Eastern Maine golf courses kicking off season this week

Posted March 12, 2012, at 8:44 p.m.
Jim Treadwell gets in some practice with his &quotsecret weapon" driver at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, Maine, on Monday, March 12, 2012.
Jim Treadwell gets in some practice with his "secret weapon" driver at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, Maine, on Monday, March 12, 2012. Buy Photo

ORONO, Maine — Charles Melino, the general manager at Penobscot Valley Country Club, sat in his office Monday fielding phone calls.

“The phone has not stopped ringing today,” he said, smiling. “I have not got anything done that I wanted to get done because I’ve spent all my time answering the phone.”

Due to the recent warm weather and easy winter, Melino said PVCC will open Wednesday, two days earlier than he had planned.

“When I came in this morning, I thought we were opening Friday,” Melino said. “After talking to my super [superintendent Dan Allen], we decided to move it up.”

This is not the earliest opening for PVCC, but it’s close.

“From talking to longtime members, the March 12 opening two years ago was the earliest, so the 14th is the second-earliest as far as we know,” said Merlino.

While some southern Maine courses have opened, PVCC is one of a number of eastern Maine golf courses that will open or has opened this week.

Bucksport Golf Club opened Sunday when a sizable number of golfers descended upon the course, according to club manager Whitney Hand.

“We were going to open today,” she said Monday. “The rumor spread, I guess.”

Hermon Meadow Golf Club plans to open Thursday, according to owner John Snyer.

In a normal year, only nines of the club’s 18 holes are in play at first, the ones in the meadow close to the clubhouse. That likely will be different this year.

“It depends on [the weather] tomorrow, but I’m thinking the whole place [will be open],” said Snyer, the superintendent for 18 years before purchasing the club last year.

Melino had to talk to Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf Co., which includes PVCC among the golf clubs it owns, to determine a spring rate for the greens fee.

“That was one of the things I was planning on doing today,” said Melino.

That fee has been set at $35 for 18 holes.

Bucksport has set its spring rate at $10 for all-day play for the first two weeks, said Hand, and Snyer will charge $17 for 18 holes and $12 for nine when he opens Hermon Meadow.

All tees and greens are expected to be in play at all three courses.

“It looks unbelievable out there,” said Snyer in describing Hermon Meadow.

None of the courses is allowing riding carts yet.

Bangor Municipal Golf Course is not among those that will open this week.

“We’re still dealing with frost issues,” said head pro Brian Enman. “But we probably won’t be far behind.”

Frost hasn’t been a concern for Melino and Allen.

“It’s not that deep and not that much,” said Melino. “It’s still pretty firm out there.”

Overall, PVCC came through the winter well, he said.

“It’s in fantastic shape,” Melino said. “The super walked it the last couple of days, and there was no disease. The greens are good and the fairways are good.”

Melino credits new drainage for helping them open early.

“All the bunkers have new drainage so they dry faster, and other areas have had new drainage put in, too,” said Melino. “That allows us to get carts on the course faster.”

The putting green will be open, also, but the driving range won’t open until May.

Melino is glad that Penobscot Valley is able to open this early.

“We try to give our members, and the local community, the longest season we possibly can,” he said, pointing out that the 2011 season never closed.

“We had a tournament Jan. 1,” said Melino. The club closed the next day for its short winter’s nap.

Little more than three months later, the golfers have sprung up like crocuses.

“I started seeing people out here last week,” said Melino of the members who were itching to play. “The beginning of last week, we had cross country skiers out here. Two weeks later, we’ll be open for golf.”

Only a few people showed up Thursday and Friday to play a few holes, said Melino, but it has been picking up.

“At least a dozen played a full nine holes, and I think one group played all 18,” he added.

Melino, who plans weddings and other events for PVCC year round, is the only employee who works through the winter. He is happy to see the players for a second reason.

“It gets awfully lonely around here in the winter time,” he said.

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