BANGOR, Maine — Interest in filling a void in Maine’s amateur golf tournament schedule has sparked Rob Jarvis, assistant pro at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, to plan a multi-day event in August at Bangor Muni.
The inaugural Bangor Golf Classic is scheduled for Aug. 21-22 with three divisions for men, based on handicap, and one for women.
The other major Maine tournaments this year are the Harris Golf’s 46th Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament June 5-6 at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono and Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor; the Charlie’s Portland Maine Open June 29-30 at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland; the Maine Amateur July 6-8 at Kebo, and the Hollywood Slots Greater Bangor Open July 22-24 at Bangor Muni.
Those events helped set the dates for the Bangor Golf Classic.
“We wanted to stay away from the [GBO], and the August dates were a nice beacon right there, perfect,” said Jarvis, who only has one sponsor, Massimo’s Cucina Italiana in downtown Bangor.
“We’re fortunate Massimo’s is a sponsor, but they’re our only one, and that’s intentional,” said Jarvis.
“[Owner Massimo Ranni] is a good friend of mine who wanted to do a tournament through his restaurant,” said Jarvis, “and we decided, ‘hey, let’s do this together.’”
There were two main reasons, according to Jarvis, for starting up the tournament.
“One, people have out and out asked us,” he said. “As you know, we’re not in the Bunyan rotation anymore and a lot of people missed playing here.
“And really, the other component of that is we missed having them.”
“We have the GBO, which is great,” said Jarvis, “but it’s a totally different feel when all the competition is really around money. Guys are here to make a living versus amateur competition, which is really about the spirit of golf, you know, the camaraderie, the purer competition.”
Jarvis believes the appeal of Bangor, and therefore the attraction of his new tournament, is its playability.
“Let’s face it. If you’re a C [division, higher handicap] player and you come to Bangor — and certainly we can make it difficult — this is a place you can score,” said Jarvis. “You can feel good about your game versus some of the tighter layouts with difficult greens.
“You see the scores and they have a tough time and it’s not fun for some people.”
Jarvis said the field will be limited to between 140 and 150 players, but he’s not concerned if it’s much lower the first year.
“As long as we get a decent number in this year, we’re gonna keep at it. We’re not going to give up if we don’t get 140 players,” said Jarvis.
His thought is to get it started, listen to the players’ suggestions afterward and build on it.
“We’re just trying to get through the first year and see where it goes and hope everybody’s happy and we can improve on that,” Jarvis said.
Getting players is the key and has been a struggle for many tournaments since the economic downturn started a couple of years ago.
There may be a glimmer that interest in tournament play is increasing, even if slowly.
“I think it’s a carryover from last year’s half season,” said Matt Barnard of Harris Golf. “There’s some pent-up demand.”
The field for the Bunyan is limited to 288 players, about 30 more than played last year, but Barnard thinks it may be reached.
“It was a roaring success last year,” said Barnard of the Bunyan being set up for the first time as a two-day event, “so there’s lots of momentum.”
The Bunyan has an entry deadline of May 14, and Barnard said that has sparked golfers to action. “I’ve had some frantic calls,” he said. “People are excited.”
Nancy Storey, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association, which conducts both the Maine Open and Maine Amateur, is more guarded.
“I do expect the Charlie’s Portland Maine Open to fill again,” she said. “But when we go above the Augusta area, you see participation drop. Especially in the Bar Harbor area because it’s so expensive in the summer.”
Storey is trying to help players who may want to stay in the area for the Amateur.
“We’re looking to make arrangements with some of the local hotels for better rates,” she said.
Jarvis thinks he’ll be OK, though.
“I think we can fill the field just with players from Penobscot County [and the surrounding area],” said Jarvis. “That’s the beauty of it. They’re already right here.”
The entry fee of $85 for the Bangor Golf Classic is comparable to the $90 for the Bunyan.
The Classic website (bangorgolfclassic.com) has a downloadable entry form, and Jarvis hopes that players can start entering online by May 15. The Bunyan (bunyangolf.com) also has a form golfers can download, and the site’s set up for online entry.