The Erskine golf team knew it was going to be good in 2016. Really good.

Entering the season, the Eagles returned all of its top golfers, including seniors Robert Harmon and Brandon Keezer, and sophomores Justin Browne and Conner Paine. The foursome had helped the Eagles qualify for the Class B state championship in 2015.

And if that wasn’t enough, junior Aaron Pion transferred from Winslow to Erskine, where he initially started his high school career.

“I had played with two of the guys who were on the team that year,” Pion said. “The rest of them were freshmen the year I was a sophomore, but I knew them well from middle school. So we were all pretty close as it was.”

With a deep and talented roster, Erskine reached the pinnacle, going 12-0 season and en route to winning program’s first Class B team title.

Pion, who didn’t start golfing regularly until he entered high school, was happy to make the transition back to Erskine, as there was no golf team at Winslow.

“Being able to go and rejoin a team — that can actually play — made life so much better,” Pion said. “We knew going into (the season) that we were going to be a good team because, over the summer, all of us had played in tournaments together. And so, we knew what we had, talent-wise, and we knew we had a chance to win it all from the very beginning.”

“There was a confidence (within the team),” Harmon added. “It wasn’t a cocky confidence, we were just really excited to get the season going. We knew we had the potential to get the championship. We were all good teammates to each other.”

The Eagles relied on their depth. In any given match, any member of the team could step up and be the best performer.

Erskine Academy golfer Conner Paine takes a swing at the 2016 Class B championships at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

“The thing about our team, our (No. 1 through No. 5 golfers), our scores were all close together,” Harmon said. “If one person had a bad day, we could count on those other four, whoever, to get those good scores in.”

Erskine cruised through the regular season, but saved its best golf for the postseason.

The first breakout performance came at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Shootout at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. The Eagles shot a school-record 316.

Pion and Harmon carded 78s while Paine shot a 70.  Browne (81) and Keezer (87) rounded out the group. All five players qualified for the individual state championships. In winning the KVAC Shootout, the Eagles also qualified — once again — for a shot at the Class B team title.

“The scores in Class B, what (scores win the title), is always around 320,” Paine said. “We had a goal all year long in mind (to shoot) 325, 330, or something like that. And we were shooting that. We knew that we could definitely win.”

Entering the Class B championship, the Eagles were confident they would face a tough challenge from defending Class B state champ Cape Elizabeth.

“We knew we could do it, it was just a case of, could we do it when it mattered,” Paine said.

Erskine played solidly, as Paine, Browne and Harmon all shot 80 on the Tomahawk Course at Natanis. But the Eagles’ top player that day was Pion, who rebounded from a tough start to finish with a 77.

“I started off the round bogey, double (bogey),” Pion said. “I was not happy with myself at all. Then I entered hole eight and birdied there, which was a really good birdie. At No. 9, I remember the wind was right in our face, and I hit a 5-iron from 170 (yards from the hole), and putting it to a foot (from the hole) and I put a birdie there. And then on (hole) 10, I lipped out a birdie, and then I hit one more birdie after that.

“To be able to come back and get to even after the rough start I had, because I hadn’t performed well in the conference championship. But getting in, being able to come back from where I started, was a big turnaround for me.”

With a couple of Cape Elizabeth golfers remaining on the course, the Eagles huddled in the clubhouse to watch the scores come in.

Erskine golfer Robert Harmon pumps his fist after he sinks a putt during a 2016 match against Lincoln at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Morning Sentinel file photo

“We were all in (the clubhouse), we were all finished,” Pion said. “All of our scores were all finished. And we were waiting on Lauren Schonewolf’s score, for Cape Elizabeth. It was really close between us and Cape, we didn’t know if we were going to end up winning that. We’re standing around, and we’re just staring at the scoreboard, with scores coming in from York and Old Town, schools like that.”

Erskine finished with a team score of 317, just one shot behind its record-setting score at the KVAC Shootout. Cape Elizabeth finished with a 325. The Eagles secured their first title. Only four years removed from the achievement, the Eagles look back with fond memories of the team effort it took to win the championship.

“Our chemistry with those guys, it just worked,” Paine said. “It helped us out a lot.”

“Winning (the championship) is a memory that can’t be forgotten,” Harmon added.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5610

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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