BANGOR — He finished as the top amateur in the Hollywood Slots Greater Bangor Open last summer, and now, Jesse Speirs is aiming for the next step when the tourney begins today.
Speirs, the Bangor native who turned pro earlier this year and played in a U.S. Open qualifier in May, will be in the mix over the three-day tournament after carding a solid 5-under par 66 during Wednesday’s Pro-Am event at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
Dustin Cone of Bennington, Vt., posted the low round of the day at 9-under 62.
The 23-year-old Speirs hadn’t played on his home course since the 2009 GBO, during which he shot a 1-over 143 over the rain-shortened, 36-hole event.
“I haven’t been here in a year so I’m trying to get used to the course again and how the greens play,” said the recent graduate of the University of Mississippi. “You’ve just got to come out here, have fun in the Pro-Am [and] enjoy your time.”
Speirs’ round consisted of six birdies, including four on the back nine, and just one bogey, which came on the fifth hole after a wayward approach.
“I hit [my tee shot] right of the green and I hit a really bad second shot, I tried to get too cute with it,” said Speirs, who left the shot short before chipping on and two-putting for his bogey.
He really got things cooking on the back nine, consistently driving the ball in the 300-yard range while taking advantage of the fast, rolling fairways.
“I think it’s the best shape I’ve ever seen [the course] in, and the greens are rolling great,” said Speirs, who admitted he could’ve posted a lower score had he made a few more putts.
“I know these greens. There’s not as much break as I’ve been reading,” he said.
Speirs finished his round with a flourish by notching birdies on the final two holes.
After his poor tee shot on No. 5, he then started killing the ball off the tee.
“I’ve just got to hit the wedges closer, I struggled with that today,” he said.
Unlike when he competed in this tourney as an amateur, finishing second in 2002 at the age of 15, there are some higher stakes while competing as a professional.
“It’s always the money factor, you can’t just go out there and hit shots,” Speirs said. “Every shot’s worth something.”
Blocking out the pressure is also a key factor.
“Getting used to having that mindset that you’re playing for money, you can’t really think about that too much,” Speirs said. “You’ve just got to go out and play golf, because golf doesn’t change.”
Speirs is still living in Oxford, Miss., and has played quite a bit this summer, including a recent two-day tourney in Iowa and a qualifying event for the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude tourney.
He said it’s going to take a low score to post a victory at the GBO.
“I think with the course being the shape it’s in, the greens will get fast, they’ve always been tricky but they’re rolling so good that guys are going to be making a lot of putts,” Speirs said. “I think anywhere from 8-to-12 under is probably going to win.”
Speirs likes being home for a few days, and also enjoys having his college studies completed so he can focus on his game.
“I haven’t been home since Christmas and I haven’t played Bangor in a year so it’s nice to come back here and see everybody,” Speirs said.
“The last five years I’ve been going to college and having something to look forward to all through the summer. Now I’m playing golf and I don’t have to go back to school. It just feels good to be able to focus on golf finally.”
The three-day main event kicks off at Bangor Muni starting this morning at 7.