There’s been a changing of the guard in the central Maine golf scene.

Graduation took many of the best players from last year out of the mix, and broke up many of the best teams. Gone are players like Conner Paine and Sam Smestad and David Barre and Cody Rizzo, players who for years were at the top of the individual tournament leaderboards. And with their departures, programs that have won consistently over the last few years are at last facing the prospect of rebuilding.

Erskine, which won the Class B state title in 2016, lost the last two guns from that team in Paine and Justin Browne, and will instead have to start building its next core.

Zach Pray of Winthrop putts during the Mountain Valley Conference championships last season at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Morning Sentinel file photo

We’ve gone from probably scoring 160, 170 to the 200s,” coach Mark Bailey said.

Still, Bailey likes the way the future looks for his team. A pair of freshmen in Kate Bourdon and Joseph Lemelin are talented players and can help the Eagles through the transition.

I think we’re going to be able to contend in some matches,” Bailey said. “But the way the league was last year, if we can keep it under 200, we’ll probably win a few matches.”

Nokomis is hitting the reset button as well, but the Warriors have a key player back in Lindsay Cote, who played extensively in tournaments this summer and should be one of the top girls players in the state.

Jacob Hawthorne slides up as the No. 2.

We probably won’t get a lot of wins. I’ve really got some raw, new golfers,” coach Matt Brown said. “It’s going to be more Lindsey and Jacob this year.”

Gardiner went undefeated in the regular season and finished second in KVAC B last year, but lost its top two players and four of its top six. Still, with Drew Kelley taking over the top spot, coach Chad Hopkins doesn’t see his team slipping too far.

“(We) should be competitive and in a lot of matches,” he said. “We have a great group and plan on grinding it out this year.”

Waterville, which made states and finished 10th in Class B, lost its top player in Barre, but has a sophomore in Brandon Bearce (85 at the KVAC qualifying tournament) who’s ready to take his place and enough depth to keep hopes high.

“We will be competitive in the KVAC,” coach Khristian Clement said. “If the guys can play the way they have so far we should be a playoff contender.”

Elsewhere in Class B, MCI, now coached by alum and pro golfer Gavin Dugas, will try to return to states while being led by Owen Williams and new golfer Leah Dechaine, and Lawrence, down from Class A, will look for seniors Jacob Suttie and Alan Bourget to lead the team to a competitive season.

Maranacook and Mount View struggled through winless seasons last year, but should be considerably more experienced this year. Corbin Howe and Collin McGarr lead the Black Bears, while John Clifford is the top player for the Mustangs.

In Class A, however, the story remains the same. Messalonskee is an annual KVAC and state contender, and that shouldn’t change this season.

“I expect the seniors to play very well this year,” coach Jim Kerschner said. “They played a lot of golf this summer and are playing well right now.”

That group features a trio in Dylan Cunningham, Bradley Condon and Ben Hellen who started for the Eagles last year and who have been shooting between the upper-30s and low-40s in practice.

“It’s pretty good carryover,” Kirschner said. “I think ours is a respectable program up here, and I would expect us to make the states.”

So might Cony, which brings back four of the top five scorers from a team that just missed a state berth last season. Quincy Tobias so far looks like the Rams’ No. 1 golfer, but it’s a deep, if inconsistent, group at the top.

I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I’m definitely optimistic,” coach Shawn Johnson said. “The potential for everyone is there. They can all do it.”

Skowhegan struggled through a winless season last year, but with an ace in sophomore Jaycie Christopher is a sneaky pick to be a competitive team. Mt. Blue, led by Evan Stone and Gabe Robinson, is back after missing last season.

In Class C, Winthrop is back strong after winning a Mountain Valley Conference title. Zach Pray is the Ramblers’ No. 1, but Cam Hachey, Nate Miller and Jake Carter flesh out the kind of depth that is a luxury in the smallest class.

I’m enthused about what we’re going to look like,” coach Lonney Steeves said. “We should have a very good year.”

One of the Ramblers’ top foes will be in the running again. Monmouth lost its top player in Trevor Flanagan, but Abby Flanagan, Ryan Burnham and Matt Fortin are carding scores in the 40s.

“(They) hope to anchor our team,” coach Don Flanagan said. “But in order to return to our third straight state championship tournament, we will need to develop our fourth and fifth players.”

Madison and Oak Hill have inexperienced rosters and will focus more on teaching the game. Mt. Abram, new this year, has a pair of consistent 40s scorers in Teddy Forsley and Ben DiBiase.

Rangeley might have the upper hand on Valley and Forest Hills for the East/West Conference crown. The Lakers have only four players, but one of them, freshman Trevor Dolbier, is an 8 handicap coming into the season.

In the MAISAD league, defending champion Kents Hill is a good bet to repeat. The Huskies have one of the best players in the state in Mitch Tarrio, and he and TJ Folsom provide one of the best 1-2 punches in Maine regardless of class.

“This looks like it could be a great season for the Husky golf team,” new coach Brian Smith said. “I am thrilled to be spending my first year coaching what looks to be quite a talented team.”

 

 

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