FALMOUTH — Neither big courses nor big mountains nor big competition seem to fluster Will Kannegieser.

The 17-year-old from Minot already has a Maine State Golf Association Junior title to his credit, won a year ago at Val Halla in Cumberland. Alas, he couldn’t represent the state in the New England tournament; ski training sessions in Chile beckoned. That all came less than a month after Kannegieser logged a top-10 finish in the American Junior Golf Association world championship at Sugarloaf.

And only two summers ago, Kannegieser exploded onto the scene at the Maine Amateur by finishing a tie for seventh at Sunday River in Newry. So it’s no giant surprise to see the Gould Academy senior back in contention after shooting 79 Tuesday in the opening round of this year’s 95th edition at The Woodlands Club.

“I played here a few times in junior tournaments and a couple of practice rounds here,” Kannegieser said. “I’m familiar with the course.”

On a day when a combination of the heat, saturated fairways and Woodlands’ ubiquitous bunkers brought the field to its knees, Kannegieser never really buckled.

His lone double bogey came just before the turn. Among his six pars on each side was a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th that Kannegieser would love to have back.

“It looped right around. That was probably the only good birdie putt I had all day, though. It’s just so tough,” Kannegieser said. “They played the course up a little bit. The tees were up in some places. Generally it’s just a tough golf course, and if you don’t hit straight shots, you’re in trouble.”

Not many players in the field are younger. Carter Pearl is 15. Co-leader Drew Powell is 16.

By virtue of his junior title, Kannegieser played in the first group of the day along with one of the veterans, reigning champion Ricky Jones.

“I wouldn’t say I was nervous,” Kannegieser said. “I’ve seen him play and now I’m playing with him, so that’s pretty cool. It was fun.”

Kannegieser will make the projected cut if he shoots another 79 Wednesday.

“I think 79-79 could easily do it,” he said. “I hope to play a little better tomorrow, make some shots and make some birdies, but I was OK with the way I played today.”

Making Papa proud

Family has been a source of inspiration for Lewiston golfer Chris Cloutier both on and off the golf course in recent years.

Cloutier is playing in his second consecutive Maine Amateur this year after an extended hiatus from the game. In an interview with the Sun Journal a year ago, Cloutier candidly addressed his battles with alcohol during that period.

After Tuesday’s round, Cloutier proudly posted the photo of his golf ball — the only one he needed in carving out a solid 77 Tuesday — on his Facebook page, with the following message:

“I usually put a ‘K’ and a crown for my daughter, Kendall, when I mark balls for tournaments. But before the round this morning, I had an inclination to put ‘K.C.’, the initials for both Kendall and my grandfather, Papa Ken. The man probably never swung a club or set foot on a golf course in his entire life. But he was out there with me today,” Cloutier wrote. “Telling me to be conservative, play it safe, and not worry. Just believe what was supposed to happen would. Anyone that knows me knows this isn’t how I play golf or even live my life. But today I listened, and it paid off. I might not win this thing, but I played about as good and as smart as I could today. You were the best caddy anyone could ask for today Papa. Hope you get some rest tonight, and meet me out on the course tomorrow for round 2!”

Cloutier is seven shots off the pace and in solid position to make the cut.

Missing piece

For the first time in decades, the Maine Amateur is minus the player synonymous with the tournament.

Mark Plummer of Manchester withdrew from the field due to family concerns.

The 62-year-old was one of four past champions on the preliminary entry list, joining Ricky Jones, Eric Crouse and Ron Brown.

All Plummer has done, of course, is win the tournament 13 times on 11 different courses between 1973 and 2002.

Mike Waterman replaced Plummer as an alternate. He shot 97.

Getting it Wright

The title of most vigorous fist pump at the 18th green on opening day arguably went to Peter Wright of Dunegrass Golf Course in Scarborough.

After a par putt. To shoot 84.

Simple explanation, really. That stroke clinched a 35 on the back nine after a disastrous 49 on the front.

“That’s got to be the biggest turnaround ever,” Wright said.

Wright triple bogeyed four of the first eight holes. He sank two of his three birdies on the back.

Family meeting

The lone father-son combination in the field didn’t get to play together, but they had an opportunity to commiserate.

Reese McFarlane of Cape Elizabeth’s Purpoodock Club was signing his scorecard just as dad Jim pulled his cart down the adjacent path on his way to the back nine.

McFarlane the Younger wasn’t elated with his 85.

“I struck the ball well. I just airmailed about six greens,” he said.

Jim shrugged. “I did the same thing on the first hole,” he exhorted. “Now you have something to shoot for tomorrow.”

There were more notes to compare later in the afternoon. Jim used a birdie-par-par finish to salvage a 92.

They said it

“This is a great venue for the Amateur. The wheat is getting separated from the chaff, for sure.” — Michael Moore of Riverside Golf Club in Portland. He shot 90.

“A week ago, if you landed a ball in one of these fairways, it would have bounced like it was hitting this cart path.” — MSGA rules official Randy Hodsdon.

“(Monday) I played here and thought anything in the mid-to-low 70s would be a good day. I hit it in the fairway a lot. The pins weren’t too tough and the greens weren’t too fast, so if I hit it in the middle, I had a good putt.” — Drew Powell of Bangor, co-leader after a 70.

“I wasn’t hitting it that great, but all my bad shots were decent.” — Joe Walp, who matched Powell at 70.

“If you’re hitting it well and keeping it on the fairway and keeping it in play, you can make some birdies. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow.” — Defending champion Ricky Jones, five shots off the pace after the opening round.


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