGA executive director said of the “grand experiment” done at Fox Ridge last weekend.

Every Friday and Saturday, the MSGA holds events, beginning April 19 and running through Nov. 2, making it one of the most extensive golf association seasonal schedules in the nation. The two-tee format is the product of requests over the years from many MSGA members.

Some of the results took the MSGA by surprise.

“I was amazed,” Storey said. “All but one of the pins was won by players hitting from the blue tees. And the skins were 50-50.”

Because this had not been done previously, the MSGA felt it had no right to choose the tees for players, so it was optional for everyone. No tees were assigned on basis of age and handicap. A few played white tees when they probably should not have, but Storey came away with a positive feeling about this experiment.

“Players like to feel they can compete.” Storey said. “The goal is to have everyone hitting the same club on the second shot.”

The immediate plan is to recommend to the MSGA board of directors at the June 6 meeting that this be done again. Sunday River on July 5 and 6 are the immediate target dates.

“I can see us doing this for senior events, as well,” Storey said. “And we have data now to analyze the numbers.”

Tight spot

You could say that Randy Hodsdon, director of rules and competitions for the MSGA, is caught between a rock and a hard place on the subject of USGA Rule 14-1b, which is a new regulation on “anchored’ putting.” Beginning in 2016, players using long putters will not be able to place the end of the putter on their sternum or abdomen with their arms braced against their bodies.

“I tried it and I used it for 25 years,” said Hosdson, a former Maine club pro. “There is no advantage to it.”

One of many of Hodsdon’s jobs will be to enforce the new rule.

“I will speak to players about this,” he said. “I’m not going to be the long putter police. I think they should have left everything alone.”

So, why did the USGA and R&A decide to ban this form of putting? Some relate it to when Ernie Els won the British Open in 2012, which did not sit well with the R&A. Els, however, is not alone as a belly-putting major champion. Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Adam Scott (this year’s Masters) have won majors with the long putters. Also, keep in mind that there are people who have been opposing belly putting since 1989 when Orville Moody won the U.S. Senior Open to first popularize it.

Because of its use by champions, pros, amateurs and golf fans will be interested to see what the PGA does about belly putters for its tour. The PGA has deviated from USGA rules, so this will be a big issue on the PGA Tour. Stay tuned.


• The First Tee of Maine “ball drop” held at Nonesuch River last weekend was a great event, according to executive director Ron Bibeau.

“It was a huge success,” Bibeau said, “and to top it all off the winner of the $1,000 (Jeff Hilton, Nonesuch head pro) donated the entire amount back to First Tee of Maine. Also, the second-place winner of $500 (Verne Weisberg) donated all of the funds to First Tee, again a gentlemanly gesture.”

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