CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — Maine’s top professional and amateur golfers will compete in the State of Maine Championship Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sugarloaf Golf Club.
The state championship is an annual 36-hole medal play tournament, which matches Maine’s top professional and amateur golfers in junior, senior, and age-group categories.
To compete in the tourney, professionals must be a member of the Maine Chapter of the New England PGA, while all Maine residents are eligible to compete in the amateur category.
Sugarloaf has hosted the event for the past 10 years, and 18 out of the past 20 years. The course has proven to be a challenge for even the best players, rewarding good shots while punishing poor ones.
Among this year’s competitors will be defending champion John Hickson of Dick’s Sporting Goods, five-time champion Bob Darling of Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, as well as several top amateurs including Deer Isle’s Sam Grindle, who is coming off of a fourth-place finish at the recent Maine Amateur.
Steve Niezgoda, the golf pro at Sugarloaf, said there is any number of players who can win the tournament including Hickson, Darling and Shawn Warren, who shot a first-round 68 a year ago before ballooning to an 86 the next day.
“Anyone who can put together a couple of good rounds will be in the mix,” said Niezgoda who added that any under-par score could annex the title.
Hickson shot a 3-over-par 147 last year to tie with defending two-time champ Jeff Seavey before winning with a par on the first playoff hole.
He said the golfers have told him the course has “never been in better condition for this time of year.”
“The greens are true. We roll them every day,” said Niezgoda. “We covered all but six greens this winter and they are in immaculate condition. The other six greens are coming around.”
He said the demanding course will require the golfers to keep the ball in the fairway.
“We have a saying on the wall in the clubhouse that says ‘The woods are full of long hitters,” said Niezgoda.
Competitors received a first look at the course in Monday’s pro-am when Hickson carded an even-par 72 to win the event. Seavey finished two strokes back in second and Warren in third at 5 over.
Sugarloaf Golf Club was recognized by Golf Digest as Maine’s top golf course once again this year, for the 27th time in its 28-year history, and is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design.