Sam Smestad wanted respect for his Nokomis golf team. The Warriors had seen much of their depth from 2017 leave, and the perception was that Nokomis was going to take a step back — or several — this fall.

In Smestad, however, the Warriors still had their best player. And the senior felt his team was capable of surprising some people.

“The coaches voted for the teams they thought would be the best at the beginning of the season, before any matches even happened, and I think we were second to last,” he said. “We were kind of motivated to prove, not only to the other people, but to ourselves that we were capable of having a decent, respectable season.”

Nokomis accomplished that, beating Maranacook and upsetting Waterville in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference playoffs to make the four-team KVAC shootout. Smestad drove the Warriors the whole way, and eventually posted an 82 to finish tied for third in Class B at the KVAC championships and an 84 to finish tied for 10th in the state in Class B. For his performance, Smestad is the Morning Sentinel Golfer of the Year.

“We had a lot of new people, and if they had played in previous years, they hadn’t really been at the varsity level, which is totally different with all that competition and all that pressure,” Smestad said. “I was just trying to be a role model, whether it was having the right ethics on the course or showing them how to play the game mentally.”

Coach Matt Brown said he could see Smestad embrace more of a leadership role, even if it was a quieter one.


“He’s definitely more of a lead-by-example kind of guy,” he said. “In our practices, he would take some of the less-experienced golfers out with him, and I feel like those golfers enjoyed being able to play with him, because it always helps you to play with a better golfer. He would never complain about who he was playing with, and would always give a few pointers and tips if he could.”

Doing his part to help the team was rarely an issue. Few of Nokomis’ opponents had No. 1s as steady as Smestad.

“He’s kind of what he calls sneaky long. You watch his tee shots and don’t really think he’s booming it, but then you get out there and realize he’s right out there with some of the longer hitters,” Brown said. “Definitely, though, it’s his short game that makes him a low handicapper. When you’re good around the greens like he is, you’re able to score well.”

Still, Smestad did have to make a mental adjustment. The Warriors were better than expected, but they weren’t the state title contender they were a year ago, and Smestad knew he didn’t have the support each time to ensure his low rounds went toward victories.

“It was definitely harder to stay focused,” he said. “But that’s what golf is. It’s a mental game.”

“Some of his higher rounds this year, I think he may have felt a little pressure trying to carry too hard on a couple of situations,” Brown said. “But he really was on a level of consistency that made us strong, made us get to the KVAC qualifier championship and shootout.”


As the season wound its way to the biggest meets, Smestad upped his game. He shot 39 to beat Waterville’s David Barre in the KVAC semifinals, and then fired another 39 at the KVAC shootout. In the KVAC qualifiers, playing for a spot in the Class B individual tournament, Smestad shot an 82 in rainy, cold weather that would deter any weekend golfers with just a glimpse out the window.

“I just got into that mental part,” he said. “I was really trying to buckle down mentally, because it was easy to fall into the mindset of ‘Oh, I’m not going to shoot a good score today just because the weather’s terrible.’ But it was difficult, for sure.”

Smestad returned to Natanis a week and a half later to finish in the top 10 individually for the second straight season. His golf career isn’t over; Smestad is planning on taking a gap year, and using the time to further work on his game.

“I’m going to try to keep getting better at the game because I love it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a part of me for a long time.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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