Changes boost field for Bunyan

Posted May 27, 2009, at 10:50 p.m.

As the entry deadline for the Harris Golf Co. Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament comes down to the final days, the number of entries received is spiking upward.

“They’ve been picking up the last day or two,” said Matt Barnard, the marketing director of Harris Golf who has also been handling the entries. “They’re coming both the traditional way and by email [www.bunyangolf.com].”

“I think the online option is allowing people to wait longer before making the final decision,” noted Barnard.

The 45th annual Bunyan is scheduled for June 6-7 at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono and Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor. The entry fee is $85, and there is also an opportunity to play a $30 practice round at either club on June 5. Players have to call ahead first to schedule the practice round.

The deadline for entries, whether by mail or online, is midnight Friday. That’s to allow enough time to set up the tournament starting times and then make them available to the players, said Barnard.

Last year, there were 209 paid entries, according to tournament director Skip Chappelle earlier this spring. That number is in the rearview mirror now.

“We have passed the number of last year. What’s coming in now is growth in the tournament,” said Barnard, who believes this year’s change to a two-day, all-weekend tournament has been a factor.

“I had a guy from Milford, Mass., call. He said he hadn’t played in three years, and now he wants to jump back in,” said Barnard. “And he’s not the only one.”

“There is one gentleman who said he has played in the Bunyan for 37 years and he didn’t want to miss this one,” added Barnard.

A number of out-of-state competitors have signed up, including a pair of low-handicap players from Colorado colleges. In addition, they’re coming from Florida, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Texas.

The change to a two-day event was thought to give more people a chance to participate, and Barnard believes that has been the case. “Word has been spreading, through the Web site, the press and golfers talking to each other. … People seem responsive,” said Barnard.

Among the earliest entries was Joe Alvarez of Hampden, the defending champion and one of the state’s top players. Barnard expects he’ll have a lot of competition for the $500 merchandise credit top prize.

“A number of top 30 [Maine State Golf Association] players have signed up,” said Barnard.

One of those is Ricky Jones of Thomaston, a four-time Bunyan champ who Alvarez defeated in a neck-and-neck contest last year.

A second factor for the turnout of top MSGA players is that the Bunyan now counts toward the MSGA’s Player of the Year points total as well as the Tri-State and USGA State teams.

“We’re trying to have some fun with [the Bunyan], something people will enjoy,” said Barnard. “And we’re having a lot of fun with them.”

GBO picking up speed

The Greater Bangor Open Golf Tournament, sponsored by Hollywood Slots of Bangor, is the other bookend of the state’s major golf tournaments that is kicked off by the Bunyan, and it’s starting to perk up with entries.

The 43rd GBO is July 23-25 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course with the pro-am on July 22.

“We’re about the usual pace, … maybe a little ahead,” said Rob Jarvis, president of the GBO Tournament Committee and assistant pro at Bangor Muni.

The attraction for the GBO this year is that it’s the only three-round open tournament in the state now that the Charlie’s Maine Open has also cut back to two days. The Maine Open merged with the former Greater Portland Open and adopted the GPO dates of June 30-July 1 at Riverside Golf Course in Portland with a pro-am on June 29.

“If you’re looking to attract a player like me,” said Jarvis, “then a two-day is more enticing.

“But full-time players have said they don’t like two-days.” The mindset in a two-day event, said Jarvis, is to shoot low in the first round and go from there. It’s easier to win that way than by trying to come back in the second round. A player could come out of nowhere on the first day and only have to shoot an average score in the second round to walk away with the prize.

“The third day is a big equalizer,” said Jarvis. “Anybody who is playing full time wants at least three days.”

They also appreciate lower entry fees and a decent payout, so the GBO tries to accommodate them because the tourney is a little off the beaten path.

“We try to keep the fee down to offset the extra cost of traveling up here,” said Jarvis.

The entry fees this year are $375 for pros, $325 for Maine pros and $200 for amateurs. The purse remains at $50,000 and the first-place check is $11,000.

Call Jarvis at 941-0232 for more information or an entry form or go to www.greaterbangoropen.org.

Belgrade Lakes honored

Golf Digest has named Belgrade Lakes Golf Club one of America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, coming in at No. 63.

That’s one spot better than Torrey Pines’ South Course in San Diego, host of the PGA Tour’s Buick Invitational.

Belgrade Lakes was also the only Maine club to make the top 100. In addition, it topped the state list for the first time since it opened in 1997. It unseated Sugarloaf Golf Club in Carrabassett Valley, which had been ranked No. 1 every year since it opened in 1985.

This year, Sugarloaf is No. 2, followed by Sunday River in Newry, Portland Country Club in Falmouth Foreside and Samoset Resort in Rockport. Portland Country Club is the only one not open to the public.

dbarber@bangordailynews.net

990-8170

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