ROCKPORT — Even when Caleb Manuel made a minor mistake Thursday in the final round of the Maine Amateur Championship, he didn’t let it snowball.

Take, for example, his tee shot on the 250-yard, par-3 13th hole at Samoset Resort. Manuel sent his drive into the bunker at the front of the green. Punching out of the sand, Manuel’s second shot was perfect, coming to rest against the flag stick. Manuel jiggled the stick, dropping his ball in for birdie.

It was that kind of day for Manuel, and that kind of tournament for the 21-year-old from Topsham. Manuel capped his third consecutive Maine Amateur title with the most impressive round of the tournament, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 65 to finish the 104-year-old event with a tournament-record score of 13-under par, 11 strokes better than runner-up Ron Kelton.

A senior at the University of Georgia, Manuel became the first player to win three straight Maine Amateur championships since Mark Plummer, who holds the all-time record with 13 titles, won three in a row from 2000-02.

“Once I finished at 13 (under), I knew it was probably going to be a record, but I wasn’t thinking about that out there,” Manuel said. “When I shot 4 under the first day, I thought if I could get 4 under each day to 12 under, that would be a good score, and I got that by one.”

After shooting a 67 in Tuesday’s opening round and a 68 on Wednesday, Manuel was even better on Thursday. He parred the first three holes, than sank a 50-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fourth overlooking the Rockland breakwater. On the back nine, Manuel recorded four birdies, including his bunker shot on 13. Earlier, on the third hole, he saved par with a blast from the bunker that came within inches of the cup.


“The bunker was good to me today. On three, it was probably a little bit, not nerve-wracking, but I’m even par through two and facing a tricky bunker shot. To tap it in there was nice. Then I eagle the next hole, and that’s what got me going.

“The one on 13 was kind of a bonus, just saw it trickle in and sit on the flag stick there,” Manuel said.

Manuel’s playing partners, Tyler Baker and Ron Kelton, could only watch in amazement.

“When he drains a 50-foot eagle putt on four, and then holes from the bunker on a 200-yard par-3, there’s nothing you can do. You just have to sit back and smile. It was fun to watch all day. It was an honor to play with him,” Baker said.

Baker began the round in second place, two shots behind Manuel. He rallied from a tough front nine with three birdies on the first four holes of the back nine, but then finished his round with a bogey, double bogey and another bogey for a 4-over 75 and a final total of 1 under, dropping to third place.

“I felt like I gave a couple shots back on the front, then made three birdies in four holes on the back. I felt good, then I got a little loose on the last couple of holes, and there’s not much you can do about it. Overall, it was a great tournament, though,” said Baker, an Endicott College senior from Falmouth.


Manuel said he didn’t worry about how his opponents played, focusing only on himself and the course. It was a sign of growing maturity in his mental game, said Patrick Manuel, his father and caddy.

“He’s been struggling a little bit with confidence, the mental aspect of golf, and I think that’s typical. He’s really worked hard over the last month on that mental aspect and really got his confidence back to a good spot,” Manuel said of his son. “I think he really enjoys this tournament. Even though all eyes are on him, he worked hard.”

Manuel said playing at Georgia against top competition in the Southeastern Conference helped hone his mental game, as did the experience he has in this tournament.

“Last year, I had a two-shot lead to start the day and I won by four, but I was trailing on the back nine. Today, I wasn’t worried about the other people. I’ve been working on the mental side of the game. The physical’s there,” Manuel said. “I was nervous here this morning when I woke up. It means a lot, being in the home state and going for the three-peat. It definitely helps having played on the bigger stages … It’s hard to win, but it’s harder to be expected to win.”

After Manuel won the Maine Amateur last summer at Webhannet in Kennebunk, there was speculation that he would not play in this year’s tournament. Maybe he’d stay south and play in bigger events, like Cole Anderson, who won the Maine Amateur in 2019 and 2020 and now play collegiately at Florida State.

“I knew I was going to play. Some people maybe thought I wasn’t going to. I could have played a bigger ranking tournament this week, but this one just means more to me. It’s the first big tournament I tried to qualify for, the first Maine tournament I look forward to every year. I won the Maine Event, but this is just different,” Manuel said.

Manuel plans to play in the New England Amateur next week at The Woodlands in Falmouth. Later this month, he’ll compete in the Western Amateur in Chicago. Manuel will head back to Georgia in mid-August.

Will Manuel be back next year, when the Maine Amateur is played at the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth? Nobody has won four consecutive titles since Dick Diversi won five in a row from 1953-57.

“I don’t know the answer to that, but if I’m an amateur still, then I’ll definitely play in it again,” Manuel said. “We’ll see how the next year turns out.”

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