All golf courses have their particular challenges and Dustin Cone of Port St. Lucie, Fla., received a first-hand introduction Monday to the ones he will face starting Tuesday when he opens defense of his Charlie’s Maine Open title.
Falmouth Country Club is the site for the 93rd Maine Open and Cone has seen a distinct difference between Falmouth and Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland, the site for the 2009 and ’10 Opens.
“That’s an understatement. … It’s not even the same tournament as last year,” said Cone, who was seeing the course for the first time in Monday’s pro-am.
“At Riverside, you can hit (the ball) practically anywhere and still find it,” added Cone, who shot rounds of 63 and 71 at Riverside to win by a stroke. “That’s not the case here.”
Falmouth Country Club has a tighter layout than Riverside with holes surrounded by developed home sites and wetland areas. There are also more undulating lies in some fairways requiring hitting to particular spots for better approach shots or to take trouble out of play. There are also some strong elevation changes, both up and down.
“Scores will be higher, not even close,” said Cone, whose total last year was 10 under par.
What Cone, a Vermont native, saw Monday made him glad that he came up from Florida early to play in the Vermont Open. That allowed him the chance to play in the pro-am and check out the course.
“You don’t want to play this one blind,” he stated.
Cone kicks off play in the 36-hole event at 7 a.m. Tuesday with Maine Amateur champ Ryan Gay of Pittston and Maine Mid-Amateur titleholder Ricky Jones of Thomaston in the first group.
While Cone was unfamiliar with the course until Monday, Shawn Warren of Windham is the exact opposite.
“Nobody should know this course better than I do,” said Warren, who is an assistant pro at Falmouth. He is also a past Maine Open champ, having won in 2004 as an amateur.
“Falmouth has a lot of subtleties to it,” added Warren, who won the Maine Amateur in ’06, then won the 2008 Greater Bangor Open for his first pro title.
The par-72 Falmouth layout will play longer than the stated 6,879 yards from the back tees because Cone feels more players will be hitting something other than driver off many of the tees.
“You can bomb a driver, but it looks like 3-woods” will be the way to go, said Cone.
“The course is playing fast and the greens are firm,” said Warren.
As a two-day tournament, recovering to win after a bad first round will be difficult.
“It would be nice to get a good round in,” Cone said. “Two or three under would be a good score.”
Warren received encouragement as the tournament approached.
“I’ve been getting a lot of support from club members, staff and the owners,” said Warren.
Warren has been playing well in tournaments this year, but that’s mostly all he has been able to do.
“We didn’t have a spring conducive to putting in a lot of work on your game,” Warren said.
Cone, on the other hand, hasn’t played a lot this year, but he did win the Coors Light Open in Fort Myers, Fla., in early March. That field included some of the people he will be facing at Falmouth, he said, plus there were a couple of former PGA Tour pros in Ben Bates and Nolan Henke. Cone earned a $10,000 first prize, the same as he won last year at the Maine Open.
Rob Roylance of Orlando, Fla., and Mark Stevens of Concord, N.H., who tied for second last year, are both back to make another run at the title, but they aren’t the only ones who want another shot at Cone’s hide.
“There are about 140 other guys out here who want to do that,” said Cone with a laugh.
John Hickson (2008) of Topsham and Jones (2006) won Maine Opens at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn. Kyle Gallo of Kensington, Conn., won in 1999, when one of the three rounds was held at Falmouth. Jerry DiPhilippo of Gorham won in ’95 and was runner-up in 2007.
Hermon native Mike Baker, now at the Tarratine Club on Islesboro, was low pro and second to Jones in ’06. Don Robertson of Dallas goes back the farthest among past Maine Open winners, having won in 1981.
Other challengers could include two-time Maine Amateur and two-time Paul Bunyan Amateur champ Gay and 2009 GBO victor Marc Hurtubise of Chambly, Quebec.