ORONO, Maine — In response to issues that popped up in last year’s Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament, a number of changes have been made for this year’s event.
The 48th annual Bunyan, the first major Maine golf tournament of the year, is scheduled for June 2-3 at Penobscot Valley Country Club and Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor.
Other major tournaments this year include the Maine Open June 19-20 at Augusta Country Club in Manchester, the Hannaford Community Challenge LPGA Legends event June 21-24 at Falmouth Country Club, the Maine Amateur July 10-12 at Sunday River Golf Club in Newry, the New England Amateur at Falmouth CC July 17-19, the Greater Bangor Open July 19-21 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, the Women’s Maine Amateur July 23-25 at Augusta CC and the Bangor Golf Classic Aug. 18-19 at Bangor Muni.
The pairings for the Bunyan return to threesomes after the use of foursomes last year, and the field will be limited to the first 300 entries.
In last year’s Bunyan, the combination of foursomes and an expanded field made for some six-hour-plus rounds.
“Our determination [of the problem] agreed with the feedback,” said Matt Barnard, marketing director for Harris Golf Co., which conducts the tournament and owns PVCC. “Slow play is not acceptable and it’s not fun. Six hours for a round is unacceptable in any circumstances.”
Joe Alvarez of Hampden, the 2008 Bunyan champ, thinks the long rounds would have hurt the tournament if they had continued.
“I’m not sure I would have played this year [without the changes]. Six hours is a long day,” said Alvarez, who hasn’t entered yet but said he will. “It’s seven or eight hours when all is said and done. That’s hard to do on a regular basis.”
Alvarez said he and fellow longtime participant Jerry Glidden of Old Town talked over the winter to Harris Golf president Jeff Harris about the players’ concerns. Harris also plays in the Bunyan and had a front-row view of the problem.
“We bounced a few ideas back and forth,” said Alvarez. “They wanted it to be a good experience.”
So the decision was made to go back to threesomes (fewer decisions to be made by golfers at each point on the course) and keep a lid on the entries.
“We had 325 [sign up] last year. Three hundred is the limit this year,” said Charles Melino, general manager at PVCC.
“We hope some players who wouldn’t play [because of the problems] will reconsider,” said Alvarez.
The changes are already drawing praise, according to Barnard.
“One player emailed ‘excellent changes, will definitely sign up,’’’ Barnard said. “All who have responded have been positive.”
Barnard fields a lot of the calls about the Bunyan and sees first-hand how much many of the players consider it their tournament.
“This is something people still get excited about,” he said.
The earliest starting time has been moved up to 6:30 a.m., and starters and course marshals will be used to help keep groups moving.
The entry deadline is May 9, and the two days of pairings will be announced May 15.
Those times will not change except for the top 12 in the A flight, who will be re-paired to play together at the end of the final round.
Last year, the entire field was re-paired for the second day based on the opening-round scores. That made it difficult for people who were traveling together but finished hours apart. Also, many didn’t get their Sunday times until after 11 p.m. Saturday.
“Anything we can do to make it a better experience for the players, we’ll do,” said Melino.
Registration for the Bunyan is already heating up.
“I haven’t counted how many we received over the weekend, but as of the end of last week, we were more than one-third full,” said Barnard.
“We started taking applications four weeks ago,” said Melino. “It’s filling up quick.”
The Bunyan is divided into four flights each for men and women based on GHIN handicap, plus a senior division. Gross and net prizes are awarded in each flight as well as a couple of overall prizes.
Ryan Gay of Pittston has won the last two Bunyans but has not sent in his entry yet this year.
Micki Meggison of Gorham has signed up to defend her women’s title.
The A and B flights will start at Penobscot Valley and move to Kebo for the final round and vice versa for C and D.
The entry fee is $95. Entry forms are available at www.bunyangolf.com, where they can be downloaded for printing. The entry fee can be paid online, but a completed registration form must still be submitted.
Competitors can also sign up to play a June 1 practice round at either PVCC or Kebo for $30.