AUBURN, Maine — It should come as no surprise that Jesse Speirs of Bangor has his sights set on a pro golf career.
Now that he has completed his collegiate eligibility, Speirs will complete his final year at the University of Mississippi for a degree in religion with a minor in history.
Then he’ll start work on a playing career.
As part of that path, he will “play the tournaments that are important to me,” Speirs said after Tuesday’s opening round of the 90th Maine Amateur Golf Championship at Martindale Country Club.
Speirs shot an even-par 71 and sits atop the leaderboard with defending champion Ryan Gay of Pittston.
“This is a tournament I like to play well in,” said Speirs.
Joe Alvarez of Hampden, Tim Poulin out of Lakewood Golf Course, Jason Gall of Augusta and Scott Sirois out of Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland are tied for third at 73.
Other scores include two-time Maine Amateur champ Ricky Jones of Thomaston at 74, Len Cole of Bangor at 75, 14-year-old Seth Sweet of Madison at 76 and 13-time Amateur winner Mark Plummer of Manchester at 77.
After a final semester of golf at the University of Mississippi that didn’t turn out as well as the Rebels hoped, Speirs has been playing better lately.
“We missed (making) the (NCAA) finals by four shots,” said Speirs. “After that I stayed a couple of extra weeks and practiced.”
He came north, playing in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in New York, but missed a berth again by four strokes.
“Then at the Publinx qualifier (at Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough), I lost in a playoff to Ricky (Jones),” said Speirs. “It was just a matter of time (until he played well).”
While he wants to play better, he is also playing less than in past summers.
After the Amateur, all he plans on before returning to school in the fall are the Hollywood Slots Greater Bangor Open in two weeks and the U.S. Amateur qualifier later this month.
“Last year I was only home about two weeks (during the summer),” he said. “It’s pretty slow. It’s nice to be home, but I find myself going to the golf course two or three times a day and the gym two or three times.”
Going to the gym has become an important part of his regimen.
“I’m on a weight program given to me by my brother (Seth), and I’ve been sticking to it,” said the 22-year-old Speirs.
“Being a golfer, you are an athlete, so you have to take care of your body,” added Speirs, who now packs about 190 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.
“My freshman year (at Texas A&M), I weighed 160,” said Speirs, smiling.
The program is paying off.
“I find I have more control. I can fire through thick rough better, and I have more endurance,” Speirs said.
He battled the rough some Tuesday at a rain-soaked Martindale course that had two long showers pass over it.
He bogeyed the first hole, birdied the third and made the turn at even par. On the back, he bogeyed 11 and birdied 18 to match Gay, who had played in the first group of the day.
Gay birdied two and nine on the front, added a third birdie on 11, but bogeyed 12, double-bogeyed 13 and bogeyed 15 before also finishing with a birdie.
Alvarez birdied the first, bogeyed the fifth and suffered a triple bogey on the par-3 ninth. He bogeyed 11 and 12, but settled down with three pars before tallying birdies on the last three holes.
The forecast for today is possibly for more rain, but the Maine State Golf Association is hoping it can get the round in. After the second round, there will be a cut in the 126-player field to the low 40 and ties for Thursday’s planned 18-hole finale.