News from the course

Tee up a toast for 50th North Haven Invitational Gin & Tonic Golf Tournament

Event celebrated annually on the island in early June
By Ken Waltz | Jul 09, 2018
Courtesy of: Jay Madore Those who participated in the 50th anniversary of the North Haven Invitational Gin & Tonic Golf Tournament on June 8-10 on the Penobscot Bay island.

North Haven — There is a gem of a golf course essentially hidden away in Penobscot Bay on a quaint and idyllic 12-mile-long by three-mile-wide island — a precious parcel of terrain that has a year-round population of 350 and swells to three times that total at the height of the summer.

It is a nine-hole layout islanders — and a handful of lucky mainlanders — know well and have grown to love and appreciate.

And for 50 years, friends and family have gathered for a special, historic, three-day tournament on the course.

Friday through Sunday, June 8-10, the North Haven Invitational Gin & Tonic Golf Tournament celebrated its 50th anniversary, and again included plenty of fun, camaraderie, solid golf and life-changing memories.

David Cooper of North Haven, the first winner of the tourney in 1969, returned to celebrate with this year's winner, Courtland Tolman of Vinalhaven.

Ross Kolhonen, a Colby College graduate and founding father of the event, recently died.

Three charter members of the tourney — Colby College graduates Joe Steiner of New York, Bill George of Vermont and Frank Neal of Massachusetts — continue to play in the event.

Originally, the tournament had 13 members, while currently it has 40 or so active participants.

The par-35 course, which has many members during the summer months, has nine holes — which plays 2,970 yards from the blue tees, 2,602 from the whites and 2,412 from the reds. It includes two par-3s, a par-5 and six par-4s.

Those who play in the annual G&T event come from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee and Florida, and include bankers, realtors, lawyers, doctors, stock brokers, insurors, golf pros, those in the automobile business and newspapers, lobster fishermen, painters, business owners, electricians and retired military members.

According to a program for the 50th event, the first G&T was held in 1969 and "had its origins from the weekly golf outings and gin drinking of some North Haven folks and Ross Kolhonen, who was teaching school on the island. When two or three of Ross's friends from his Colby College days visited one weekend, a golf tournament was proposed, played and a champion (Dave Cooper) was proclaimed.

"Over the next few years, the group grew to nearly 40 golfers, which is where it stands today. The core group of golfers came from North Haven residents, Colby friends and Vinalhaven lobstermen. Friends, relatives (including sons and grandsons), and friends of friends have added to the roster over the years. An invitation to the G&T was considered special enough to mean mandatory attendance and players came from many states, including one from Australia to North Haven on the first weekend in June."

The first Pine Pecker Trophy was designed by Frank Neal in the mid-1970s and was replaced in the mid-1980s by the current and "more appropriately-sized edition. The nifty green jacket first appeared in the late-1970s — a size 38-short — $10 at Building 19 1/2. The off-islanders lodgings became G&T headquarters for the weekend and have had many locales including: The Gardner Cox House, Nebo Lodge, The Williamson House, the old "ship" house near the town pier and currently "Our Place" — known in the past as the Pulpit Harbor Inn."

According to the North Haven Golf Club's website, the island was incorporated in 1847 and nearly 70 years later, in 1916, the first golf ball was struck at what is now the North Haven Golf Club. "Spectacular views, challenging terrain and a relaxed familial feel, make the North Haven Golf Club an experience that will touch you in the same way it has touched its members for generations."

The course architect, Wayne Stiles (1884-1953), of the renowned firm of Stiles and VanKleek, left a lasting legacy to the Fox Islands, and his design remains intact to this day.

Click for course overview and hole-by-hole tour with photos.

David Cooper of North Haven, left, the first winner of the tourney in 1969, and this year's winner, Courtland Tolman of Vinalhaven. (Courtesy of: Jay Madore)
Ross Kolhonen, founder of the North Haven G&T Invitational, who passed away in 2017. Kolhonen was an avid runner who participated in marathons on all seven continents and was proud to still fit into his Boy Scout uniform at age 70. (Courtesy of: Jay Madore)
(Courtesy of: Barry Hyman from the North Haven Golf Club website)
(Courtesy of: Barry Hyman from the North Haven Golf Club website)
Comments (1)
Posted by: TOWN OF NORTH HAVEN | Jul 11, 2018 12:54

Year-round population is 350 or more. Summer population is at least 3 times that.

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