Caleb Manuel takes an approach shot on the second hole in the final round of the Maine Junior Championship at Gorham Country Club in July 2020. The course owners announced its closure on Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Personal photographer

The Gorham Country Club is closing.

Owners Harold and Kathy Hawkes announced the fence in an email to members on Tuesday, citing the challenges of operating the past two seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic and the possible impact on the golf course of a Maine Turnpike Authority planned spur.

“We are at an age where we would like to slow down and consider retirement and now the time is right,” the announcement said. “After much consideration and consideration, it is with mixed emotions that we announce the closure of Gorham Country Club.”

The Hawkes could not be reached for further comment Thursday.

The Gorham Country Club, which opened in the early 1960s, was not only home to teams from the University of Southern Maine and Gorham High School, but had between 200 and 250 members, according to Maine State. Golf Association. The 18-hole course was known for its favorable layout. It has been the site of many top tournaments, including the Maine Open in the 1980s and, in 2020, the MSGA Junior Championship, which ended with perhaps the most memorable stroke in golf history. du Maine, a 193-yard double eagle from Caleb Manuel on the 18th hole to win the title.

Beyond that, it was often the fundraising site for local events and offered recreational activities throughout the year.

“It’s sad,” said MSGA Executive Director Brian Bickford. “Because the Gorham Country Club was an asset to the community, that’s for sure. But I certainly understand where the Hawkes are from. … They gave us a golf course for 60 years. They should be proud of it. “

Gorham CC is the third course in Maine to close this year, along with the Katahdin Country Club, a 9-hole course in Milo, in April, and the Streamside Golf Course, a 9-hole course in Winterport, in September. Nationally, according to the National Golf Foundation, 193 18-hole golf courses closed in 2020, representing 1.3% of the national total.

Bickford noted others that have closed in the past five years: Sable Oaks Golf Club in South Portland, Twin Falls in Westbrook, River Meadows Golf in Westbrook, and Naples Golf and Country Club.

“It leaves a little space and golfers will gravitate to other places to play,” Bickford said. “The only problem is that some (courses) have grown substantially and there are waiting lists that former Gorham members will have to go through. “

Bickford estimated that MSGA membership increased by around 10-12% in 2021. “Growth there was modest, but there were a lot more rounds played,” he said. “People were looking for things to do, socially distant.”

Gerry Durgin, a retired high school athletic director and member of Gorham CC since 1993, is worried about finding a place to play next summer. He still hopes that a sale can be made and the course can be reopened.

“What this means is that I have absolutely no idea where I can go or even if I can register (for another course),” Durgin said. “There’s a great group of people we play with every day, and they’re not all from Gorham. We play together all the time. We have built a great brotherhood, so to speak, and a great respect for each other and for the course. It would be devastating to lose Gorham. I know I speak for a lot of people, my phone has not ringed. “

In the member announcement, the Hawkes thanked everyone for a great 2021 season. “Somehow words can’t begin to express the gratitude we have for your loyalty over the years. year.”

Then he continued, “The last two years with the pandemic have been a challenge for all of us. The uncertainty of whether or not we would be allowed to open, (led) to operate under all of the new guidelines which were a challenge for everyone. We have had the same staffing issues as everyone else. It gave us a reason to take a break and re-evaluate our business. “

The email also stated that the route “could be affected by a new toll spur.”

Durgin listed the positive impacts of Gorham Country Club on the community, from fundraising and golf to sledding in the winter. He wrote that the closure would “create a void” at a time when golf is experiencing substantial growth and force local residents to go elsewhere for recreational activities.

Gorham High sporting director Tim Spear has said he will start looking for another home course for the Rams, who have won three State Class A championships since 2006 and have produced several outstanding individual golfers.

“It has been our home run for as long as I can remember so we are disappointed,” said Spear. “I think we’re a little shocked now. We had heard rumors, but everyone was saying, “Don’t listen to rumors. “

Spear cited the club’s junior program as having a huge impact on the success of the high school team.

“The kids started at a young age and the Gorham Country Club was the perfect place to do it,” he said. “You just hate to see him disappear. “

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