High schooler takes first-round lead at Maine Amateur golf championship

BELGRADE — Cole Anderson is 17 but already has an adult, tournament-seasoned golf game.

And, the soon-to-be senior at Camden Hills High doesn’t sound like someone awed by either his first-round 5-under 66 on Tuesday or his position atop the leaderboard at the 99th Maine State Golf Association Amateur Championship, being played for the first time at the postcard-perfect Belgrade Lakes Golf Club.

“One of the things you learn pretty quick is you just don’t change your mindset,” Anderson said. “I have my caddy Alex (Plummer, the pro at Goose River Golf Course), we’re really great at just sticking to the process, looking at every shot and figure out where the best place to hit it is.”

Anderson is playing in his third Maine Amateur, finishing third last year at Brunswick. He’s also a three-time Maine high school Class A champion, a 2017 qualifier for the men’s U.S. Amateur and has verbally committed to be a scholarship golfer at Florida State.

After Tuesday’s crisp round (one bogey, six birdies) that included a chip-in birdie on the 14th and a round-ending birdie on the slickly sloped 18th green, Anderson has a two-shot lead over the field and a calm demeanor.

“I’ve always been a pretty good competitor and I like trying to figure out what the best way is to compete and I feel like level-headedness is a big thing,” Anderson said.

Nine players broke par with two at even par on the 6,589-yard course that features gorgeous elevated views of Great and Long ponds.

Tied for second at 3-under 68 are defending champion Jack Wyman, 27, of South Freeport (Portland Country Club) and Brown University player Drew Powell, 20, of Holden (Penobscot Valley CC). Wyman overcame a double bogey on the seventh hole and played the back side in 3 under.

Powell, like Anderson, is a young player with enough experience to play three consistent rounds. He showed some grit on the back nine when he battled a balky swing after a 4-under front nine. Powell was a surprise first-round leader in 2014 when he eventually finished third.

“I know I can be there. It’s just about staying steady,” Powell said. “The second day of that tournament (in 2014) I got out of my routine and shot a high number that kind of played me out of the tournament. So it will just be keeping this consistent play going.”

Ashley Fifield, 35, of Westbrook (Sable Oaks Golf Club), Caleb Manuel, 16, of Topsham (Brunswick GC), and Joe Alvarez, 38, of Biddeford (Webhannet) are tied for fourth at 2-under 69.

Manuel, making his second Maine Am appearance (his first was as a 13-year old), had a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch on holes 14 through 16. While there are plenty of veteran threats still in contention, Manuel thinks the young golfers can be a three-round presence.

“I know all these young kids can play and they can get it around this course and shoot a low number like Cole did,” Manuel said. “I told my caddy I just wanted to keep it around 70 today to keep myself in it. Cole’s a good player and I’ll be chasing him probably all tournament.”

“Some of these young guys are fearless,” said Andrew Slattery, the 2014 champion. “They don’t have the scar tissue that we have about blowing balls way left and three-putting.”

Slattery, 29, of Auburn (Martindale) and 2015 winner John Hayes IV, 28, of Portland (Sable Oaks), and Bill Boyington, 47, of Hampden (Penobscot Valley), kept themselves in the hunt with 1-under 70s.

Lance Bernier, 26, of Lincoln (Boothbay Harbor CC) and Michael Nowak, 57, playing his home course, are tied for 10th at par.

“Being four back after day one isn’t really the end of the world for me,” Slattery said. “I know that it gets hard out there sometimes and sometimes you can go on a run.”

Many golfers said Tuesday’s course layout was “fair,” allowing birdie chances but punishing wayward shots.

Alvarez and Hayes predicted a three-round score of 6 under could win.

“You can make a double bogey so easily. Pretty much every hole you can hit it in the woods,” Hayes said. “So, I think around 3 to 6 under will probably win the tournament. I don’t see anybody going super deep out here because there’s so much trouble. So (I have to) just get two more good rounds and I’ll hopefully be in the race.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig

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