It’s likely that many of the golfers competing in this week’s Charlie’s Portland Maine Open Golf Championship and the tournament officials putting it on will be praying that the monthlong rain eases up and “the creek doesn’t rise.”
The Presumpscot River runs alongside several of the holes of Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland, site of the 91st Maine Open, and it has flooded the course as recently as last weekend.
“It’s not now, but it did Saturday,” said Riverside assistant pro Ted Vallee. Holes 4, 11, 12, 13 and 17 were covered completely or partially, he said.
“We haven’t had a super downpour today, but we did have an occasional downpour.” said Vallee after Monday’s pro-am, which was completed.
“That we got it in at all today was a miracle,” said Nancy Storey, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association, which is conducting the tournament.
The next concern is potential thunderstorms during today’s opening round and Wednesday’s 18-hole finale.
“We have a Thursday rain date, if necessary,” said added, “but we are obligated to play [if at all possible].”
The course is “soggy, super soggy,” according to Vallee, but playable.
Accuracy now will be even more important than usual because of the high rough.
“The rough is deep, 5-10 inches,” said Vallee. “It’ll probably be lift, clean and place in the fairway, but not in the rough. We can’t do anything about that.”
One hole has been adjusted because of the conditions. The short par-4 17th, which will play as No. 8 because the nines are reversed for the Open, has been reconfigured because of the softness of its fairway.
“It’ll be a par 3 now,” said Storey. “It’s about 230 yards from the forward tees. It makes it a really good hole.
“We had to do it because from about 80 yards out it was too wet. The ball would just disappear.”
Storey has been delighted by the outcome of combining the former Greater Portland Open with the Maine Open into one event.
“By combining, we were able to keep 21 sponsors, including keeping our title sponsor, bless him,” said Storey. “Charlie [Shuman, owner of Charlie’s Motor Mall in Augusta] knew how much this means to us, and even with the down economy, he stuck with us.”
Storey is just as enthusiastic about the quality of the players competing for the $10,000 first prize out of the purse of more than $60,000.
“This is the best player field we’ve had in a long time,” she said.
Some of that potential play was on display Monday in the pro-am where the reigning Maine Amateur champ, 18-year-old Ryan Gay of Pittston, turned in a 7-under-par 64 to lead all scorers.
Jeff Seavey of Homosassa, Fla., who works out of Samoset Resort in the spring and summer, was the top pro with a 65, despite carding a double bogey and a bogey. John Elliott of Westerly, R.I., was a stroke behind Seavey.
A major contender is two-time Maine Open titlist Kirk Hanefeld of Acton, Mass., whose victories came at Riverside in 2003 and 2005.
“Kirk Hanefeld is coming over from Europe to play in this,” said Storey of the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour (50 and over) competitor.
Other contenders include 2003 Portland Open champ Rich Parker of Lebanon, N.H., who was Maine Open runner-up the last two years; Shawn Warren of Windham, the 2008 Hollywood Slots Greater Bangor Open winner as a pro and 2004 Maine Open champ as an amateur; 2006 Maine Open champ amateur Ricky Jones of Thomaston; and two-time GBO winner Matt Donovan of Pittsfield, Mass.
“We could have 20 players within five strokes of the lead [for the final round],” said Storey.
Unlike most tournaments, there will be no cut this year. The entire 162-player field will play both days, but they will be re-paired for Wednesday’s round.
Storey said she has heard only positive comments about shortening the event from three days to two.
“The Maine pros love it,” she said. “We had seven last year and 31 this year.
“It’s easier for them to take two days off.”
They just need the weather to cooperate now.