MANCHESTER, Maine — Jace Pearson spends most of his time at the golf course.
As the assistant golf professional at Martindale Country Club in Auburn, his numerous duties all revolve around the game.
On Monday, he was able to rediscover the thrill that comes with tournament play, if only briefly.
The Auburn man shot a 3-under-par 67 Monday and finds himself only two strokes off the lead after the first round of the Charlie’s Maine Open Championship at Augusta Country Club.
“It’s actually the first tournament I’ve played this year,” said Pearson, who quickly explained why.
“Believe it or not, despite the weather, we’ve been really busy. It’s been awesome,” he said.
Pearson, who has worked at Martindale since 2010, quite simply has not had time to play the game he loves.
“That’s the mantra, if you get in the business, do not get in the business to play golf,” he said. “You have to love it.”
Pearson loves teaching the game. He said the hours he spends giving lessons take up most of his free time that isn’t occupied by his duties at Martindale.
Pearson, a native of Wrentham, Mass., came to Maine in 1991 to attend college and graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington. He then embarked on an amateur playing career.
These days, he doesn’t play often. Even so, he enjoys the thrill of playing in a tournament.
“Honestly, it never dies,” Pearson said of his competitive fire. “That’s the biggest thing I miss right now is competitive golf. I don’t get out nearly enough to do that.”
He found a pretty good touch during Monday’s round, making birdie on four holes on the front nine, including three in a row (Nos. 3-5). He had a pair of bogeys on the back nine, but added a birdie on 16.
Pearson admits it was a surprise, in terms of how well he performed.
“It is, yes, to hold it together,” he said. “I figured there’d be a lot of ‘shop rust’ coming out of things. I got a little bit out back and I was able to keep it glued together and get through the round.”
Pearson hasn’t followed the path of many playing pros who relocate to southern states and compete in numerous tournaments. Instead, he has settled down in Auburn with his family.
During the winters, he works at L.L.Bean.
“I had been able to play on the amateur circuit here for a period of time and conditions were right and I needed kind of a career change,” he said, “[and I] really wanted to pursue this [being a teaching pro] and it’s been great ever since.”
Speirs returns to Augusta
Bangor native Jesse Speirs returned to his home state last week to compete in back-to-back tournaments.
The 26-year-old shot a 2-under-par 68 on Monday and was tied with several players for third place after the first round of the Charlie’s Maine Open Championship golf tournament.
Speirs tied for 21st at the Greater Bangor Open, which concluded Saturday at his longtime home course, Bangor Muni.
The Maine Open is his first tournament at Augusta Country Club since 2001.
“I was 14 when I qualified for the Maine Am here last time,” Speirs said. “It’s been a while, but the course has only gotten better. It was good back then, it’s great now and they’ve done a great job with it.”
Speirs, who is playing on the PGA Canadian Tour, said he hasn’t quite put it all together yet.
“I’m playing good, [I’ve] just got to play good at the right time and catch a break and get something going,” Speirs said.
“I’ve been pretty close, but it’s kind of a process,” he added. “I feel good about my game, what I’m working on. I’ve just got to keep plugging on.”
More praise for Plummer
Mark Plummer is a fixture on the Maine amateur golf scene.
On Monday, Charlie’s Maine Open first-round leader Mack Duke was able to play a round with Plummer and Gorham’s Jerry DiPhilippo.
“To play with Mark Plummer is a privilege,” Duke said. “I used to watch him on tapes, on reruns, against Tiger [Woods] in that match-play event in the U.S. Amateur [in 1995] before I even knew who he was.”
Duke played Junior golf in Maine and first saw Plummer at the 2000 Maine Junior Amateur.
“That was cool. To get to play with him today was just awesome, great fun,” Duke added.
Links, not lifts
When Duke moved to Maine with his family as a 12-year-old, he enjoyed competing in various sports.
He attended middle school in Maine, winning the ages 13-14 division of the 2001 Maine Junior Amateur at Val Halla Golf Club in Cumberland. Duke then attended high school at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire.
While there, he had a revelation of sorts.
“Then I realized I wanted to play golf instead of snowboarding and skateboarding,” Duke said.
He went on to a golf academy at Hilton Head, S.C., and attended Huntington College in Montgomery, Ala. That didn’t prove a good fit for Duke.
“I liked it, but it was a little frustrating at times,” Duke said. “I just wanted to be on my own and do what I know how to do best. There’s just too much going on with teammates and all that stuff. Golf’s an individual sport. I like to keep it that way.”