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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Cony was looking forward to challenging for the top spot in the KVAC Class A this season, but that was before an injury sidelined senior Zach Gagne, the team’s top player. After shooting 35 and 39 in a couple of exhibition nine-hole matches, Gagne suffered a broken right knee cap playing hockey.

The Rams have two players capable of going low in juniors Ben Leet and Thomas Foster — Leet shot 4-under 32 last week at Natanis — but no one else on a level with the top three. Several others, including Justin Rodrigue, Sean Stewart and Casey Bancroft, have played well but not consistently well.

“You’re looking at 10 to 15 strokes difference,” Cony coach Shawn Johnson said.

Gagne, who is on crutches, rides with Johnson during matches and attends as many practices as he can. He also offers encouragement and advice to his teammates

“He was a captain of the team and he still is,” Johnson said. “He is my assistant coach at this point.”

The Rams are 4-3 heading into today’s match at Waterville.

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Winthrop recorded its first-ever regular season win last week against St. Dominic, winner of five of the last six Class C state championships. The Ramblers took a 5-2 victory, winning the stroke play portion 182-188.

“Especially over there at Fox Ridge on their home course,” Winthrop coach Lonney Steeves said. “It was a feather in their caps.”

Junior Taylor Morang has the low stroke average in the Mountain Valley Conference, around 39, while Adam Hachey is playing No. 2 and Anthony Owens in the third spot.

“On a lot of teams Anthony would be No. 1,” Steeves said.

Zach Steele and Ben Caprara play the No. 4 and 5 spots, respectively, and both have shown marked improvement, Steeves said.

The Ramblers (6-0 ) have a pair of key matches in the next week against Wiscasset and Madison, each with just one loss. Wiscasset lost to Madison and Madison lost to St. Dom’s. Both matches are at Winthrop’s home course, Springbrook.

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Maranacook might well have contended for top honors in KVAC Class B this season, but two of its top players didn’t return to the team this fall. Still, the Black Bears are 7-1. Senior Luke Ruffing, the Class B runner-up the past two years, is solid at No. 1. Ruffing recently shot 4-under par 31 on the team’s home course at the Augusta Country Club. Senior Matt Delmar has played well as No. 2 and has tied Ruffing for medalists honors at least once while sophomore Connor Ireland has broken 40 this year at the No. 3 spot.

“I’m looking for a consistent 4 spot,” Maranacook coach Ryan Meserve said. “Our hope is we can make a good run at a qualifying spot.”

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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
[email protected]