BANGOR — Scott Hawley is trying to get back the confidence he felt after winning last year’s Greater Bangor Open golf tournament.
By the time the PGA Tour’s qualifying school came along last fall, the Shrewsbury, Mass., golfer wasn’t playing nearly as well as when he won the GBO.
He decided to shake up his routine by playing tournaments throughout the winter and changing teachers.
“If you try the same thing every time, it’s not going to work,” said Hawley.
He made a decent start in the 45th GBO Thursday, shooting a 1-under-par 68, tied for sixth and just three strokes off the lead.
Shawn Warren of Windham and Jason Caron of Greenwich, Conn., top the leaderboard by two strokes.
Warren, the 2008 GBO champion and an assistant pro at Falmouth Country Club, fired a 4-under-par 65 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, and it was matched minutes later by Caron.
Bangor native Jesse Speirs of Germantown, Tenn., posted a 67, which tied him with David Williamson of Truro, Nova Scotia, and David Hufham of Altamonte Springs, Fla., for third place.
Hampden native John Hickson of Topsham and Eric Higgins of Kennebunk are among a group of nine tied with Hawley for sixth at 68.
In previous winters, Hawley just worked at southern clubs to pick up extra money, but he decided to skip those jobs and use the time to sharpen his game by playing.
“I have a new routine and a new teacher and, hopefully, that works,” said Hawley.
His play hasn’t been consistent, although it got off to a good start.
“I had a pretty good winter,” he said of his five wins in small tournaments.
Since then his results have been more spotty, a third in a Canadian Tour event being his best finish.
He recently played in the Massachusetts Open, then zipped to Canada for small tourneys in Calgary; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg. He returned home for a day before coming to Bangor Wednesday afternoon and playing a few holes.
“I just needed to get a feel for the course,” he said. “I know the layout and I know the clubs.”
What he found was “the greens are firm and they aren’t going to get any softer,” he said.
That’s because a hot sun and fierce winds Wednesday and Thursday have approach shots taking big bounces, requiring the players to make adjustments to keep balls on the greens.
The players generally like it.
“I’ve never played Bangor when it was this firm,” said Warren. “It’s in great shape.”
The threatened thundershowers stayed north of Bangor Muni throughout the afternoon and early evening, meaning more sun and wind for Friday’s second round could make them even firmer.
What did surprise the golfers was the slower speed of the greens, which the players attributed to them having more grass.
“I didn’t make a thing,” said Jeff Seavey, a teaching pro at Samoset Resort in Rockport who won his second straight State of Maine Championship on Wednesday. “I just couldn’t get myself to the ball hard enough to get it to the hole. They were right on line, but they all came up short.”
Amateur Tovie St. Louis of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., had a similar experience.
“My putting was awful,” she said, “and the greens this year are gorgeous. I left three or four birdie putts short (going) right in the heart of the hole.”
Warren birdied three of the first five holes, bogeyed No. 7 to make the turn at 2 under, then birdied 10 and 13 for a 32 on the back nine, which is playing to a par 34 as the two par 5s have been converted to par 4s for this event.
Caron birdied 1, 2, 4 and 9 and bogeyed 3 to turn in 32. He birdied 14 and 15 to get to 5 under, but bogeyed 18 to drop back into the tie with Warren.
Speirs birdied No. 4 and parred the rest of the front for 34. The 2002 GBO runner-up bogeyed No. 10, then birdied 11, 13 and 17 to get to 3 under, but the wind caught up with him on 18.
“I tried to hit a 9-iron (second shot) in, but when the ball passed the trees on the right, the wind carried it farther left than I had planned.”
He bogeyed the hole to finish at 67.
Williamson started with 12 pars, posted an eagle 2 on 13, bogeyed 15 and birdied 17. Hufham rode a roller coaster for his 67. He bogeyed the first hole, birdied 4 and 5, bogeyed 8 and 10, birdied 13, 14 and 16, bogeyed 17 and birdied 18.
After Friday’s play, there will be a cut of the field to the low 40 and ties for Saturday’s 18-hole finale.