BANGOR, Maine — Jon McLean of Weston, Fla., is no stranger to wind when it comes to golf, but even Thursday’s opening round of the 46th Greater Bangor Open was a bit much.
“Growing up in Florida and going to school in Texas and Oklahoma, I’m used to wind, but this was windy,” said McLean, who tamed the wind better than anyone else in the 102-player field.
McLean recorded five birdies and one bogey in shooting a 4-under-par 65 and leads the GBO by two strokes entering Friday’s second round.
The wind was steady for much of the day, reaching steady speeds of about 15 mph and gusting into the mid-20s.
“The first few holes were pretty easy,” said Duncan Littlefield of New Canaan, Conn. “About 12:30, it picked up and blew hard.”
Derick Fors of Fitchburg, Mass., Will Mitchell of Wilton, Conn., Louis-Pierre Godin of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, and Littlefield share second at 67.
They are closely pursued by David Sheman of Newmarket, Ontario, Jimmy Lytle of Ocean Ridge, Fla., Mattieu Blouin of Quebec, Eric Ross of Burlington, Ontario, Eric Dugas of South Boston, Mass., and Kerry Johnston of Indio, Calif., at 68.
Two-time Maine Open winner Dustin Cone of Jensen Beach, Fla., and 2008 GBO champ Shawn Warren of Windham head a group at even-par 69 as the wind kept the leaders tightly bunched until McLean came in.
Bangor native Jesse Speirs, the defending champion, opened with a 71, which included hitting his tee shot out of bounds on No. 10. He and McLean were teammates at Texas Christian University before they transferred to different schools and they now travel together while playing the Canadian pro tour.
Guy Antonacci of Somers, Conn., is the low amateur at 70. Jason Harvey of Bangor is next at 72.
McLean started his round slowly.
“I was just plodding along [making pars],” he said. “Then I eagled [No.] 4 and made a long birdie on 6.”
He bogeyed 8, then birdied 9, 10 and 12 to get to 5 under par. He stayed there until taking a bogey on 17 for his 65.
“It was pretty windy right from the start,” said McLean. “On a few of those tees, I wasn’t sure what to hit.
“On 2, I hit 6-iron further than than I hit hybrid in my practice round.”
McLean had a plan to handle the wind, based on past experience.
“Take extra club, sometimes a lot of extra club, don’t swing too hard and keep [the ball] down out of the wind as much as possible,” he said.
He was a little surprised to find himself so far ahead of the rest of the field.
“I felt like the scores would still be fairly low,” he said.
He figured he would be among the leaders.
“I knew it was pretty good because of how the wind blew,” said the 26-year-old Oklahoma State grad.
Fors played steady golf over the first 10 holes and was rewarded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 10. He bogeyed 11, birdied 13, double-bogeyed 15 and finished with a birdie on 18.
That held up as the best for about 20 minutes until Mitchell, the winner of Wednesday’s long drive contest, matched him two groups later.
Mitchell also had one birdie on the front, on the par-4 fifth, then got to 3 under for the day when he eagled the par-4 13th. He stayed error-free until he made bogey on the last hole.
Littlefield made two birdies on the front, back-to-back on Nos. 4 and 5, and parred everything else.
“On days like this, par’s your friend,” said Littlefield, who should know. He parred all 18 holes in the third round last year.
One of his “friends” popped up on 16, a 159-yard par-3.
“Sixteen was the only time [the wind] caught me off-guard today,” said Littlefield.
“I hit my tee shot and I thought it was all over [right at] the pin,” he said. “Then it just [flared right into the bunker].”
He knocked his second shot on and drained a 15-foot putt to save par.
Sheman got to 4 under after 13, but a triple-bogey 7 on 17 dropped him back into the pack.
After Friday’s round, cuts will be made for Saturday’s final 18 holes.
“It’s going to be a dogfight the rest of the week,” said Littlefield, who feels he is right on track. “I stuck with my game plan, I’ll stay with it the rest of the week, and hopefully get the ‘W.’”
He’ll have to catch a hot McLean first.
“I finished eighth in the last Canada event last week,” said McLean. “I was right in the ballgame most of the week, so that was fun.
“I just have to keep on going.”