BANGOR, Maine — Mike Baker has spent a lot of time at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
He grew up in Hermon, won the prestigious Greater Bangor Open in 1986, and eventually became the assistant pro at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
Baker will return for the GBO for the first time in “six or seven years” beginning Thursday when the 47th annual tournament begins. The field will be cut after Friday’s second round of the three-day tournament.
Par for the course will be 69.
The pro-am will kick off the festivities on Wednesday.
Bangor Municipal pro Brian Enman and assistant pro Rob Jarvis said they have 107 entries and the course could be conducive to some low scores especially after Tuesday’s rain.
“The course will be more receptive for shots and the greens will be slower,” said Jarvis. “They should be able to make some putts depending upon how we set up the course.”
Baker is looking forward to the tournament.
“I’ve played it a thousand times over the years,” said Baker, who is now the pro at the Point Sebago resort golf course. “I know what it takes. It’s a little like last weekend’s British Open. You’ve got to be patient. It’s tricky … treacherous.
“There are some easy bogies waiting. Par is a good score on most holes but you want to make birdie when you can,” said Baker. “The par threes tend to be a key, especially six and eleven. And three can be really treacherous if you don’t hit the right spot.”
The other par three on the course is at 16. There is just one par five (4) because Nos. 15 and 18, which are normally par fives, have been switched to par fours for the tourney.
“You can handle the rest of it if you can get by the par threes. Four and five are legitimate birdie holes. They’re all potential birdie holes but that’s not how it happens,” Baker said. “You can have a fairly low score one day. But to do it three days in a row is the hard part like [in] any tournament.”’
Will Mitchell of Bowmanville, Ontario won the GBO last year with a nine-under-par 198 in his first appearance at the GBO. He has registered to defend his title.
Baker and Mitchell are two of several former GBO winners who will be on hand along with the likes of Bangor’s Jesse Speirs (2011); Scott Hawley of Shrewsbury, Mass. (2010); Marc Hurtubise (2009) of Chambly, Quebec; Shawn Warren of Windham (2008); John Hickson of Hampden (1997) and Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md. (1995).
“I’m trying to hit some balls down here [to prepare for the GBO], but it won’t stop raining,” quipped Baker.
Even though he hasn’t played in the GBO or at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course in more than five years, the 51-year-old still feels he can contend for the $9,000 first prize from the purse of approximately $45,000.
“I’m a senior now. I’m a wily old veteran,” joked Baker. “I don’t know that bombing the ball does anything [positive]. It would be nice to make some putts.”
He said sticking the ball close to the hole can be a challenge.
“If you land the ball on the front of the green, is usually stops. If you land it near the back, it usually doesn’t [stop],” said Baker.
He said a lot of players think the scores are going to be really low, but he pointed out that he doesn’t recall anyone winning it “double digits” under par.
“A lot will depend on the weather and on how some of the better players do. If they have good rounds, it could be tough. It’s not a fun course to try to make up shots on,” said Baker. “You wind up having to shoot at the pins, and that’s usually a difficult thing to do.”
Among the other contenders will be Mike Welch of North Quincy, Mass., who shot a course-record 61 at the 2007 GBO and who won the Vermont Open last month and the Massachusetts Open in 2012; 2011 Massachusetts Open winner Kyle Gallo of Berlin, Conn. and Maine Open Golf winners Mike Carbone of Brewster, Mass. and Dustin Cone of Jensen Beach, Fla.
Welch beat Carbone in a three-way playoff at the Vermont Open.
Also returning to play at the GBO is former tennis great and eight-time Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl. Andy Murray won last year’s U.S. Open and the Wimbledon title earlier this month under Lendl’s tutelage. Murray became the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years.
The GBO is the second of three major regional golf tournaments in a span of eight days.
The New Hampshire Open concluded on Tuesday and, following the GBO, the Charlie’s Maine Open will be held at the Augusta Country Club on Monday and Tuesday.
Jarvis said this is the first year they were able to line up the three tournaments to help defray the travel costs for the golfers bring in out-of-state golfers.
“It’s a great idea,” said Enman. “We’re also all hoping it brings more numbers.”