CAPE ELIZABETH — For Cape Elizabeth High golfers Ryan Collins and Austin Legge, the Purpoodock Club is more than a golf course.

“It’s the second home,” Collins said.

“For sure. It’s the hangout,” Legge agreed.

Tony Decker, the head pro at Purpoodock, said his course is one of several in the Portland area that encourages junior players to improve by allowing them significant access to tee times and practice facilities. Collins said spending six hours at Purpoodock on a summer day is the norm.

“We look at it as an investment in our future,” Decker said. “Hopefully these kids are our future members.”

Meanwhile, that access helps produce a powerhouse high school team.

Cape Elizabeth is the defending Class B champion and returns 17 players with varsity experience, including Legge, Collins, senior Lauren Schonewolf and Max Altznauer – the four players who scored at the 2015 team championship. The Capers have 25 on their roster, and many have spent a good chunk of their summer at Purpoodock.

Cheverus High sophomore Thomas Higgins, the returning No. 1 player for the Class A runner-up Stags, is another Purpoodock regular.

Legge said the older members seem “happy to see that there’s a bunch of junior golfers as long as you pick up after yourself and behave appropriately.”

Many Cape golfers are children of Purpoodock members. But a few, like incoming freshman Aidan Lee, have what is called a Junior Social Membership that costs $1,000 annually. It’s not cheap, but the fee conceivably could be covered by an industrious teenager.

“I can play all day, Monday through Thursday and after 12 on Friday through Sunday,” said Lee, who said his parents paid for his membership. “My parents drop me off and some of my other friends live close enough and they bike to the course. I’ve played almost every day.”

The result? Lee has dropped more than 10 strokes off his average and is now shooting 18-hole scores around 90.

The connection between junior-friendly courses and strong high school teams is easy to make.

Defending Class A champion Thornton Academy plays at Biddeford-Saco Country Club “and we have tons of juniors who play all the time and they have great practice facilities so we can get out of the way of the members if we need to,” said Thornton Coach Jeff Camire.

Greely is another Class A contender. The Rangers play at Val Halla, which is tucked behind a Cumberland neighborhood. Val Halla head pro Brian Bickford is the Rangers’ coach. Val Halla has a junior membership for as low as $175. Similarly, Gorham is an annual team to watch, winning Class A titles in 2010 and 2012. The Rams play at Gorham Country Club ($425 for a junior membership) and head pro Rick Altham is the high school coach.

Windham High doesn’t have the advantage of proximity like Cape and Greely, but Point Sebago Golf Course in Casco accommodates Coach Adam Manzo’s roster of 30 golfers.

“You look at schools that have done well and they’re playing at places that want them and welcome them,” Manzo said.

“I think it is becoming more the norm for courses to want juniors playing, but there’s still no course like this one. If you live within a drivable distance, Purpoodock is the most welcoming place,” Whitney said.

The Purpoodock pipeline is likely to continue. The club recently started a 14-and-under team that competes against similar teams from Val Halla, Portland Country Club and The Woodlands in Falmouth.

This fall, the Cape Elizabeth squad expects to turn all of those summer rounds into a repeat Class B title.

“Win states and go undefeated in the regular season. That’s the goal,” Legge said.


1. Cape Elizabeth: The Class B and Western Maine Conference champions used 18 golfers in varsity matches last year, and 17 return from an undefeated season, including co-Class B champ Ryan Collins, 2015 Maine Junior champions Austin Legge and Lauren Schonewolf, and improved WMC all-star Max Altznauer. Sophomore Mia Spencer also competed at last year’s state individual championship.

2. Greely: The Rangers graduated several players from their undefeated 2015 SMAA Central Division championship team but still have four returning players who can crack 40 – Erin Holmes, Tate Porter, Joe Piwowarski and Matt McDevitt. Piwowarski and Holmes scored at the state meet last year when Greely finished fifth in Class A.

3. Cheverus: The Stags return four of the five golfers from their Class A runner-up squad in seniors Kyle Cholod and Ryan McSorley, junior Conner MacDonald and sophomore Thomas Higgins, who was a first-team SMAA North pick. Cholod was a second-team choice. The team’s depth will be limited.

4. Falmouth: Senior Reed Lonsdale and his junior brother, Riley, were second-team all-conference picks in the competitive SMAA North conference in 2015 and head a returning group that went 6-4 in matches and finished seventh at the Class A championship. Upperclassmen Dex Dremann, Louis Maniella, Charlie Emple, Matt Adamowicz, and Jack Hepburn and freshman Tyler Baker add quality depth.

5. Gorham: With defending Class A champ Thornton Academy and Windham both having big losses, the Rams and their talented No. 1 player, Lucas Roop, have a good chance of returning to the state team tournament. Seniors Brandon Desjardin, Cam Stevens and Marc Yankowsky and junior Ryan Kaczmarek have the experience of winning competitive matches.

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