Assistant Sports Editor
KILLINGTON -- Short of abandoning one’s clubs and fleeing into the dense forest that lines Green Mountain National Golf Course, avoiding the competition is not an option for most of the top contenders at the 2012 Vermont Amateur.
For two days, at least, they play side-by-side.
Two-time defending champion Devin Komline tops the field of 144 players taking to the demanding, mountainous track for the Vermont Golf Association’s showcase event.
And, with few exceptions, the majority of last year’s top 25 finishers begin the tournament in one of six successive, high-profile pairings. Komline shares a start time with Mike Stackus and Gregory Scott, runners-up at Neshobe Golf Club last summer.
"That’s going to be awesome," Komline said. "There’s going to be a lot of great banter going on.
"Those are Thursday pairings. I like what they did there."
The venue, Green Mountain National, plays host for the first time. At nearly 6,600 yards, it is 300 yards longer than Neshobe Golf Club, where Komline won by eight strokes at 12-under par.
A course ringed by trees and littered with hazards, there is even less room for error than normal as a dry summer has the course playing firm and fast, according to head pro David Soucy, formerly of Mount Anthony Country Club.
"If you’re hitting the ball straight, you’re going to go low," Komline said.
If you’re not? Escaping into the woods might sound more attractive on a warm summer day.
"If you have a couple of holes where you block one or pull one, you’re going to make double [bogey]," Komline said. "There’s so much trouble everywhere."
A minefield awaits players as they make the turn, from the ninth to the 12th holes, a series of par-4s that are all among the top six handicap holes on the scorecard.
"Those four holes, if you play those at even-par, you’ve picked up a stroke on the field," said Soucy.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Soucy also pointed to the three par-5s -- Nos. 1, 6 and 15, all reachable in two -- as holes to attack.
Soucy offered a potential winning score of 5- or 6-under par for 72 holes this week, a number Komline seconded.
Yet, in Komline’s runaway win last summer, only three other golfers were under par. Two years ago at Manchester, he was the only one as he won by six shots.
Likely challengers for the crown -- with another win, Komline would be just the sixth Vermonter to claim three straight -- include Stackus, Scott, Casey Komline (Devin’s younger brother), Evan Russell, Bennington’s Thomas Sennett and last year’s second-round co-leader Brian Hopkins.
Home-course favorites include 2003 Amateur champ Peter Metzler and 2009 runner-up Garren Poirier, who has previously qualified for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links championships.
"He’s got it all," Soucy said of Poirier. "He hits it a mile off the tee, his irons are good and he putts well."
Split-tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday morning in three-man groups. Afternoon rounds are slated to start at 12:10 p.m.
All ties for 40th place or better through two rounds qualify for Thursday’s 36-hole finale.
Day 1 tee times for local competitors:
HOLE 1 -- 7:50 a.m. - Thomas Deck, Equinox G.C.; 8:20 a.m. - Mike Rollyson, Dorset F.C.; 8:50 a.m. - Chris Antonez, Manchester C.C.; 12:50 p.m. - Brett Grigsby, Equinox G.C.; 1:20 p.m. - Aaron Wood, Mt. Anthony C.C.; 1:50 p.m. - Chris Petitt, Mt. Anthony C.C.
HOLE 10 -- 7:30 a.m. - Jack Ralbovsky, Mt. Anthony C.C.; 7:50 a.m. - Nate Walton, Mt. Anthony C.C.; 8:10 a.m. - Kim Pedersen, Manchester C.C.; 8:30 a.m. - Jack Luders, Ekwanok C.C.; 8:40 a.m. - John Antonez, Equinox G.C.; 12:30 p.m. - Hogan Sennett, Burlington C.C.; 12:40 p.m. - Mark Heffernan, Ekwanok C.C.; 12:50 p.m. - Keith Komline, Dorset F.C.; 1 p.m. - Devin Komline, Dorset F.C.; 1:10 p.m. - Casey Komline, Dorset F.C.; 1:30 p.m. - Walker Allen, Ekwanok C.C.; 1:40 p.m. - Thomas Sennett, Lakeside G.C.; 2 p.m. -- William Peabody, Ekwanok C.C.