Webhannet Golf Club will offer unique challenges to the Maine amateur field

Caleb Manuel won the 2021 Maine Amateur Championship at Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor in one stroke. He will defend his title this week at Webhannet Golf Club in Kennebunk. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

There’s a strategy for players competing in the 103rd Maine Amateur Championship at Webhannet Golf Club this week.

On the front nine, hang in there. And on the back nine, turn it on.

The 121-year-old Kennebunk course welcomes its first Maine amateur, three years after hosting the Women’s Amateur Championship. A field of 132 players, led by defending champion Caleb Manuel, will take on a unique challenge on a par-71 course positioned just a few tee shots from the coast.

“It’s a very unique, classic, New England-style golf course,” said John Hayes IV, the 2015 champion. “It’s a short golf course, but the greens are very hilly. You can shoot low, or you can get a 75 pretty easily there.

Players could see their games take a wild turn for better or for worse. Webhannet features a very tough front nine, followed by a back nine that could set up well for birdies and eagles. Just 6,100 yards from the back tees, the course isn’t long – opening the field up to more than the 300-yard bombers.

“I like that. You’re going to see some seniors playing pretty well, they might shoot in the 60s,” Hayes said. it keeps everyone in the tournament.

The 54-hole tournament will begin on Tuesday. The field will be reduced to 40 players plus ties entering Thursday’s final round.

It is not difficult to find the favorite on the field. Manuel returns after winning last year by a stroke at Kebo Valley in Bar Harbor, and all the 20-year-old has done since then is finish second in the New England Amateur, share medal honors at the Big East Championship , qualifying for and playing at the US Open, and three shots away from making the cut in a Korn Ferry Tour event.

The two champions before him, Jack Wyman and Cole Anderson, each won back-to-back titles. Manuel aims to continue the trend.

“Caleb is definitely…the big favorite to win,” Hayes said. “But it’s golf, it’s amateur golf, and it’s amateur golf in Maine. So you never know what someone is going to shoot.

Manuel says he won’t be affected by the pressure of being the favourite.

“I don’t feel anything,” he said. “I don’t think I will, just because I’ve played in a lot of tournaments. … I’m going to be a little nervous, but it’s just another tournament, and whatever happens, happens I’m not going to put too much internal pressure on myself.

Manuel is eager to add his name to the list of players who have won multiple Maine Amateur titles.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “As a kid it was a dream to win it, and to win it last year it meant a lot. Defending it would mean just as much. It’s a tournament I always respect no matter what. have to do.

Other contenders include Will Kannegieser, who was runner-up last year and finished third in 2020.

“For me, it’s just about being comfortable with the shots you need to hit on the golf course, figuring out what my strategy will be, and making good decisions,” said Kannegieser, a Minot native who moved to Boston in June. “If I can go ahead and hit the shots I’m trying to execute, I’ll have a chance.”

Hayes is in good shape, having won the Maine Mid-Amateur title (for players 25 and older) in June. The field also includes three-time champions Ricky Jones (2003, 2004, 2013) and Ryan Gay (2008, 2010, 2011), 2014 champion Andrew Slattery and 13-time champion Mark Plummer, who is back after missing the tournament. last year. This year’s event is the 20th anniversary of Plummer’s 13th title.

On a course like Webhannet, putting and precision will be there.

“The real defense of the golf course is the greens,” said Eric Higgins, Chief Professional at Webhannet. “You have to hit the right spot, otherwise it’s going to be tough. You may think you’re going to birdie very quickly, but if you hit it in the wrong place, you’ll have to try to get through for par.

Players will need to be prepared for two different tests. The front nine is a bear, with two par-3s over 200 yards across challenging greens and another that features a blind uphill tee shot into a green guarded on both sides by bunkers.

“If you land good shots, you can do 3s,” Higgins said. “But it’s also easy to bogey. And now you’ve got behind the eight ball.

At the back, however, specifically between holes 14 and 18, players will have the opportunity to charge. Two par-5s and two short par-4s, both within 325 yards, will give players a great opportunity to climb the leaderboard.

“Joe Alvarez rated 14-18 ‘The Playground’ because you can spend 6 pennies in those holes if you play well,” Hayes said, referring to the Webhannet player and third-place finisher last year. “If someone is four shots off the lead in that streak, you can win the tournament. … (Holes) 14 to 18 is probably where the tournament is going to be won.

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