Dozens of golfers will be back on familiar turf Saturday when they converge at Natanis Golf Course for the state individual golf championships.

Tee time is 10 a.m. Class A and B competitors will play on Tomahawk, while the Class C and girls champions will be decided on Arrowhead. Those were the sites of last week’s state team championships.

Whatever advantage golfers who played Natanis recently might have for this tournament could be neutralized a bit by Mother Nature. With rain in the forecast for Friday and early Saturday, golfers may need to adjust to the conditions, especially those who encountered the fast greens at Natanis last week.

Moisture and wind may not be the young golfers’ biggest obstacle in championship play, but how they deal with them mentally, especially if they get off to a slow start.

“Over the years, probably the biggest factor is either they don’t come prepared for it or they start out playing bad and it starts to get into their head,” Winthrop coach Lonney Steeves said.

Two of the three classes and the girls have returning champions.

Messalonskee coach Jim Kerschner has four golfers who qualified, the most in his 21-year tenure with the Eagles. Senior Dylan Burton and Billy Rollins and sophomores Jacob Bernatchez and Blake Marden practiced on Tomahawk on Thursday

Burton and Rollins are back after shooting 84 and 87, respectively, at last year’s championship, also held at Natanis. Bernatchez and Marden will be making their first state tournament appearance.

“The kids are playing well, especially the two seniors,” Kerschner said. “Their scoring average for the year is almost identical (a little over 39 for nine holes) and they’ve been very consistent, both of them.”

Defending co-champions Drew Powell of Bangor and Oceanside’s Nick Mazurek return after winning last year’s round with even-par 72s. Scarborough’s Drew Kane and Anthony Burnham, Greely’s Sam Burgoyne and Aidan Roberts, Justin Starbird of Camden Hills and Thornton’s Greg Kalagais also figure to be among those the Eagles will be trying to beat.

“I think we can compete with them individually,” Kerschner said. “I don’t see any really, really low scores like a 67 or 68 this year. But you never know.”

Class B is the only tournament guaranteed a new champion, although Maine Central Institute’s Eric Dugas would like to keep it in the family. His older brother, Gavin, shot a 1-under 71 to win the championship on Arrowhead. Eric, who tied for fifth seven shots behind his brother, fired a four-over 76 on Tomahawk last week, which was second among the Class B competitors.

Oak Hill’s Conor Drouin, who tied Dugas for fifth in last year’s tournament, will be among the top challengers, along with Fryeburg’s Jordan Lowe, who was the Class B low scorer at the team championship with a 73, MCI’s Carter Pearl and Cape Elizabeth’s Austin Legge.

In Class C, Winthrop’s Anthony Owens and Zac Robertson are veterans of the state tournament, making their third and second appearances, respectively. Both will be trying to dethrone Logan Thompson of Mattanawcook, who returns to defend his individual title after leading the Lynx to their first team championship on Arrowhead last week. Houlton’s Ryan Dee is another favorite, but Steeves said there isn’t a lot separating the top golfers and the tournament could be wide open.

“There are only 22 kids playing, so it’s a small field,” he said. “I was looking at the top three groups and the lowest (qualifying) score was a 77 and the highest was an 83. Six strokes is not a lot on a championship day where you never know what’s going to happen.”

Owens shot 80 and Robertson 81 last Saturday, and Steeves thinks both have a good shot at contending this week.

“Anthony could be right there (with the leaders) and I think after what he shot last week, Zac wants to put on a little show on Saturday,” Steeves said.

Hashilla Rivai, who led Thornton to the Class A title last week with a 72, the best of any golfer, is the overwhelming favorite to retain her girls title. Lincoln’s Bailey Plourde, last year’s runner-up, and Lauren Shonewolf of Cape Elizabeth are the other top contenders.

Other local qualifiers include: Katie Dixon, Carrabec; Justin Rodrigue, Cony; Justin Browne and Connor Paine, Erskine; Chad Prince, Gardiner; Carly Larochelle, Lawrence; Cohen Donnell, Oak Hill; Cassidy Gerrish, Austin Higgins and Ross Delorenzo, Mount View; Chance Whittemore and Colby Esty, Skowhegan; and Adam Barre of Waterville.


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