Golf courses around Maine continue to close. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Golf continues to thrive in Maine despite the fact 10 golf courses have closed in the past five years, including five in Cumberland County.

Early indications are that golf rounds are up four percent from a year ago, according to Brian Bickford, the executive director of the Maine State Golf Association.

 “They were up eight percent last year and now they are up four percent over that,” Bickford said.

These increases are a continuation of the growth that golf in Maine saw during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Bickford said was as high as a 50 percent increase. Golf was the perfect sport when it came to dealing with pandemic parameters and guidelines, and allowed people to get outside but still adhere to social distancing practices.

A record 390 players have applied for this year’s Maine Men’s Amateur golf tournament and there are 20 on the waiting list, Bickford said.

Approximately 50 have already qualified for the 132-player field and there will be five qualifiers held at five courses across the state to decide the rest of the field, he added.

The Maine Men’s Amateur golf tournament will be held on July 11-13 at the Samoset Resort Golf Course in Rockport. It will be the first time the Samoset has hosted the event.

Caleb Manuel, the two-time champ, will return to defend his title.

The Topsham native played in the NCAA Division I golf championship tournament for the first time in his career and he and his University of Georgia teammates finished 14th among 30 teams.

He finished tied for 63rd individually with an 11-over-par 291 (70-74-73-74),

Manuel, who played in the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, transferred to Georgia from the University of Connecticut. He had played in an NCAA regional tournament at UConn but had never qualified for the final tournament.

The Maine Women’s Amateur will be the following weekend, July 17-19, at the Brunswick Golf Club.

Former Leavitt High School of Turner standout Ruby Haylock from Hartford won her second Women’s Amateur in three years last season. Haylock was a freshman at Bates College in Lewiston this past year.

Bickford said he has been seeing a “lot of great golf course conditions” so far this season, with greens in terrific shape thanks to the mild winter.

He noted that several courses in the state have waiting lists for memberships and that, combined with the four percent increase over last year, means the huge boost the golf industry received during the COVID period has proven sustainable.

“Adult rounds are up, junior (ages 8-18) are down, but clubs overall are doing well,” Bickford said.

The other noteworthy tournaments on the Maine State Golf Association calendar include, beginning with June, the Women’s Tri-State Tournament at the Martindale Country Club in Auburn (June 13-14) and the Maine Event (formerly the Maine Open) at the Augusta Country Club (26-27).

In addition to the Maine men’s and women’s Amateurs, July’s schedule also includes the Senior Four-Ball Tournament at the Fairlawn Golf Course in Poland on July 5-6.

The August schedule includes the Maine Junior Championship on Aug. 1 at the Riverside Golf Course in Portland, the Match Play Invitational at the Biddeford-Saco Country Club in Saco on Aug. 7-9, the B and C championship at the Old Marsh Country Club in Wells on Aug. 22-23 and the Mixed Championship at the Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland Center on the 26th.

In September, the Senior Women’s Amateur will be contested on the 12th and 13th at the Waterville Country Club, the Four-Ball Championship will be played at the Rockland Golf Club on Sept. 16-17, the Senior Men’s Amateur will be held on the 26th and 27th at the Northeast Harbor Golf Club and Kebo Valley Club in Bar Harbor, and the Men’s Tri-State Golf Tournament will be held at Martindale on Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

In October, the Senior Match Play Invitational will be held on Oct. 3-4 at the Cape Neddick Country Club in Cape Neddick.

Two significant tournaments that don’t fall under the MSGA umbrella are the ninth annual Downeast-Metro Amateur at Kebo Valley and the Bangor Municipal Golf Course on Saturday and Sunday, and the first Drive Fore Kids Celebrity Tournament on June 21-24 at the Falmouth Country Club.

The celebrity Drive Fore Kids tournament, organized by Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, is taking the place of the Korn-Ferry Tour’s Live and Work in Maine Open. The Korn Ferry event had a two-year run in Falmouth.

Proceeds from the Drive Fore Kids tourney will go to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.

The lengthy list of celebrity entrants includes former Boston Red Sox players Roger Clemens, Derek Lowe, Kevin Millar and Tim Wakefield; ex-New England Patriot and current Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel; ex-Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team captain Mike Eruzione; actors Anthony Anderson, Michael Pena, Robbie Amell and Patrick Dempsey; and decorated soldier and amputee Chad Pfeifer, who won the 2021 U.S. Disabled Open golf tournament.