If you have not played Bridgton Highlands in a number of years, you might not recognize the course.

The new look is part of an overall plan of the ownership, general manager Jim Mains, the course management group of Dan Hourihan, and superintendent George Thomas. Their goal was to open the course and make it more playable.

For years, Bridgton Highlands has been known as a target course with narrow, tree-lined fairways. Trees still exist on the course, but players can see from one fairway to the next, which was just about impossible in past years.

Mostly, this is the work of Thomas, who claims to be the only superintendent in Maine to possess a master’s degree (from Penn State) in “turf/grass management.” He estimates that approximately 1,000 trees have been removed from the course since his arrival. He is in his third Bridgton Highlands season. There also is more than 600 feet of drainage pipe in the course, which runs up and down a hillside.

Of the tree removal, Thomas said: “On the fourth hole we have doubled the play area. We are trying to give the members what they want — a more playable course.”

Originally, Bridgton Highlands was nine holes, built on 1926 Brown Farm where there were no trees as the only A.J. Tillinghast course in Maine. In 1995, a second nine was constructed, and the course was losing its Tillinghast look.

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Bridgton Highlands’ 21 owners decided they wanted more visibility and a more playable track, which is why they hired Thomas. The ownership goal also is to be more a part of the Bridgton community, so daily fees are being encouraged, and they are planning musical entertainment open to the public one Friday a month, plus there will be a social hour on Saturdays.

It is the opening of the course, however, that should be the major attraction to walk-up players. From a spanking new clubhouse, totally rebuilt, a great deal of the course can been seen from a beautifully enclosed porch. And there is a view of New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the west.

“The clubhouse visibility of the course is entirely new,” Hourhan said proudly of the new look.

At this time of year, with all the snow that fell during the winter and the heavy spring rainfall, Thomas knows that the challenge will be to get the course dry enough for play. He was hard at work earlier this week, preparing for this weekend’s Maine State Golf Association tournaments May 19 and 20.

As the look of the course has been altered, regularly with Thomas was Jim Cossey, one of the owners, chairman of the board and greens committee chair. Cossey’s support has been invaluable to Thomas, which is one of Cossey’s many contributions to his golf club.

Cossey, by the way, not only is the board chairman, longtime partner, and avid player at Bridgton Highlands, but he has the distinction of being the club’s No. 1 ball “scapper.” He proudly speaks about playing there one day and finding 189 golf balls on the eighth hole.

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“That was a long round,” he said, grinning. Thankfully, he did say he was playing solo.

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The Maine State Golf Association has a busy schedule for the upcoming week with its Club Team Championship today at Belgrade and the Senior Club Team Championship May 22, also at Belgrade. Then it has a pair of Mid-Week events — May 23 at Samoset and May 25 at Falmouth. The week concludes with the regular weekly event, which will be held May 26 and 27 at Fairlawn.

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Two major amateur tournaments are on tap for next month. The Midcoast Amateur Championship is June 3-4 at the Boothbay Harbor Country Club and the Bath Golf Club. Information is available at 442-8411. The 53rd Bunyan Amateur Championship is June 24 at Falmouth and June 25 at Old Marsh. Information is availabe at Bunyangolf.com and 442-8725.

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Schuyler Leff of Gould Academy is one of several recipients of an MSGA scholarship. Leff is his golf team’s No. 1 player and was the team MVP last year as an all conference (MAOSAA) selection.

Bill Kennedy

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