Does that represent a cycle, a trend, or a cold, hard reality for local professionals and those who aspire to PGA Tour qualifying school?

The lone victorious native son in that sequence, John Hickson of Topsham, hesitated when he heard the question and admitted that he’s a tad stumped.

“I think it might be one of those cycle things,” Hickson, the 2008 champion at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, said. “That’s hard to put a finger on. If you look back to Fox Ridge, a slew of the Maine guys played pretty well. At Augusta it just hasn’t been there.”

No, it certainly hasn’t.

Augusta Country Club of Manchester hosts its fourth consecutive open, a 36-hole test that begins Monday morning.

Its three most recent champions — Dustin Cone, Evan Harmeling and Andrew Mason — were 20-somethings who hailed from Vermont, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, respectively.

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The top Maine pro each of the past three years finished seven shots off the pace and finished no higher than 20th. Hickson and Shawn Warren of Cape Elizabeth lost to Michael Carbone in a playoff at Falmouth Country Club in 2011 — the last open held elsewhere.

Hickson conceded that the dry spell could suggest something about the nature of century-old Augusta, a 6,214-yard, par-70 track on which only four holes exceed 400 yards.

“There are holes that are 460 yards that I can play just as well as a guy who hits it 300. Then there are some that are 400 where they’re hitting a gap wedge into the hole,” Hickson said. “I think some of the bombers have learned, ‘Hey, I need to start hitting those clubs better because I’m so friggin’ long.’”

Even though the younger, out-of-state, satellite tour players seem to have an advantage in that area, Hickson encourages himself with the thought that everyone is on a level playing field once they get around the green.

“If they can bomb it like that and they’re still playing in these tournaments, something’s probably not right,” Hickson said. “Chances are their wedge game or putter is not where it should be. If you’re hitting it between 280 and 320 or more and you’re not on the PGA Tour, you’re not on the Web.com Tour, but you’re playing in these tournaments, something isn’t there.”

Hickson, 51, is a Maine and New England mainstay in tournaments where the competition mostly shares his profession as a teacher of the game.

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He is a two-time NEPGA section champion and also a two-time State of Maine champion, having tied the Sugarloaf course record of 67 on his way to the 2014 title.

“There is a mental part of it. I have a body that’s broken down a little bit. But in some tournaments, like the sectional championship the past four years, I’ve actually played pretty well in those,” Hickson said. “And maybe it’s not just mental but the type of courses we play. In those sectional championships, there are a lot of holes where you don’t want to say par is a good score, but par really is a good score for me.”

Does any of that suggest that he can summon enough magic to stave off hungry players half his age and put Maine back on the map in its own state tournament?

Hickson sounded more cautious than optimistic.

“I think all golfers are psycho, to some degree,” he said with a laugh. “You certainly go out there if nothing else with good expectations for yourself. Then there is that sensible side where you say am I really practicing that much, compared to some guys, the college kids? And no, I’m not. It’s going to take more drawing on old feelings and hoping my body can respond.”

Other than Hickson, Jerry DiPhilippo of Gorham is the most recent Maine pro to win, at Riverside in 1995. He was runner-up at Fox Ridge in 2007, the year before Hickson’s title.

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Maine hasn’t been shut out, by any stretch. Warren won in 2004 as an amateur. Ricky Jones of Thomaston, who still shines in the amateur ranks, repeated that feat two years later.

Joining Warren as threats to put the crystal vase in a Maine pro’s hands are Mack Duke of Camden and Ryan Gay of Pittston, who calls Augusta CC home. Another contender, Jesse Speirs of Memphis, Tenn., grew up in Bangor.

And then there’s Hickson, who is his first year as club pro at Sebasco Harbor, an oceanside course that attracts everything from snowbirds to bachelor parties to international tourists.

“It’s a neat place,” he said. “It’s more fun than a lot of places.”

Whether or not he and his fellow natives say the same thing about Augusta on Monday and Tuesday remains to be seen.

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Maine Open recent champions

2014 — Andrew Mason

2013 — Evan Harmeling

2012 — Dustin Cone

2011 — Michael Carbone

2010 — Dustin Cone

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2009 — Jim Renner

2008 — John Hickson

2007 — Todd Westfall

2006 — Ricky Jones (a)

2005 — Kirk Hanefeld

2004 — Shawn Warren (a)

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2003 — Kirk Hanefeld

2002 — Ryan Ouellette

2001 — James Gilleon

2000 — Ben Nicolay

1999 — Kyle Gallo

1998 — Joe Cioe

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1997 — Rod Butcher

1996 — Geoffrey Sisk

1995 — Jerry DiPhilippo

Monday’s Maine Open tee times, local players

7:40 a.m. — Luke Ruffing, Manchester

7:40 a.m. — Chris Cloutier, Lisbon

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8:10 a.m. — Roger Williams, Turner

8:20 a.m. — Will Kannegieser, Minot

8:30 a.m. — Andrew Slattery, Minot

8:40 a.m. —  John Hickson, Topsham

9:10 a.m. — Mark Plummer, Manchester

9:20 a.m. —  Victor Linkovich, Topsham

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12:10 p.m. — Dave Bartasius, Poland

12:20 p.m. — Brian Bilodeau, Auburn

12:50 p.m. —  Chris Juntura, Topsham

1:20 p.m. — Craig Chapman, Auburn

1:40 p.m. — Taylor Morang, Winthrop

1:40 p.m. — Curt Jordan, Minot

1:50 p.m. — Tony Dubois, Auburn


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