PORTLAND — Greg Sandell, the Director of Golf at Boothbay Country Club, is getting into the swing of things, literally, at the Charlie’s Portland Maine Open Golf Championship.
Sandell, 39, posted a 6-under-par 66 in Tuesday’s opening round at Riverside Municipal Golf Course, tied for his best-ever score in relation to par in tournament play.
That put him in fourth place, three strokes behind leader Dustin James Cone of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and one stroke behind Mark Stevens of Concord, N.H., and Peter Kampmann of Riverside, Conn., entering today’s 18-hole finale.
Tim Desmarais of Cape Elizabeth is fifth at 67, followed at 68 by Eric Higgins of Kennebunk, Jerry DiPhilippo of Gorham, Michael Welch of North Quincy, Mass., Tommy Parker of Palm Beach, Fla., Michael Carbone of Brewster, Mass., and Sam Marzenell of Kennebunkport.
Ricky Jones of Thomaston and Jason Gall of Augusta are tied for low amateur at 70. Jim Renner of Plainville, Mass., has his work cut for him to defend his title as he is at even-par 72.
Sandell was playing only his fourth tournament round of the year Tuesday, and he hadn’t had many more than that fun rounds. So this ball-striking sensation is a complete surprise, even though he has been working on it for a while.
“It came out of nowhere,” he said. “Over the last three days, I just started clicking with the swing.”
He is eager to keep it going.
“I just want to ride it now,” said Sandell.
He was having a difficult time describing the feeling.
“I’m getting the club into a better position coming into the ball,” he said. “It’s just feel, and it feels good coming into the ball.”
He didn’t really want to try to describe it, though, showing a little superstitious side.
“I’d rather not talk about because I don’t want to ruin it. I’d rather not even think about it,” he said with a laugh.
While his swing was better, he mentioned in an “oh by the way” manner that he also had a new putter.
That club was also hot as he finished off his good swings with nine birdie putts, including six in a row on his second nine.
“Six in a row, I’ve never dome that before,” Sandell said. “And nine total, I’ve never done that before either!”
Sandell said he has been in better position in the Maine Open before, leading after one round once, but he’s not sure exactly when.
“It was at least, maybe, 10 years ago,” he said, back when the tournament rotated between Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth Country Club, the Woodlands Club in Falmouth and Portland Country Club in Falmouth Foreside. One club would host the pro-am and the other three would each host a tournament round.
He was happy with his 66 and his position.
“You always want to have it, but there’s not a lot of expectation that you’ll get it,” he said.
Sandell started on the back nine, which is normally the front nine as they’re reversed for this tournament.
He birdied No. 10; bogeyed the two par 3s, 12 and 15; birdied 16 and 17, and bogeyed 18 to turn in 36.
After a par on No. 1, the birdie barrage came on the next six holes.
“I had a couple of tap-ins, I made a couple of 10 or 12-footers with breaks in ’em … and I drained a bomb on 4, 30 feet probably,” recalled Sandell. “And they were all going right in the middle [of the cups].”
Cone strung together six birdies as well, Nos. 5-10, and also posted nine birdies, as well. He just didn’t have any bogeys.
Kampmann, who started on 10, birdied his first hole, bogeyed 12, then eagled the par-5 13th and was on his way.
Stevens, who also started on 10, made the turn 1 under par, but he eagled the 554-yard par-5 first hole and added four birdies for a 30 on the front and 65 total.