From the Bunkers

14 years ago

In the mid 1920s, a potato farm in New Limerick became what is now the Houlton Golf Course — the oldest golf course in Maine north of Bangor.
Players were few and the course was far from lush but the seeds were planted for the future.
During the ‘30s, the depression allowed few to enjoy the game as even low costs were beyond the reach of most.
When WW II took many of the young men away, the course became a sheep pasture with a bleak future.
Lester Baker, CEO of the Houlton Savings Bank, became the owner of the property and after the war turned it back to a golf course. Years of neglect had taken its toll and a great deal of work and need for equipment made it difficult to make it a financial success. Lester, who was a thorough gentleman and loved Houlton, sold the course for a very reasonable price. Records report the cost as $20,000 to a corporation which included Dr. Gene Gormley, president, Jim Pierce, treasurer and fellow directors, Frank Totman, Albert Putnam, Will Virgie, Joe McKay and Ira Tarbell. Many other local business and professional people bought stock, most of them well-known in Houlton.
The equipment was brought up-to-date and improvements were gradual, including a much needed water system.
Some of the early managers were Red Barry, better known as coach of Bangor High basketball. He and his wife, Maxine, lived at the course for the season. Hal Irons, who was one time an all-state football star in Connecticut and later played baseball in the New York Yankee farm system. Ed Phillips, a registered golf professional, was among others.
The building became a social center for many activities and a great place for wedding receptions — still is, as a matter of fact.
Many well-known people enjoyed the course including Bette Davis and husband Gerry Merrill, who spent some time at Jim Pierce’s lovely cottage near the course. So many names and incidents come to mind that I hope to relate at a later date.
One I remember was playing with Fred Sylvester, the captain of the UMO basketball team in 1928, who could always laugh at one of his misplayed shots (which were numerous). During his round, he scored an 11 on number two and followed with a two on number three, upon which time someone said “Fred, don’t turn in that scorecard, no one will believe it.”
Finally here is a golf tip from David Grant, a certified golf professional. “Play two balls — play the worst shot each time. Play your approach shots from the middle of the fairway from 100 yards out. 70 to 77 percent of your score comes from 100 yards and in. You may think you have a good short game but this will show how good it is — and practice, practice, practice!”