VASSALBORO — Erskine Academy’s golf team had some holes to fill after losing five of the six golfers who had helped the Eagles qualify for the state championships the last two years.

Luckily for the Eagles, there were some freshmen ready and able to find the bottom of the hole when they needed to at Natanis Golf Course at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference state golf tournament qualifier.

Erskine (347) secured its third consecutive Class B team berth in the state championship, joining Maine Central Institute (329), Gardiner (346) and Mount View (351). Mount View earned an automatic bid by winning Monday’s KVAC Shootout.

Messalonskee (329), Mt. Ararat (347), Brunswick (348) and Camden Hills (349) joined Lewiston (343), which had already clinched a spot by winning the Class A KVAC Shootout, in the Class A team championship. Both Class A and Class B will be played on Natanis’ Tomahawk course on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Erskine relied on a mix of veterans, rookies and a “sleeper” to secure the fourth and final spot in Class B, two shots ahead of Lincoln Academy.

“Robert Harmon (who shot 86), he’s had the experience. He’s played for us in the qualifier a couple of years. But (freshman) Justin Browne shot 84 and (freshman) Connor Paine 84. They were the key, really,” Erskine coach Mark Bailey said. “And then Brandon Keezer, he’s kind of our sleeper. We call him ‘The Closer.’ He came in with a 93, which really closed it for us.”

With the cutoff at 85, Paine and Browne also qualified for the state individual championship, which is Oct. 17 at Natanis.

Also qualifying for the Class B individual championship: Eric Dugas, Nate Tilton and Carter Pearl of MCI; Austin Higgins and Ross Delorenzo of Mount View; Chad Prince of Gardiner; Adam Barre of Waterville, Nick Mazurek of Oceanside and Alex Fritz of Belfast.

Dugas shot the low round among all competitors, firing a 1-under 71 on Arrowhead course. He sank eight birdies for the round.

“That’s definitely my lowest score here,” said Dugas, who qualified last year. “I played the par-4s good. I birdied all of the par-5s.”

Prince, a senior, shot an 81 with birdies on No. 3, No. 9 and No. 14 to reach his first state final. The birdie at 9 came on a chip shot from the base of the steep uphill green about 30 feet from the hole.

“As soon as I hit it, it felt pretty good, and it just kept rolling and went in,” Prince said.

In Class A, Justin Starbird of Camden Hills and Cameron Cox of Mt. Ararat were the medalists after turning in 5-over 77s at Tomahawk, one shot ahead of Messalonskee’s Dylan Burton.

Burton shot even-par after nine and six-over on the last nine to earn his second state championship berth,

“With the second year doing this, I felt more comfortable, more relaxed. In the beginning, putts were rolling, so that made me more confident,” Burton said. “Wedge shots into the green were trouble. I couldn’t hit a wedge shot. My strength was driving and putting, except near the end.”

Other Class A individual qualifiers were: Jacob Bernatchez, Billy Rollins and Blake Marden of Messalonskee; Justin Rodrigue of Cony; Chance Whittemore and Colby Esty of Skowhegan; Cole Anderson of Camden Hills; Alex Robert and Brendon Croteau of Lewiston; Mac Kim of Oxford Hills; Zach Grant and Josh Clark of Brunswick; and Zach Alden and Cavan Hagerty of Bangor.

The top 15 plus ties advanced in Class A, which set the cut at 86. That left Rodrigue, who shot an 85, to sweat it out for a few minutes while scores were posted.

Rodrigue started his round reaching the green in three on the par-5 first hole but three-putted for bogey. He was 2-over before he birdied par-3 No. 5 and seemed to be on track until he hit a couple of bad wedge shots on the par-4 No. 16 and quadruple-bogeyed.

“My irons kept me in play,” Rodrigue said. “Even though I was missing some putts here and there, I was also making some. I was trying to stay away from the driver because I having been hitting that consistent.”

“I was hoping for 82 or less. I felt that would definitely get me in. I thought the cut was going to be right around 85,” Rodrigue said. “Overall, I think I played well. I think I can get down in the 70s.”

Mount View’s Cassidy Gerrish reached her third girls state championship tournament by shooting 96. The senior fired a 46 on her first nine.

“I could have done better on the back nine, but I was pleased with my score on the front nine,” she said. “I think my drives were working pretty well today. I definitely wasn’t as nervous as I was last year.”

Bailey Plourde of Lincoln was the girls medalist, turning in the second-lowest score among all golfers with an even-par 72, nine shots in front of runner-up and teammate Marla Springe. Other girls qualifiers were: Carly Larochelle of Lawrence, Anna Smith of MCI, Stephanie Rodrigue of Lewiston, Liz Day of Brunswick and Madison Hemingway of Belfast. Girls had to shoot 110 or better to qualify.

Randy Whitehouse 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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