Larson, Steger shoot opening-round 63s to lead Greater Bangor Open

Posted July 25, 2013, at 8:21 p.m.
Jesse Spiers drives the ball on the 9th hole at Bangor Muni during the Greater Bangor Open on Thursday.
Jesse Spiers drives the ball on the 9th hole at Bangor Muni during the Greater Bangor Open on Thursday. Buy Photo
Tennis great Ivan Lendl lines up a putt on the first hole of Bangor Muni during the Greater Bangor Open on Thursday.
Tennis great Ivan Lendl lines up a putt on the first hole of Bangor Muni during the Greater Bangor Open on Thursday. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Momentum and confidence often go hand in hand.

Jesse Larson of Rutland, Vt., brought both to the 47th annual Greater Bangor Open after winning the rain-shortened New Hampshire Open on Tuesday.

And he used them to register a 6-under-par 63 at Bangor Municipal Golf Course Thursday and earn a share of the lead with Eric Steger of Rocky Hill, Conn. Mark Baldwin of Laconia, N.H., and Jon McLean of Weston, Fla., are just one shot back at 64.

Mike Dugas, John Elliott, Matthew Majka and Beon Yeong Lee shot 65s and Josh Briere, Mike Welch, Zack Byrd and Alexis Anghert were another shot back at 66.

The golfers had near-ideal conditions with low humidity and partly cloudy skies.

Round 2 will be played on Friday and, after cuts are made, the final round will be held on Saturday.

“I made five pars in the first seven holes, then made 10 pars and birdied [No.] 18. I made a good par putt on No. 6 from above the hole, a 15-footer, but I didn’t have to make any long putts. They were all around 10 to 12 feet,” said Larson. “Where they put the pins today, you had to be below the hole. If you were above the hole, with the speed you were hitting the putt at, there were so many different breaks. It was so key to be below the hole.

“My good shots were really good shots and my bad shots weren’t that bad,” said the 28-year-old Larson, who considered his driving the best part of his game.

“I drove the ball better than I have in the last three weeks,” said Larson, a 2007 graduate of the University of Rhode Island. “I didn’t drive it that well last week but we really didn’t have to hit driver. It was nice to get in a good rhythm with it out here because there are a few holes where if you hit it good, like No. 5 and No. 13, you’re basically driving the green.”

He said the momentum and confidence he gained from the New Hampshire Open win were important.

“Once you win a tournament, it totally changes your mindset. You go out and play golf knowing your good golf is good enough to win tournaments,” said Larson. “You just play and don’t care about a whole lot.”

Steger, a 2011 Ball State (Ind.) graduate, had seven birdies and one bogey, on the par-3 third hole, during his round. He birdied holes No. 1, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13 and 17.

McLean, who was born in White Plains, N.Y., and played his college golf at Oklahoma State, had five birdies in a bogey-free round. He is the son of renowned golf instructor Jim McLean.

Baldwin, who played at the University of Notre Dame, appeared as though he was going to wrest the lead from Larson, but he double-bogeyed the par-four 18th after notching seven birdies.

Defending champ Will Mitchell of Bowmanville, Ontario, is in the hunt after shooting a 67.

“It was OK,” said Mitchell, who posted a 9-under-par 198 in winning a year ago. “My putter let me down a little bit. I had an unfortunate finish with a bogey on the last hole.”

Mitchell and some friends spent time in the batting cage behind his Odlin Road hotel in Bangor last year and he said it relaxed him and helped him win the tournament.

“I’m traveling here with a different buddy this time and we haven’t been to the batting cage yet,” chuckled Mitchell. “We stood in there in the 90-miles-an-hour cage and something clicked and I won the tournament last year, so we’re going back tonight.”

Rich Berberian Jr. of Derry, N.H., who finished one stroke behind Mitchell a year ago thanks to a final-round 63, shot a 1-under 68 to tie with several golfers, including Bangor’s Jesse Speirs, who won the 2011 GBO.

“I didn’t play that great,” said Berberian. “I haven’t played well in a while. I’m just trying to keep it in play, I guess. It’s tough. You’ve got to make putts. And you aren’t going to make putts every day.

“I’m happy. The way I hit it, I could have definitely shot worse,” added Berberian.

Speirs said he hit the ball pretty well.

“I kind of struggled getting it close on the front nine. I had it close on 5 and 7 and just missed a couple of putts. But other than that, I had a lot of midrange putts that were tough to make out here. I birdied 14 and 15. I hit a couple of close wedges,” said Speirs, who had three birdies and two bogeys.

Welch, a Quincy, Mass., native who shot a course-record 61 in 2007, was satisfied with his 66.

“It wasn’t bad. My swing didn’t feel very good but I was able to score OK,” said Welch. “I missed a handful of greens but whenever I did, I was able to chip it pretty close.”

Marc Hurtubise, a native of Chambly, Quebec, who won the 2009 GBO, struggled with his putter and shot a 4-over 73.

“I hit 17 greens [in regulation] but I had 21 putts on the front nine and 18 on the back,” said Hurtubise.

Scott Hawley of Shrewsbury, Mass., the 2010 GBO winner, had a two-under 67.

“My ball-striking was great but my putting not so much,” said Hawley. “I three-putted two holes in which I had eagle putts.”

The most diverse scorecard of the day belonged to Chad Bouchard, who fired an eight-under-par 27 on the front nine and a 6-over-par 40 on the back nine.

Shawn Warren of Windham, the 2008 winner, shot an even-par 69; Hampden native John Hickson, the 1997 champ, carded a 73; Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md., the 1995 victor, fired a 71; and Hermon native Mike Baker shot a 72. Baker won the 1986 GBO.

Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl shot a 79.

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