MANCHESTER — Ruby Haylock knows the Augusta Country Club golf course well. Just a few weeks ago, she won the Maine Women’s Amateur title at Augusta. When she played the course Wednesday morning in round one of the Maine Event, though, the course felt… different. The same, but a little off.

“It seemed a lot further than the Women’s Am,” Haylock said, after shooting 76 in her opening round of the tournament. The plus-4 76 gave Haylock a four-stroke cushion over the closest woman in the field, which features the top amateur and pro golfers — regardless of gender — in the state. “I’m not disappointed with it. I feel like I missed a ton of putts, and I hit the pin twice and it popped out.”

Round one of the Maine Event was Wednesday at Augusta. The second and final round is Thursday at Waterville Country Club. The only reason the tournament exists is because the Maine State Golf Association was forced to cancel this summer’s Charlie’s Maine Open. With more than half the field of the Maine Open typically out-of-state golfers who would be subject to the state’s coronavirus quarantine, this year the open simply wasn’t feasible.

Amateur John Gilmartin held the top spot on the leaderboard Wednesday, finishing with a 3-under par 67. Caleb Manuel, who won the Maine Junior title earlier this summer, was right behind at 2-under 68. Jeff Seavey, of Rockport, was third with a 1-under 69. Will Kannegieser shot an even par 70 while Mark Plummer — who has a state record 13 Maine Amateur titles — finished with a 6-over 76.

“It’s the Maine Event not the Maine Open this year so it’s new,” Manuel said. “It’s still fun because we have some pros. It’s like the Maine Am but not as much hype because it’s a last-minute thing, but it’s pretty cool. … I’ve played at Waterville in the Am when I was 13 and I played last year in a practice round. I’ve heard it’s in great shape and it’s the best they’ve seen it in a couple years.”

A tournament for the top players in the state, regardless of gender or professional status was definitely feasible, and with the interest the Maine Event stirred, the question was, why didn’t anybody think of this sooner?

“Like Brian (Bickford, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association) said, the best golfer in Maine, pros and amateurs. You don’t get that many opportunities to find that out,” Caleb Manuel, who won the state junior title last month, said.

Manuel has developed a flair for the dramatic finish this summer. He won the junior title with an albatross on the final hole. Wednesday, Manuel eagled 18 to finish his round at minus-2 68. In a field full of experienced professional golfers, Manuel, one of the youngest amateurs in the tournament, went into the clubhouse as the leader.

“It’s so nice to finish strong. I knew the last five (holes) were getable. I didn’t take advantage of any of them until the last one. I’m happy with a 68. There’s some tricky pins out there. I’ll take the 68,” Manuel said. “You know there’s veterans out here, pros, especially Shawn Warren who just played in the PGA Championship. That’s just a whole another couple levels above what we’re used to playing in.”

Warren was originally supposed to play with Manuel and Bailey Plourde, who won the Women’s Am two years ago. His recent trip to San Francisco for the PGA Championship meant Warren had to take a coronavirus test, and that required his tee time to get pushed back to the afternoon. Warren was plus-1 over the front nine.

The coed nature of the tournament led to interesting groups. Haylock played with Cole Anderson, winner of the last two Maine Amateur titles, and Plummer, the gold standard for Maine golf.

Playing with the men didn’t bother Haylock at all. Golf is golf.

“I don’t like to put pressure on myself. I came out open-minded and excited. I like playing with guys. It’s completely different than playing with girls in my opinion. Now playing with guys gives me a new opportunity. They can hit it a lot further. For women who can’t hit it as far it comes down to their short game. For men who can hit it a lot further, it all comes into play,” Haylock said.

Throughout the round, neither Haylock nor Anderson had a bigger cheerleader than Plummer, who congratulated each on good shots and loudly urged their putts to find the hole.

“Mark’s a really great guy. He’s a lot of fun to play with. When I got my membership at Augusta, we were talking about how we have to come out and play together sometime,” Haylock said. “We never ended up making it happen between then and now, but I’m glad we finally got to play together.”

Ruby Haylock hits out of bunker and onto the 18th green during the opening round of the Maine Event on Wednesday at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Someday soon, the MSGA should name a tournament after Plummer. Maine Event is fine, but it feels more like a pun than a name. It feels like a placeholder name for a tournament that was put together quickly to fill a void, which it was. That said, this is a tournament that could have staying power, like Plummer, who won the first of his 13 Maine Am crowns in 1973. The Maine Event is a celebration of Maine golf, and no other player epitomizes that more than Plummer.

Are you playing in the Plummer this year? See, it has a nice ring to it.

The Maine Event moves on to Waterville Country Club on Thursday, so players can tear up any mental notes they made about Augusta during Wednesday’s round. Tournaments played on more than one course are unusual, but not unprecedented.

“I played the Downeast Metro, it’s a beginning of the year tournament. It’s at Kebo (Valley in Bar Harbor) and Bangor Muni.  I haven’t played Waterville in a couple of years,” Manuel said. “I think I’m in good position to try and make a move and hopefully win tomorrow.”

Born of necessity and opportunity, after one round it’s safe to say the Maine Event is a hit. Who’s the best golfer in Maine? Let’s find out every year.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.