Daniel Bouttenot drives the ball at the Maine Amateur at the Poland Spring Golf Course in Poland on Tuesday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — Golf has been back in action for about six weeks after a late start to the season due to the coronvirus pandemic, and players who teed it up Tuesday at the Maine State Golf Association’s Maine Amateur qualifier at Poland Spring are rounding into mid-season form.

“My game is the best it’s ever been right now,” said Dan Bouttenot, who shot a 69 Tuesday and is one of the 22 golfer to qualify for the Maine Amateur. “I am striking the ball really well. I have had a little trouble putting lately. I caught fire for the first seven holes and sort of rode it in from there.”

Bouttenot, who is a member at Poland Spring, said he has been able to practice more the past month because his job — he is the manager at Cyndi’s Dockside, a restaurant in Poland — has been affected by the pandemic.

Bouttenot has played 25 rounds since May, and the additional practice had paid off. He fired a 69 in his first round of the season in May, and he already has had a round of 68 this spring.

Another area golfer who is playing well is Alex Robert of Martindale Country Club. Robert finished Tuesday’s qualifier one shot better than Bouttenot, firing a 3-under-par 68.

“Recently, I have been focusing on my putting,” Robert said. “Today, I saw a big difference in that, which definitely was a help. I have been playing well lately, but today I just kept it simple and hit it really well.”

Robert said he feels like he is playing a little better than he was at this time a year ago.

Christopher Burns of Norway Country Club, meanwhile, said his game is coming around after a slow start.

“There was a little rust at the beginning (of the season),” Burns said. “There hasn’t been rust in the last month.

“The only thing that feels normal (right now) is (being) out on the golf course. I have been out there as much as possible, and hopefully I put something together to get into the (Maine Amateur).”

Burns didn’t qualify Tuesday, shooting a 77 and missing the cut to get into the Maine Am, which will be held July 7-9 at Biddeford-Saco Country Club.

Tuesday’s low medalist, Mike Brennan, also of Norway Country Club, shot a 5-under 66. He had seven birdies and only two bogeys on his card. Brennan said that heading into Tuesday, he wasn’t playing his best golf.

“Believe it or not, I am in a little bit of a slump right now,” Brennan said. “I have a couple of things to work on that all suddenly showed their ugly face here in the last week or so.”

Brennan said he has developed a hook and that he’s still getting his game to its peak because of the late start to the season. He also hasn’t been able to practice a lot lately, which, he pointed out, makes it difficult to play top-notch golf.

Colin Merrit of Fox Ridge also has struggled to find practice time, and it showed in the 85 he shot at Tuesday’s qualifier.

Colin Merritt drives the ball at the Maine Amateur qualifier at the Poland Spring Golf Course in Poland on Tuesday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I have been working a lot more, so I haven’t been able to get out as much,” Merritt said. “I haven’t golfed in three or four days, so this was a first round in a few days. So it’s kind of tough.”

When he has been able to practice, Merritt said his focus has been on his swing and on working around the greens to lower his scores.

TOURNEY GOLF IS DIFFERENT

Even the golfers who have been able to practice a lot were out of their elements at Poland Spring on Tuesday because they haven’t had many opportunities to play competitive rounds so far this season.

Chris Cloutier, a member at nearby Fairlawn, another Poland course, said he felt added pressure due to a lack of competitive rounds this spring since the MSGA canceled its play days in the month of May.

“Knowing this (qualifier), and with the MSGA with the late start, we usually have a lot more weekly events to get primed for this,” Cloutier, who shot a 77 and did not qualify for the Maine Am, said. “With the lack of schedule because of the COVID-19 and the state regulations, it has been a little more difficult for us to get out and play competitively. There hasn’t been enough tournaments to make it like a tournament atmosphere. Today was a little tougher, not having that preseason.”

Chris Cloutier walks the course at the Maine Amateur qualifier at the Poland Spring Golf Course in Poland on Tuesday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The stakes are raised in competitive golf.

“It makes every shot harder,” Burns said. “You have to work through your pre-shot routine, and take a deep breath and make the shot feel normal.”

Burns also said competitive golf is more of a mental game.

“I haven’t cracked the code to make a round feel normal under competitive circumstances,” Burns said. “But if someone knows the answer to make it feel normal, phone me, I would love to know.”

Bouttenot said he was able to keep his mind focused Tuesday.

“That confidence really helped me out,” Bouttenot said. “I usually have a hard time keeping the nerves calm when I am in tournaments or this qualifier, I have played poorly in it before because I was too nervous. Luckily, I didn’t have that today.”

Alex Robert lines up his shot on the 16th hole at the Maine Amateur qualifier at the Poland Spring Golf Course in Poland on Tuesday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Robert said the qualifier was his first competitive round in a year. A senior this year at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, he didn’t have the chance to compete for the school’s team because golf is a spring sport at the prep school level.

“This was the first time I tried to qualify for the Maine Am, and I haven’t played in a MSGA event in a couple of years,” Robert said. “So, whenever I am playing, it’s with my buddies at Martindale and having a good time. Today was a little bit different, it was a little change of pace and I was a little bit more focused on trying to play well and focusing on every single shot.”

QUALIFIERS

The players who qualified for the Maine Amateur on Tuesday at Poland Spring: 1. Mike Brennan 66; 2. Alex Robert 68; 3. Dan Bouttenot 69; 4. Jon Hardy 72; 4. Bobby Myers 72; 4. Matthew Ouellette 72; 7. Jordan Jones 73; 7. Brian Knipp 73; 7. James Quinn 73; 10. Thomas Bean 74; 10. Zach Rossignol 74; 10. Parker Hilchey 74; 10. Ben Slagle 74; 14. John Downing 75; 14. Joe Gildart 75; 14. Andy Spaulding 75; 17. Emilio Casanueva 76; 17. Matthew Paine 76; 17. Michael Vanadestine 76; 17. Zachary Lachance 76; 17. Tyler Tyburski 76. First alternate: Luke Ruffing 77; second alternate: Dakota Batchelder 77; third alternate: Scott Janco 77.


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