Waterville’s Pete Sack watches his ball into the hole during an Aug. 30 golf match against Erskine and Gardiner at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Golf was the only Maine high school sport to offer a state championship last fall. But that didn’t mean the season was anything but normal as the specter of COVID-19 loomed over central Maine courses.

“It was definitely a different year for sure,” said Shawn Johnson, Cony High’s 29th-year coach. “I had a lot of kids who were definitely affected by it. And it was a strain on them. They worked so hard for their senior year and they had a hard time dealing with it. It was the culmination of so many things and they couldn’t concentrate on golf the way they had the last few years because of COVID. They were bothered and worried.”

As the world hits some divots on its way back to normalcy, golf coaches are keeping their fingers crossed that this season will be more like 2019 than 2020, when the pandemic forced a condensed month-long season with limited practice time and a combined team/individual state championship meet. Furthermore, many schools were shoehorned into three-team pods on one course, which meant matches against the same teams at the same place every time out.

“Last year we certainly felt under pressure; it seemed like the season was closing around us,” said Monmouth/Hall-Dale coach Don Flanagan, who noted golf’s natural advantages over other sports in a pandemic. “Social distancing is something you need in golf, with the swinging and everything. It’s something that can be easily done, outside and in fresh air, with limited accommodations for COVID.”

Flanagan’s Mustangs made the most of their shortened season, winning the Mountain Valley Conference Class C title before finishing eighth at the state meet. Abby Flanagan has taken her girls individual state and MVC titles to Bowdoin College, but father Don brings back a solid core three in senior Averi Beaudoin, junior Kyle Clavet and sophomore Carter O’Connell. Riley Inch and Ryan Glidden represent the Hall-Dale faction.

“It’s going to be a competition for those 4-5-6 spots, essentially a month from now as the season starts to wind down,” Don Flanagan said.


Winthrop, which placed two strokes behind Monmouth/Hall-Dale in last year’s MVC meet, returns two seniors (Cam Hurd, Nathan Hashey) and a junior (Jayce Corgan). Coach Lonney Steeves has five newcomers from which to fill out his top six, but will be relying on Hurd — the Ramblers’ top returning scorer from last year’s state meet — to lead the pack. Steeves has high hopes for his freshmen, particularly Colton Baird, whom he described as “very raw, but very good.

Averi Beaudoin of Monmouth/Hall-Dale watches her chip shot during the Mountain Valley Conference golf championships last season at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We’re going to have nights when we’re going to put up some great numbers, and we’re going to have some nights when we’re going to put up some ugly numbers,” Steeves said. “It’s going to be an interesting season, that’s for sure.”

Maranacook’s 2020 season practically ended before it began — the Black Bears missed three matches due to COVID protocols — but 16-year coach Ryan Meserve returns a solid core in seniors Alex Trafton, Trent Murray and sophomores Wyatt Folsom and Brandon Chilton. Meserve is particularly high on Folsom, who has gained 30 to 40 yards on his stroke since last year, according to the coach.

“If he’s able to come in and play sub-40, it should give the other golfers a little more relaxation (to contribute to the team score),” Meserve said.

Over in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, Waterville has plenty of newcomers following last fall’s undefeated regular season and second-place tie with Yarmouth in the state Class B meet. Among the newcomers is head coach Nick Curato, who coached the Purple Panthers’ junior varsity the last two years. Waterville returns senior Brandon Bearce and junior Pete Sack, the Panthers’ top two individuals at the state championship, plus junior Alex Spaulding. Charlie Haberstock and Lindsay Cote — the latter now golfs for Division II Coker University in South Carolina — lead the departed veterans.

Cony also has its share of newcomers, as only senior Cam Sirois and junior Brady Hopkins return from last year. Coach Johnson is relying on a “pretty awesome” group of sophomores, including son Luke Johnson, to keep the Rams in contention.


“We’re moving in the right direction for young group of kids,” Shawn Johnson said. “The outlook for us is basically to improve and learn the game a little bit better. We’re just hoping to improve every practice, every match. Some kids are still learning some things like protocol.”

Cam Hurd of Winthrop follows through on a shot during the Mountain Valley Conference golf championships last season at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Gardiner, which placed fifth in last year’s KVAC Class B meet and qualified for the state championships, has a new coach in Ryan Low.

Skowhegan returns state qualifiers Jaycie Christopher and Riley Fitzpatrick, plus fellow seniors Ben Morgan and Payson Washburn and sophomore Anthony Alberico. Coach Dave Martin is hopeful newcomers Oliver Barden and Silas Tibbetts, both of whom he has described as “a very pleasant surprise,” can compete for positions in the top six. The River Hawks’ schedule has a 2020 feel — they have six tri-matches against Messalonksee and Mt. Blue, and three tri-matches against over teams.

While Lawrence struggled on the course last season (the Bulldogs went 1-11 playing only Erskine and Waterville all season in a pod group), it brings back a wealth of experience, including seniors Corbin Kissinger, Trey Goodwin, Gage Boudreau and Jesse Dixon; junior Caleb Luckern and sophomore Braden Littlefield.

“Were looking forward to going to playing a variety of teams on different courses,” coach Scott Ballard said.

The season concludes Oct. 8-9, when Natanis Golf Course hosts the state team and individual championships, but in these still-uncertain times, no one will take anything for granted.

“You never know, tomorrow the MPA could say something different,” Cony coach Johnson said.

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