Edward Little High School graduates Aaron Perkins, left, and Nate Farnsworth, center, play the ninth hole of golf with Edward Little junior Colin Merritt at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn earlier this month. Farnsworth’s freshman year at Bryant University was cut short this spring by the coronavirus pandemic. He finished his last online class on May 1 before golfing with his friends. Perkins will play golf for Husson University this fall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Maine’s golf courses are now allowed to open their driving ranges and putting greens after the state lifted some of its restrictions.

Maine State Golf Association executive director Brian Bickford said that he believes Wednesday’s decision to allow practice facilities to open is part of Stage 2 of Gov. Mills’ reopening plan, which will allow gathering of up to 50 people starting June 1.

“I think we moved a little bit away from the park, play and go home (format of play),” Bickford said. “With the opening of restaurants and retail, we end up being a little closer to normal golf. We will never get there until bigger things happen, in regard to a vaccine, but we are getting a little closer to what some would consider normal golf. (For example), I go to the golf course, I love to have sandwich, hit a bucket of balls and go play. I think we can do those three things safely.”

Another major change announced is that players are no longer limited to playing at courses in their own counties. Players coming out of state will still need to quarantine for 14 days.

Bickford said Thursday that a lot of the details of Wednesday night’s announcement were hashed out with the Maine Department of Economic Community Development. Bickford said he regularly communicated with Commissioner Heather Johnson about twice a week.

Jerry Diphilippo, the head pro at Fox Ridge, is happy to be opening the practice facilities.

“I think we are going in the right direction, opening up the range and the practice areas, that will be big,” Diphilippo said. “It’s going to help out quite a bit. I have a lot of members who like to go hit balls, and obviously (non-members) wanting to hit balls before they play. It’s revenue so, you really need it open — also giving lessons, I will be able to give lessons over there.

“It’s going to be big. I know some golf courses it’s a lot more revenue than others, but it’s definitely a plus for sure.”

Courses also can start opening their pro shops and dining rooms — except in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties — and begin hosting large events that adhere to the state’s guidelines.

The state also announced that tee-time intervals are now up to individual courses. When the season opened May 1, courses were required to have at least 12 minutes between groups.

“What we were advocating for is letting the course determine the interval,” Bickford said. “Some want to stick to 12 (minutes), some are at 15, some operate very well at 10 and some at eight.”

Bickford said that putting the courses in charge of tee times is ideal since not every opening hole is the same length. For instance, an opening par-5 may require tee times to be longer than a par-4.

Diphilippo said that Fox Ridge is sticking with 12 minutes between tee times, for now.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much yet,” Diphilippo said. “We are at 12 minutes now with our tee times, and our tee times before that were 10 (minutes). That basically be an extra tee time per hour for us. I guess we will most likely go back to 10 (minutes); 12 was pretty good, it spreads out people a little bit more, which has made a difference. … I think we will probably end up going back to 10 (minutes). Whether we do it next week or not, I am not 100% sure.”

Cole Anderson studies the green on the 16th hole during the Maine Amateur golf championship final at Portland Country Club last July. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

TOURNAMENTS LIKELY

Bickford said that the men’s and women’s Maine Amateurs will likely take place as scheduled.

“By lifting the county restrictions, the Maine State Golf Association can now operate as an association,” Bickford said. “We have been extremely busy advocating for the golf courses, and we feel that’s our role. Now, we can focus on (running tournaments).”

Registration for the men’s Maine Amateur qualifiers closes on June 2 at 5 p.m.. The four qualifying sites are at Willowdale Golf Club on June 9, Brunswick Golf Club on June 11, Poland Spring on June 16 and Bangor Municipal Golf Course on June 18.

The men’s Maine Amateur will be July 7-9 at Biddeford-Saco Country Club.

The Women’s Amateur will take place July 20-22 at Augusta Country Club. Registration ends on June 30.

Registration for the women’s Metropolitan Club Championship ends on June 3 at 11 p.m. The four-player team event will be played at Willowdale on June 22-23.

For more information visit mesga.org


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