Leavitt High teammates Morghan Dutil, left, and Ruby Haylock tied for first in the girls’ state golf championships last fall. They’ll be competing for the Class B individual championship on Saturday in Vassalboro. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

It’s been a shortened season and there’s a compacted championship format, but high school golfers have something to shoot for Friday and Saturday – the first Maine Principals’ Association state championships in any sport since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state.

On Friday, the Class A team and individual championships will be contested at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Play begins at 11 a.m. on the par-72 Tomahawk layout. Class B and C golfers will be at Natanis on Saturday. Class B starts at 10 a.m. on the longer Tomahawk course. Class C tees off on the Arrowhead course at 11 a.m.

Because of the pandemic, the golf season started nearly a month late. No spectators will be allowed on the course Friday and Saturday. Other changes include simultaneous scoring for team and individual honors (usually, the individual tournament is held separately), reducing the number of players each qualifying team can bring from six to five, and awarding girls’ individual championships in each class. Usually, there’s a single girls’ champion. That would be an unfair situation this year, with players competing on different days and different courses.

No teams from York or Oxford counties will participate, including two-time Class B champion York High. High school athletic programs in those counties are idled because they are designated “yellow” in color coding from the Maine Department of Education, meaning there is an elevated risk of virus transmission.

In Class A, Gorham won the SMAA qualifier Monday with a four-person score of 321 on the Tomahawk course, edging Greely and Scarborough, which tied for second at 324. Also qualifying as a team was Falmouth (338).

“It was pretty close. I think any of those top three or four teams could have been No. 1,” said Gorham Coach Scott Nevers. “I know my guys played all right and they could have played a lot better, and I’m sure it was the same thing for Greely and Scarborough.”

Two-time defending Class A champion Mt. Ararat won the KVAC Class A qualifier. The Eagles also shot 321, but on Arrowhead, considered the easier of Natanis’ two courses. Messalonskee (338) and Edward Little (345) also qualified.

In Class B, Western Maine Conference champion Freeport is shooting for its first team title after finishing second last season. Freeport won the Western Maine Conference qualifier last week on the Tomahawk layout with a 321, 15 shots ahead of runner-up Yarmouth. The Falcons’ four scorers – senior TJ Whalen, freshman Eli Spaulding, senior Matt Kempf and junior Finn Sharpe – were all in the top six. Whalen, who made five birdies after a rough start, and Spaulding tied for second at 6-over 78, behind medalist Noah Duprey, a junior from Lake Region, who shot 76.

“I never like to jinx myself, but that’s our goal,” said Freeport Coach Jason Ouellette. “I would honestly say we’d be disappointed if we don’t win.”

Leavitt, led by 2019 co-girls’ champions Ruby Haylock and Morghan Dutil, is another top challenger in Class B. The school from Turner won the KVAC Class B qualifier Tuesday with a four-person score of 327 on Tomahawk. During the summer, Haylock won the Maine Women’s Amateur in a playoff.

In Class C, North Yarmouth Academy enters as the WMC champ, after beating St. Dominic Academy by nine strokes. Orono won the Penobscot Valley title, with Mattanawcook (2015-17 team champs) and Houlton (2018 winner) also qualifying.

When it comes to the individual titles, there are no previous champions in the boys’ fields. All players will be eligible, meaning if the fifth player from a qualifying team has the round of his/her life they could be a surprise champion.

Top players in Class A include SMAA medalist Andrew Klein of Greely and runner-up Nick McGonagle of Deering, and the Mt. Ararat duo of Parker Bate and Eli Schoenberg. Portland’s Bennet Berg, who had two sub-par rounds and tied for ninth at this summer’s Maine Amateur, is another player to watch.

Class B standouts include Whalen and Spaulding of Freeport, Lake Region’s Duprey. The low scorer in the KVAC tournament among the boys was Leavitt’s Billy Visconti with a 79.

Class C contenders include 2019 runner-up Neil Larochelle of St. Dom’s, who was the medalist in the WMC Class C qualifier with a 76, Carson Gall and Cal Davies of NYA and George Fahey of Waynflete.

On the girls’ side, the largest field and the three top players are in Class B, featuring  Haylock, Dutil and 2020 Maine Junior winner Lindsay Cote of Waterville.

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