Changes to formats and schedules this fall have been met with mixed reaction from golf coaches in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.
In Class A, the KVAC has gone from a mix of match and stroke play to straight stroke play. Previously, six players from each squad played head to head with one point awarded for each match. Then the top four scores from each team were combined and the low team was awarded three points. This year, the top four scores from each team are taken from six golfers and the low team score wins the match.
Some coaches like the new format because it follows the one used at the state championships although only five players are allowed for each team. Others believe it discourages those who shoot a high score on one hole and feel they’re out of it.
“Looking back at it, the outcome of the matches would not change,” Messalonskee coach Jim Kerschner said. “The problem I have is some young kids would just give up (after a bad hole). I hope they go back at some point.”
The stroke play format erases head to head play as well as individual records and rivalries.
“They’ve kind of lost that feeling they’re playing against someone,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said.
The KVAC has also eliminated its separate team championship. The year the KVAC winner will be the winner of the team qualifier. In previous years, the top four teams with the best records played off at neutral sites and the winner earned an automatic berth at the state championships. The extra day or two of conference matches were eliminated to save money.
“I do wish we could do something to have a playoff,” Skowhegan coach Dave Martin said. “It seems like the regular season means nothing.”
Schedules among Class A and B teams have been combined to save money on travel. This has benefited some teams but not others. After playing exclusively in Class B, Maranacook this year has met Class A teams from Lewiston, Edward Little, Oxford Hills and Mt. Blue.
“I’m not excited about it,” Maranacook coach Ryan Meserve said. “It’s increased travel for us. It’s not the same because we know in the qualifier we’re not going to see those teams.”
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Maine Central Institute has its best shot at a Class B state title this fall since Sam Marzenell led them to a championship in 1997. Its top four players are averaging 154 strokes per nine holes and coach Paul Greco believes his team and Class B Camden Hills could be the top squads in the state regardless of class.
“I’m pretty solid,” Greco said. “The top for are real solid.”Junior Gavin Dugas plays at No. 1 while Carter Pearl and Eric Dugas, both freshman, play at No. 2 and 3, respectively. Senior Trevor Kitchin plays at No. 4. Last week against Mt. View, Gavin Dugas shot 1-under 34 while Pearl shot 35 and Kitchin 37.
“Gavin is probably one of the best juniors in the state,” Greco said.
Senior Dylan Watrous and junior Parker Morrison round out the top six. The Huskies are 8-0 and could finish unbeaten heading into the KVAC qualifier. They face their last hurdle Wednesday when they play Class A Bangor at Bangor Muni. Earlier this season, they beat the Rams by seven strokes.
“That’s going to be a test,” Greco said.
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Skowhegan has never qualified for the state tournament, but the Indians have a good chance this year. They are 5-1, having split with Messalonskee this season.
“I didn’t know we’d be quite as good as we are,” coach Dave Martin said.
The team returned four players in seniors John Swett, Chase Nelson and Chase Whittemore and sophomore Chance Whittemore. Nelson has the low scoring average at 40.5 per nine.
“They worked at Lakewood (Golf Course) and played all summer,” Martin said. “They’ve improved quite a bit.”
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Messalonskee is 7-1 but coach Jim Kerschner said team scores should be lower.
“We’re just not playing well,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate.”
The Eagles return six players, led by sophomore Billy Rollins, who averages around 40 per nine holes. Because the KVAC has mixed A and B schedules this season the competition hasn’t been as strong as when the Eagles played exclusively in Class A. Their only loss so far has been to Skowhegan
“Skowhegan has improved dramatically,” Kerschner said.
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Madison struggled with numbers just a few years ago and combined with Carrabec for a couple of seasons to field a team. But that’s changed as a junior high feeder program is paying off. This year the Bulldogs have 12 members, including four girls.
“It’s encouraging them from going from the junior high program to the high school,” Madison coach Heath Cowan said. “That’s helping out a lot. Andy Carbone is coaching that.”
Junior Ty Cowan, the coach’s son, leads the team in scoring and plays at No. 1.”
“He was averaging 49 last year,” Heath Cowan said. “He’s just over 41 this year, I’ve got hopes he’s going to break into the 30s pretty soon.”
Junior Jared Miller plays No 2, followed by Tripp Libby and K.P. Carpenter, also juniors. Freshmen Broc Campbell and Logan Smith round out the top six.
“All six of the guys have had their personal best for nine holes,” Cowan said.
The Bulldogs are 5-1, their only loss to St. Dominic. They have a key match this week against unbeaten Winthrop.
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A few dates to keep in mind. The Mountain Valley Conference championship will be held Oct. 7 at Natanis. The four teams with the best records will play nine holes, then the two winners will play nine more to determine the league champion. This year, that champion receives at automatic bid to the state team championships. Team and individual qualifying for the MVC will be held Oct. 9.
The KVAC will hold team and individual qualifying Oct. 8 at Natanis. The state team championships will be held at Natanis on Oct. 12 and the individual championship at Natanis on Oct. 19.
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638