Mia Hornberger of North Turner gets a hug from Jade Haylock of Hartford after they finished the 18th hole with playing partner Morghan Dutil of Turner at the Maine Junior Golf Championship last summer. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

Maine State Golf Association executive director Brian Bickford is getting the junior golf season up off the ground despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

First on the agenda is implementing a nine-hole junior golf play day in each county.

“I was just listening to (Maine CDC) Dr. (Nirav) Shah talk about how kids should get outside,” Bickford said Thursday. “We (along with the New England Junior PGA) are running  together — and I am putting a schedule together right now — basically, (we) would like to get every county in the state to run a junior golf play day. We are basically going to attempt (to hold the play days) prior to the junior tour, so it’s going to be crammed at the end of May, early June, to get to every (county) and get as many juniors who would like to come out and play.”

Players will be able to participate in a particular play day if it is being held in their county, or if they are a member of the club that is hosting it.

The MSGA will follow the social distancing rules the state has put in place for golf, and will work with host courses to select the tee boxes and course setups.

“We are thinking if we could just run a play date, not a tournament, no scorecards, a max score of eight, something like that, there might be a lot of kids that might be interested just coming out, practice social distancing, sign up online, park, play and go home,” Bickford said.

In addition, MSGA will have staff at the course to make sure everything runs smoothly and help the junior players follow the social distancing rules.

Caleb Manuel of Topsham makes a putt on the 18th green during the Maine Junior Golf Championship last summer. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

Bickford also said MSGA staffing will increase for its major events like the men’s and women’s Maine Amateurs.

The junior tour that the MSGA and NEPGA put on is scheduled to begin June 24 at Belgrade Lakes. The tour has stops at Martindale on June 30 and Fox Ridge on July 9. The MSGA Junior Championship will be held on July 28-29 at Gorham Country Club.

The MSGA hopes the rule that limits golfers to playing courses in their own county will be lifted by the start of the junior tour and the other events on the association’s schedule.

“In fairness, we have applied through the Maine Department of Education and Community Development to get that lifted,” Bickford said. “It became very clear when they opened the campgrounds and they opened the restaurants and they opened retail (that) they weren’t limiting it by county.”

U.S. KIDS TOUR

The county rule, along with the 14-day quarantine for those who come to Maine from out of state, forced the U.S. Kids Tour canceled its spring tour.

The Maine delegation participates in the parade of golfers at the 2017 U.S. Kids Tour tournament in North Carolina. Submitted photo

The spring tour was scheduled to begin May 2 at Webhannet Golf Club with three other stops in Cumberland and York counties, which have both been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this spring. The seven-event tour was supposed at Belgrade Lakes on June 7.

“The two biggest restrictions in Maine are the 14-day quarantine if you come from out of state,” Portland U.S. Kids Tour director Joe Dubois said. “Secondly, for the in-state kids, you can’t play a course unless you live within that county or you are a member. … We will move on and hopefully we will start at the end of August at Riverside for the Fall Tour.”

Dubois said between 30 and 40% of the players in the state’s U.S. Kids tournament fields are from Massachusetts.

Dubois said the tour needs those two restrictions to be lifted to run the fall tour which had stops at Springbrook and The Tour Championship was at Poland Spring in 2019. An official schedule has not been released for the fall of 2020 yet.

Dubois said another issue to consider in the fall is how many family members can follow a player.

“(U.S. Kids) did a stat year ago, they said for every kid that shows up and registers there’s two-and-half people that come,” Dubois said. “It remains true. In Maine even more so, we would have three to 10 people. In some events we would have the family, with siblings, we would have the grandparents, aunts and uncles, all following one kid. It’s awesome, that’s what makes it so much fun, but one of the new restrictions (is) U.S. Kids said is it’s caddie and player only.”

Meanwhile the American Junior Golf Association will still hold its Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Sugarloaf from August 17-20.

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