BANGOR, Maine — Wednesday’s Greater Bangor Open pro-am gave the professionals a chance to check out Bangor Municipal Golf Course and its conditions and play with some local golfers.
It is a treat for the locals.
“What I really like is it is the opportunity to bring professionals to northern Maine, to Bangor. These guys are just a stroke or a putt away from making the PGA Tour. We’ve had some major players come here over the years like Sean O’Hair and play on our golf course, our jewel of the city,” said Bangor’s Michael O’Hara. “The tournament is conducted like a PGA Tour event by Brian [Enman, Muni pro], Rob [Jarvis, Muni’s assistant pro] and their staff, and it’s fun to watch these guys swing the golf club. I try to emulate them.”
O’Hair was the 2005 PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year. Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Rookie of the Year and Lanny Wadkins, a World Golf Hall of Famer and winner of 21 PGA events, are among the other famous Greater Bangor Open alumni.
Wadkins won the PGA Championship in 1977 and Bradley, who is ranked No. 17 in the world, won in 2011.
O’Hara also said the professionals are “so giving and so sharing [during the pro-am]. They will help you even while they’re out there trying to learn the golf course and get the yardage. They’ll still spend time with you. That’s a great benefit to the sponsors who help make this tournament possible.”
Ralph Backman of Beals Island said he enjoys the experience.
“I love to play golf … the competition. You go out and play best-ball in a team event. And I hope to learn some things from the pro,” said Backman.
“You get the opportunity to learn some things from a pro who has a lot of experience. And it’s a really enjoyable time to take some customers out in a fun event like this,” said Brewer native Jason Largay.
“I get to play with some different people anyway … some different pros from different sports,” said Jeff Leadbetter of Bangor. “It’s going to be fun.
“There will be a lot of stories that will be never told later,” he chuckled.
Homecoming for Hickson
John Hickson is no stranger to the Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
The Hampden native won the 1997 Greater Bangor Open and formerly worked at the Bangor Muni.
“This [tournament] keeps popping up and I say, ‘I’m not going back up there, I’m not going back up there,’ but I still do. I’m like the [Bangor State Fair], I keep coming back,” joked the 49-year-old Hickson, who lives in Topsham. “I like seeing these guys and hanging out with my mother, Betty.”
He doesn’t play as much golf as he used to these days and when asked about his chances, he said, “No comment.
“I wish there was a worse field [of golfers]. We don’t need better pros, we need all newbies,” quipped Hickson. “But it’s all good.”
He said everybody who enters the tournament “tries to come into it with some confidence and thinking they’re going to do well. But you never know. I’m sure Tiger [Woods] thought he was going to win [the British Open] on Sunday.”
Woods faded over the final 18 holes and Phil Mickelson came from behind to win it. Woods finished tied for sixth.
Three champs grouped together
One of the groups to keep a close eye on over the first two rounds of the 47th annual Greater Bangor Open will have three former champions in it.
Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md. (1995), Jesse Speirs of Bangor (2011) and defending champ Will Mitchell of Bowmanville, Ontario, will tee off at 8:21 a.m. Thursday and 11:21 a.m. Friday.