BANGOR — Playing golf, even for the pros, often comes down to money.
And that’s one aspect of his pro career that Bangor native Jesse Speirs has had to become very familiar with.
“It seems like there’s never enough. It goes fast, but it’s never wasted,” the 24-year-old said Wednesday after shooting a 1-over-par 72 in the 45th Greater Bangor Open pro-am at Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
The 54-hole tournament opens Thursday. Play continues with a second 18 holes Friday, after which the field is cut for Saturday’s 18-hole chase for the $10,000 first prize.
Speirs, who nearly won the GBO as a 15-year-old amateur in 2002, will have to contend with a number of strong players, including some past champions, in his bid to reach the top.
Scott Hawley of Shrewsbury, Mass., is the defending champion and has to be considered among the favorites in the 99-player field.
Other contenders include Michael Carbone of Brewster, Mass., Shawn Warren of Windham, Dustin Cone of Port St. Lucie, Fla., Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md., Jason Parajeckas of Woburn, Mass., John Hickson of Topsham and Jeff Seavey of Homosassa, Fla.
Cone, the 2010 Maine Open champ, shot the best pro-am round Wednesday, a 62; and Parajackas, who claimed last year’s New England Open title, posted a 63.
Carbone won last month’s Maine Open in a playoff with Warren and Hickson. Warren won the 2004 Maine Open and the 2008 GBO, while Hickson won the 1997 GBO and 2008 Maine Open. Egloff won the 1995 GBO and was in contention last year, and Seavey has won the last two Maine PGA State of Maine Championships.
Speirs is trying to play as much as he can in order to get the experience he needs to compete at that level, but it comes down to money. Money for tournament entry fees, money for gas, meals and hotels and more money for the incidentals of everyday life.
“It costs between $50,000 and $70,000 for a year, more toward $70,000,” Speirs explained.
“I played a lot this spring, but from May until the end of June, not much,” he said.
“If you play bad for a couple of months and don’t have any backers, you have to sit out for a while,” Speirs added.
He used that time to raise more money.
“It never gets easy to ask for money, but that’s what guys in my shoes have to do,” said Speirs.
He found people to back him and he is playing again.
“It’s been good to get back into it,” he said.
Speirs has been concentrating on playing National Golf Association Hooters Tour events, which is the closest mini-tour experience to playing on the PGA Tour or the Nationwide Tour.
“They have 20 events and they’re all 72 holes with 36-hole cuts,” he said. “I played four events in the spring and I plan on playing three or four in the fall.
“Then there’s (PGA Tour) qualifying school and I’m concentrating on that.”
While the competition is tough — his best Hooters finish is 11th — he admitted, “The more difficult thing was not thinking about money while you’re playing, especially if you’re near the cut line.
“I feel like I’m doing better with that now.”
While the cut line is important because only players who make the cut get paid, Speirs has realized his focus has to be more concentrated.
“You can’t worry about the outcome, you’re only in control of the shot in front of you,” he said.
Where he can affect the outcome is in his preparation.
“You’ve got to put the work in leading up to it,” he said.
He recently moved to Germantown, Tenn., near Memphis to live with friends and be close to the pro he’s working with now, Brad Olsen, the general manager and director of golf at Colonial Country Club in nearby Cordova, Tenn.
Speirs’ normal routine is to practice 4-5 hours a day, then play 18 holes.
“That’s most of my day,” he said. “Practice, working out, eating and bed.”
Speirs likes the workouts.
“I run, do cardio and lift weights,” he said. “That’s good on the road because then you have something else to do. And it’s a good release.”
Working out and eating better have paid off in other ways.
The 6-foot-3 Speirs now weighs 185 pounds.
“I’ve lost 25 pounds since February,” he said. “I’ve started controlling my portions and started cooking more myself.”
Speirs has also seen big improvements on the mental aspect of golf.
“I’m learning how to prepare for golf tournaments, I’ve learned how to manage my game better and I’ve learned the importance of the short game. You can’t just overpower a course,” admitted the long-hitting Speirs.
Short game prowess will be the key to winning at Bangor, he pointed out.
“Today, I didn’t putt well. (Monday and Tuesday) I putted well, but there were a couple I still didn’t read right. Not like I could have when I was 14 or 15,” he said with a smile.
He won’t give up without a fight, though. This is something he has been working toward since he started going south in his teens to play junior tournaments.
“I’ll do this as long as it takes for me to get where I want to go (the PGA Tour),” he stated. “I don’t want to put a time limit on it.
“I’ll make it when I’m supposed to make it.”