Early openings in past years have golfers and clubs eager to get started this year, too

Posted March 26, 2013, at 8:33 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — When Charles Melino, the general manager at Penobscot Valley Country Club, looks out over the golf course, he sees he’s close to opening for the season.

“There’s a couple of inches left,” he said Tuesday. “Hopefully, it’ll be gone in the next couple of days and we can open this weekend.”

The weather report for Wednesday, which might normally be discouraging for a golfer, is encouraging to Melino. The forecast is for a little snow in the morning before changing to rain for most of the day.

“If we get rain, that should, hopefully, melt the snow,” said Melino. “If it does, we’ll be ready for the weekend.”

He won’t be the only one.

“People are chomping at the bit to go,” said Jim Fairbanks, pro at Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

Melino has seen the same thing.

“I’ve been fielding a lot of calls,” he said. “People are excited for the season to get started. If not for the storm last Tuesday, we’d have been open last weekend.”

Fairbanks wasn’t ready to go that far yet, but he’s used to early starts.

“We’re pretty aggressive [about pushing the season],” said Fairbanks. “We’re usually the first to open in the Portland area and we stay open as late as we can.”

Fairbanks thinks the season is on a normal pace to open in his area, but he understands why golfers are eager to play.

“We’ve been very fortunate [in Maine],” he said. “Three years ago, we opened early [in March], two years ago it was late and last year was early again.”

“I think people have been spoiled [by the early starts],” he added with a laugh.

Melino had one man call recently and ask, “At least is the driving range open? I’ve gotta hit some balls.”

The Maine State Golf Association is hoping to help provide a release for that feeling, but that still won’t be for about 2½ weeks.

Dunegrass Country Club in Scarborough is scheduled to host the MSGA’s “preseason” opener April 12-13. Dunegrass and Nonesuch are both owned by Daniel Hourihan.

“That’s tentative, obviously,” said MSGA Executive Director Nancy Storey, “depending on the weather.”

Storey is putting her faith in a couple of weather forecasters.

“The long-range forecast and the Farmer’s Almanac both say April should be warmer,” she said.

Nonesuch is hosting the official season opener the week after Dunegrass, and they’re followed by Biddeford-Saco Country Club in Saco.

Storey has also seen strong interest from golfers.

“Almost 80 people joined at the golf show,” she said of the Maine Golf Expo in Portland on March 10-11.

“We have 30 permanent-time groups [signed up] at Nonesuch,” Storey said. “That’s 120 players, and we haven’t allocated the nonpermanent-time players yet.”

She thinks there may be an overall rise in players this year.

“[Last year] was the first year since 2002 that the number of GHIN [Golf Handicapping and Information Network] players was up over the previous year,” she said, “and we’re hoping to do that again this year.”

GHIN maintains the handicaps of the MSGA players as well as for most of the state’s clubs.

But players can’t use or improve their handicaps until they start playing, and that is still a little way off for most golfers.

John Snyer at Hermon Meadow Golf Club officially opened nine holes on March 15 to kick off the season in the Bangor area, but the cold weather and snowstorm since then have kept the clubs buttoned up.

Melino, suffering from his own case of cabin fever, is just as eager as everyone else to get out.

“We’re ready [to open] no matter when it is,” he said. “At this point, though, I’m a little disappointed.”

Bouchard joins MSGA staff

Emily Bouchard of Saco, two-time defending champion of the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship, has joined the MSGA staff as the director of Junior/Senior Golf.

Bouchard replaces Mike Doran, who was promoted to director of Player Development and Tournament Administration. That spot came open when Sam Marzenell decided to pursue an opportunity to be a playing pro.

Bouchard had worked at the MSGA from 2007 through 2009 as a USGA P.J. Boatwright Intern, including working with the junior program.

She recently graduated from Daniel Webster College with a degree as an air traffic controller, but a hiring freeze has put that career on hold.

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