Caleb Manuel of Mt. Ararat High lines up his putt on the 18th green during the state championships at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Manuel won the Class A title for the second year in a row.  Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Caleb Manuel missed a summer of playing golf when he was 15 years old.

“I was playing soccer with buddies and broke my ankle, in May, right before the (youth golf) season,” Manuel said. “When you want to play college golf, not playing in the summer, you fall off the radar.”

Manuel, a senior at Mt. Ararat High, got himself back on the radar. In between winning two straight Class A championships, Manuel accepted a scholarship to the University of Connecticut.

That second state title came in October when Manuel posted the only sub-70 round of any class, shooting a 69 at Natanis Golf Course to win by two strokes. It was this crowning accomplishment that makes Manuel our choice as Varsity Maine Golfer of the Year for the second consecutive season.

So, with honors and scholarship in hand, it would seem safe to say Manuel won’t be playing soccer and risking another broken ankle.

However, Manuel is playing basketball for the Eagles this winter.

“People are telling me that I shouldn’t play because I could get injured,” Manuel said. “But I showed up last minute for the tryouts (and made the team).

“It keeps me going. There’s not much else going on … and I enjoy the team aspect.”

Manuel likes being on a team. Even for the so-called individualistic sport of golf, Manuel learned that high school golf is about playing for and with teammates.

“It’s fun going to school, thinking about the course you’re going to play that day with your buddies,” Manuel said. “The team part of it was a little more special than the individual.

“I have a lot of memories. We had a good team my freshman year. We knew we had a chance (for the state title). We tied (for first) and lost in the tiebreaker.”

But then came a team championship during Manuel’s junior season. This fall, Mt. Ararat was contending again. Ask Manuel about his best memory of the 2019 season, and it has nothing to do with his own scores.

Mt. Ararat golfer Caleb Manuel shows off his trophy after repeating this fall as the Class A individual champion. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We were working as a team all year,” Manuel said. Then in the state team Class A championships, “looking up at the scoreboard and having Coach Caron come over and telling me we got it (won) – it was the best feeling.”

That’s typical Manuel, according to Mt. Ararat Coach Gerry Caron.

“He’s not only an outstanding golfer, he’s an outstanding young man,” Caron said. “He gets along with everybody in the program; very attentive and caring. He’s done a lot for the program.”

His golf game is pretty good, too. At the KVAC state qualifying tournament – on the Tomahawk Course at Natanis – Manuel shot his best competitive round, breaking the course record with a 9-under 63.

In a zone?

“I definitely felt it,” Manuel said. “Every time I looked up, my ball seemed to be going in the right direction.”

Speaking of direction, Manuel has heard critics say he should have gone farther south for college – for more golf-friendly weather. But Manuel liked UConn.

“On the first day (colleges could contact recruits), they showed interest and watched me play,” Manuel said. “They play a good schedule and travel – to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, California and Florida.”

The high school golfer who dominated in Maine is going places.

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