Even before the snow started disappearing under the onslaught of recent rains, players were registering for the Harris Golf Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament.
The 47th Bunyan is still three months away, scheduled for June 4-5 at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono and Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor, but entries are running ahead of last year, according to Harris Golf marketing director Matt Barnard.
Harris Golf owns several golf clubs in Maine, including Penobscot Valley, and runs a couple of others.
An addition this year is a website devoted to the Bunyan and its players, www.bunyanblog.com.
Online registration is available, as well as through www.bunyangolf.com, but there are also more interactive areas. Players can reminisce about their Bunyan experiences, check out a past champions list, ask questions about the tournament and have discussions with each other as well as with tournament officials.
The idea for the site came from Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf.
“Jeff wanted a place where people could participate and chat with each other,” said Barnard. “He wanted to give a way for people to become more involved.”
People have started using the new site, providing memories and comments, including one from Micki Meggison of Gorham. She urges more women to sign up for the women’s division, which was reinstated last year for the first time since 1996.
The addition of a women’s division in 2010 and the website this year follow a Harris corporate mindset, according to Barnard.
“Our motto is: What’s the excitement?” said Barnard. “You can’t just do the same things over and over. We’re trying to get people more involved.”
Many people had expressed their thoughts in the past, making a strong impression on Harris, Barnard and others.
“This tournament is personally important to a lot of people,” said Barnard. “I can’t even keep track of how many people say how many they’ve done.”
Reasons cited often are the fact they can play with family members and friends and make new friends as well.
“People say, ‘This is one event I do with my dad,’” Barnard said.
And interest remains high.
“Registration is pacing way ahead of last year,” said Barnard. “I think online registration is a big benefit.”
Barnard and his office staff always know when someone has registered, even without checking.
“We get alerted when they come in,” said Barnard. “In fact, while we’ve been talking, another one came in.”
The field is again limited to 288 players split among four divisions, with a senior flight and the women’s flight included in those divisions.
“We think that’s a reasonable number to reach and a reasonable number to get around (the courses),” said Barnard.
The women’s division will be conducted a little differently this year. Last year, the women were added into flights according to their handicaps. This year, they’ll have their own tees and their own prizes.
“Jeff has been adamant that we pay attention to them,” said Barnard.
This year, the A and B flights will play their first round at Kebo and finish at Penobscot Valley. The C and D flights will start at PVCC and finish at Kebo.
The entry fee is $90, the same as last year, and competitors can sign up for a discounted round of $30 on the Friday before the tournament at either Kebo or Penobscot Valley.
The early June tourney date as had some rain issues, but Barnard said the players look past that.
“Nobody complained how the weather went,” he said. They just accepted it as a possibility and dealt with it.
One player, according to Barnard, noted, “Despite the weather, I had a great time.”
Barnard believes the date will stay the same for future Bunyans, as well.
“When you get to the point where you have more people say, ‘the first weekend in June,’” then it’s what’s expected, Barnard said.
“We have three years invested in that date, and I think it’ll stay,” he added.
Other tourney dates
After the Bunyan, the next major tournament in the state will be the Maine Open, which will be held at Falmouth Country Club on June 21-22. The Maine Open, conducted by the Maine State Golf Association, had merged with the Greater Portland Open at Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland the last two years. The GPO will not be held this year, but it’s possible it will return in the future.
The Maine Amateur, which is also conducted by the MSGA, is set for July 12-14 at Portland Country Club in Falmouth Foreside.
The State of Maine Championship is slated for July 19-20 at Sugarloaf Golf Club in Carrabassett Valley.
The Greater Bangor Open, presented by Hollywood Slots and Raceway of Bangor, is July 21-23 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
The Women’s Maine State Golf Association Championship takes center stage Aug. 8-10 at PVCC.
The Bangor Golf Classic, which had a promising debut last year, will be held Aug. 20-21 at Bangor Muni.