Caleb Manuel of Mt. Ararat is the defending Class A champion and recently shot a course-record 63 at Natanis Golf Course – site of the state championships. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Two of the state’s top high school golfers should vie for the Class A individual title Saturday at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.

Mt. Ararat’s Caleb Manuel and Thornton Academy’s Armand Ouellette have been at their best late in the season. Manuel, the defending champion, shot a 4-under 33 over nine holes at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference shootout, then shot a course-record 63 at the KVAC qualifier on Oct. 1.

“I think I’ve got a pretty good chance, knowing what it takes to win,” Manuel said. “I know how low I can take it out there, and I just kind of have a game plan (and) I don’t change up the game plan at that golf course.”

Thornton Academy’s Armand Ouellette shot a 1-over 73 last week during the Class A team championships. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal  Buy this Photo

Ouellette, however, beat Manuel at the team championships last Saturday with a 1-over 73, to Manuel’s 75. Ouellette, the fourth-place finisher last year, said that round affirmed what he already knew about his chances.

“I’ve always had that kind of confidence in myself,” he said. “It does help to best him that one time, but I know he didn’t play his best. I’m sure he’s going to come out firing Saturday. I hope to play better, too, so it should be a shootout.”

They’ll likely get a chance to go head-to-head, as the players with the best qualifying scores play together.

“I like that almost better, because you know where he’s at,” said Manuel. “There are still other kids in the field that can take it decently low … (but) it’s definitely an advantage to have one of the top competitors in my group so I know where he’s at and I know where I am with him.”

Ouellette agreed.

“I think it makes it more fun, and more enjoyable for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where I shoot a really good score, somewhere in the high 60s, and then come into the clubhouse and see he’s beaten that by three strokes. That’s nice to be able to avoid that.”

Both players know, though, that someone else could make a run at the title.

“(Caleb)’s the main threat, but it could be anybody, honestly,” Ouellette said. “It’s a one-day tournament, so it’s wide open.”

The team championships indicated a deep field. Eight players broke 80, including Messalonskee’s Brad Condon, who played all season as the Eagles’ No. 2 player but then turned in a 4-over 76, the third-best score in Class A.

“If I want a chance to win, I’ve just got to stay focused throughout the day and have a good mindset going into it,” Condon said. “We’ve got nothing to lose, so I don’t feel any nerves going into these tournaments. I feel comfortable in all of these, and comfortable that I can put up a good score.”

In Class B, Tyler Rivers of team champion York had the best score last week with a 76, five shots better than Freeport’s TJ Whelan and Leavitt’s Ruby Haylock, the favorite for the girls’ championship. York’s Jonathan Donovan shot an 82, followed by Cape Elizabeth’s Shepard Smith (85) and Medomak Valley’s Sean Sebrey and Waterville’s Brandon Bearce, both with 86s.

In Class C, Mitch Tarrio of Kents Hill is the favorite to win his second straight individual title. Last week, he led Kents Hill to the team title, firing a 2-under 70. That was six shots clear of Orono’s Franc Fowler and 10 in front of Fowler’s teammate, Zack Dill.

“You never know with golf. You could have a tough day and someone could have a great day,” Tarrio said. “I’ve got to go there and feel like I’ve got to play a solid round to beat everyone. It’s not going to be just handed to me.”

Tarrio qualified for the individual tournament with a 68, and was among the state’s best young players during the summer, making the cut at the Maine Amateur championship and finishing 24th.

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