Jim Renner of Plainville, Mass., will defend his Maine Open Golf Championship title when the tournament gets under way today at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland.
Renner rode a string of five straight birdies en route to a three-stroke victory over Rob Oppenheim and John Elliott in the 36-hole tournament.
Elliott, of Westerly, R.I., will challenge Renner again, but Oppenheim will not as he is now a regular on the Nationwide Tour.
That doesn’t mean Renner won’t have challengers, and two of them will be in his threesome, which is scheduled to tee off first on the first tee at 7:30 a.m.
Shawn Warren of Windham who won the Open in 2004 at Riverside as an amateur, and John Hickson of Topsham, who won in 2008 at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, will have the front-row seats among the 155 challengers to Renner’s crown.
Past champions Kyle Gallo (1999) of Kensington, Conn., Jerry DiPhilippo (’95) of Gorham, David Cummings (’94) of Portland, Joe Clark Jr. (’92) of Holderness, N.H., and Don Rovertson (’81) of Irving, Texas, are also in the field.
Other contenders include Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md., who tied for fourth last year and was the ’95 Greater Bangor Open champ; and Steve Sokol of Milford, Conn., who tied for sixth last year.
Also in the field are pro Eric Higgins of Kennebunk, the 2007 Maine Amateur champ; and amateurs Joe Alvarez of Hampden, the ’08 Paul Bunyan Amateur winner; Ryan Gay of Pittston, who won the ’08 Maine Amateur and was runner-up last year, and Mark Plummer of Manchester, 13-time Maine Amateur titlist and ’79 GBO champ as an amateur.
Currently, Renner is in fifth place on the National Golf Association’s Hooters Pro Tour money list at $47,316, boosted by a one-stroke victory — and $30,000 first-place check — in the Sunset Hills NGA Classic held May 14-16 in Edwardsville, Ill.
The Sunset Hills win was similar to his Maine Open victory in that he posted five straight birdies in the final round there as well, this time on the first five holes. He finished with an 8-under-par 64 and was 15 under for the tournament.
His Hooters finishes have been up-and-down, though, with two top-5s and two top-15s in nine events counterbalanced by two missed cuts and three finishes of 31st or lower.
Right behind Renner on the Hooters money list is Michael Welch of North Quincy, Mass. His win in the F&S Asset Management Group Classic in March helped push his total to $47,049. He has played seven events, cashing checks in five of them,
The tournament, run by the Maine State Golf Association, is 36 holes of stroke play, with the field cut to the low 50 and ties and those within 10 strokes of the lead for Wednesday’s final round. The cut will also include the low 10 Maine pros, low 10 senior (50-and-older) pros and 20 amateurs.