Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour and Michelle Wie finally winning an LPGA major have Maine golfers expressing their opinions on the best-known male and female professional golfers in the world.

The Woods conversations from players participating in the MSGA State Amateur Qualifier this past Tuesday at Martindale generally led to the topic low TV ratings for the U.S. Open two weeks ago.

Romeo Laberge, retired tournament director of the Maine State Golf Association but still active as a tournament official, has a theory on why the ratings have suffered.

“It is Tiger’s absence a little bit,” said Laberge, 69, and a graduate of St. Dominic Academy. “It also was because Martin Kaymer was way ahead, and the fact that there were no top stars on top of the leaderboard. People who don’t play golf watch Tiger.”

Randy Hodsdon, MSGA Director of Rules and Competitions, offered: “This is just hearsay, but I am told that people watch TV golf only when Tiger is playing.”

Felix Lincoln, owner of Link’s Variety in New Gloucester, and a Martindale member who won “alternate” status in the qualifier, said: “You can’t rule out the Tiger thing on the ratings. Also, keep in mind Kaymer’s big lead and the fact that the final round was on Father’s Day.”

Andrew Slattery, 25, a Poland High graduate and Martindale pro shop employee, who has been on Maine’s championship Tri-State team the last two years, once was a big Tiger Woods fan. More recently he has rooted for younger players such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. He said: “People are playing golf, not watching it.”

Matt Simard, 34, a lifelong Martindale member who is an Edward Little High graduate and an Auburn financial advisor, said: “There are a lot of good golfers out there, with or without Tiger. The PGA Tour is loaded with talent.”

Woods made his return from back injury to compete in this weekend’s Quicken Loans National at Congressional in Bethesda, Md., missing the cut. Expect a ratimgs spike if Woods can regain his ability to play at a high level.

For the most part, golfers were happy about Wie’s first major championship last week, the LPGA Open title at Pinehurst No. 2. Many recognized that Wie was allowed by her ambitious parents to participate in PGA Tour events as a teenager when she clearly was not ready for that level of competition.

Emily Bouchard, the reigning Maine women’s amateur champion, whose family owns a camp in Poland, enjoyed Wie’s success.

“It’s a win for women ‘s golf,” Bouchard said. “She came through at a young age and had personal struggles.”

Wie, whose leg was wrapped in colorful kinseo tape, won the approval of Ed Piirainen, a Poland Spring golfer who owns and operates Rest Easy Cleaning in Mechanic Falls and is an assistant Poland High School baseball coach.

Piirainen, who has four daughters, said: “Good for her. I think that’s great. It’s amazing what those kids can do.”

As the father of four daughters, Piirainen was asked about PGA Tour participation for one of his girls.

“In a heartbeat I’d let one of my daughters play in a PGA Tour event,” he said.

Laberge did not agree, thinking that parental pushing is why Wie won no majors before age 24.

“It took years for her to get going,” he said. “That’s because she did not go through normal golf progressions.”

Basically, Laberge meant that Wie did not get the opportunity to mature in women’s golf as an amateur, on the Futures Tour, and then rising slowly within the LPGA Tour. Instead, she was thrust into the spotlight as a teenager, touted as the girl who could be a men’s tour contender.

Wie’s first major championship indicates that she has come full circle in golf. She still will have to win more to prove that she is the star of the LPGA game. Players such as Stacy Lewis, currently No. 1 on the LPGA Tour, might have something to say about Wie’s status.

Local notes

The Exotics Pro Am Series event July 17 at Old Marsh is going coed.

Tournament director Johnny Johnston received an entry from LeAnna Wicks, who played for several years on the Futures Tour and won $7,408 at the LPGA’s 2007 State Farm Classic. Wicks, 34, is Ping Territory Manager for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. As a youngster, Wicks twice was player of the year on the Michigan Junior Golf Tour, and as a pro she was listed among “Golf Babes,” with looks compared to Jan Stephenson.

Wicks is not the first woman to play on the Exotics Tour. Julie Rivers of Indian Mound in New Hampshire, was in a 2013 tournament.

After two Exotics Tour events, 2013 money champion Shawn Warren of Falmouth is the unofficial 2014 money leader, having earned $3,958.30. Rich Berberian of Windham (N.H.) is second with $3,300. Each had won first place money of $3,000.

The remainder of the tour’s top 10 are: Dick Ayers of Falmouth ($1,216.66), Ryan Gay of Augusta ($1,050), Michael Hersey of Samoset ($929.16), Leon Oliver of Bath ($841.65), Tim Desmarais of Purpoodock ($810.41), Jeff Seavey of Samoset ($800), J.J. Harris of Penobscot Valley ($650), and Jerry DiPhilippo of Portland ($500) …

With the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaching, the MSGA has a Junior Tour event scheduled tomorrow at Brunswick, then a combined Junior and Senior tour tournament at Sanford Tuesday.

Wednesday the Junior Tour continues at Prospect Hill and the weekend tournament Friday and Saturday will be at Lakewood.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: