MEMBERS OF THE MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL golf team, from left to right, Caleb Manuel, Cam Cox, Steven Schuman, Ben Hickson, Will Kavanaugh and Cade Charron, pose for a photo prior to hosting Oxford HIlls on Wednesday at Highland Green Golf Club in Topsham. The Eagles rolled to a 9-0 win.

MEMBERS OF THE MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL golf team, from left to right, Caleb Manuel, Cam Cox, Steven Schuman, Ben Hickson, Will Kavanaugh and Cade Charron, pose for a photo prior to hosting Oxford HIlls on Wednesday at Highland Green Golf Club in Topsham. The Eagles rolled to a 9-0 win.

TOPSHAM

Gerry Caron had a feeling. He had seen the future, and felt this was the year.

What Caron envisioned was a Mt. Ararat High School golf team capable of reaching for the stars, an Eagles squad built to not only compete for conference glory, but a team comprised of the right blend of competitors to make a run at the State Class A title.

So far this fall, Caron has been right on. Led by seniors Cam Cox and Steven Schuman, along with classmate Jason Magno, the Eagles entered Wednesday’s home Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference regular season finale with Oxford Hills undefeated, and other than a close match against rival Brunswick at Brunswick Golf Club in the fifth match of the year, mostly unchallenged.

“When the team was picked this year, I sat the varsity kids down and told them that we have a job to do, one that can be very successful if we put ourselves together and work hard together,” said Caron, whose Eagles rolled to a 9-0 win against the Vikings on Wednesday. “A lot of these kids played golf this summer and I saw that. They competed, which to me was a real key that they know what competition is like. Very early in our matches, we could see how scores were beginning to develop.”

Cox and Schuman, the No. 2 and 3 golfers respectively behind freshman Caleb Manuel, have taken charge of the Eagles, with sophomores Ben Hickson, Will Kavanaugh and Cade Charron rounding out the typical six competitors.

Facing teams from Brunswick, Lewiston, Edward Little and Oxford Hills during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference regular season, Mt. Ararat has put it all together. Playing out of Highland Green Golf Club, the Eagles have quite simply dominated.

“We accomplished one of our goals, to go undefeated, something that is difficult to do. We have a long way to go to accomplish the next goals — winning KVACs and tackling states,” said Caron, whose Eagles will likely host Lewiston on Monday in the KVAC semifinals. If Mt. Ararat wins, the Eagles will host the KVAC title match on Wednesday. “There is a lot to do before now and then. We have 24 kids in our program, and it has worked out well.”

When the Eagles teed it up in their finale on Wednesday against Oxford Hills, the team was greeted on the ninth hole by members of the student body. Golf fever has taken hold of Mt. Ararat High School, something that is not lost on the Eagles.

“We have developed a new love for golf, even at our school,” said Cox.

Decisions, decisions

Caron faced a difficult decision heading into the season. Would he keep the veteran Cox as his top player in matches, or place the freshman Manuel into that spot? Cox made his choice an easy one.

“Cam as a true captain is one of the best that I have seen,” said Caron, who tells a story of a meeting with Cox in the preseason. “Cam is such a class player. I literally asked him where he felt he should play. He said, ‘Coach, Caleb is one and I am two.’ For a captain to come out and say that is class.

“All you have to do is watch Caleb play. He is not your average kid that plays golf. Caleb inspires to have a future in golf, in college and well after college. There was no question he was our number one.”

“I have the privilege to golf with one of the best golfers in the state of Maine. I am becoming a better golfer. I feed off of him,” said Cox of Manuel.

Manuel has not disappointed, often bettering par this season after a successful summer on the links.

“Nothing would have changed for this team if Cam was one and I was two, but everything has worked for us,” said Manuel, who finished as the runner-up in the State of Maine Junior Amateur over the summer. “Our sixth man can shoot 38. Our depth has been great all season.”

“Caleb Manuel is one of the best golfers around, and these kids are very good friends with him,” added Caron. “He played with them all summer. He was with them every day and they have really come together this season.”

Right out of the gate, Caron’s squad faced a challenge.

Due to a Maine Principals Association rule, Manuel had to sit out the opener with Brunswick, a match the Eagles won.

“He missed the opening Brunswick match due to a Maine Principals Association rule that once practice starts if a player plays in an out of state tournament that he has to miss his first match,” remembered Caron. “It was not a great way for a freshman coming in. He sat out, but was here being a big cheerleader for everybody. He didn’t take it as a negative.”

In the first four matches, Mt. Ararat easily won, but then came a visit to Brunswick Golf Club. Both the Dragons and Eagles won three head-to-head matches. It came down to the team score, with Mt. Ararat edging Brunswick, 176-179, for a 6-3 win. The 176 was the highest team score for the Eagles during the regular season.

“That Brunswick match made them aware that it can happen any day,” said Caron of his team’s struggles back on Sept. 8. “If you’re having the day and playing well, you’re going to win in golf. We didn’t play a good round, and they played well. We had to refocus after that. You have to put the ball in the cup.

“I am a real believer in consistency on the course. I don’t put any faith in people trying crazy shots. The risk and reward is good on this course (Highland Green), but it can cost you two or three strokes if things go wrong.

“Some of our scores have been outstanding. Our five and six players are not five and six players, but they have to go into a slot. The teams we have played don’t match up with us well at five and six. Ours have shot low 40s and even into the 30s. You get five or six people shooting low 40s, you are going to do very well. Then you have Caleb who gets you in the 30s.”

“This season has been fun, with a good team, good coach, and just working all together,” said Charron. “Cam and Steven are huge leaders. It is fun having them here. We can a long way.”

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better, being undefeated, and hopefully we can go deep in the playoffs,” said Schuman. “I think we have bonded as a team, especially over the summer. We have put it together this year.”

Now comes the postseason, where one bad round can keep a team from winning a title. Caron feels that his team’s love for the game will serve them well over the next month.

“They love golf and love to play golf,” said Caron. “They expect big things.”


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