Caleb Manuel, a Mt. Ararat High School graduate, has been the top golfer for the University of Connecticut this season. Manuel was the co-champion at the Big East Conference tournament. Contributed photo/UConn Athletics

Caleb Manuel likes to set goals. Reaching them is even more fun.

Manuel, a University of Connecticut sophomore, recently became co-champion of the Big East Conference tournament in Pine Mountain, Georgia. He’s the first UConn golfer to earn medalist honors at the conference championship since Brian Ahern in 1994.

“I was definitely excited after I found out I won,” said Manuel, a 2020 Mt. Ararat High School graduate. “It was a good feeling, just because I’ve been working hard and that’s been a big goal at the beginning of the season.”

Manuel shot an 11-under 205 for three rounds to share top honors with Gregor Tait of Seton Hall. The Huskies finished third overall.

“I wasn’t playing great leading up to (the Big East tournament),” added Manuel, a two-time Maine high school champion. “So it was great to get my game back, get the confidence back. Going out there, doing it and playing at that level is a relief. It felt good.”

Manuel qualified for an NCAA regional that starts Monday at Yale Golf Course in New Haven, Connecticut. It’ll be his first tournament on the course.

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“They’ll let us play a (practice round) on Sunday,” he said. “I heard it’s a good course. There’s some tricky shots here and there, but I think (the layout) is pretty much right in front of you. Hopefully I can play well there.”

Manuel tied for second place at a local U.S. Open qualifier on Monday in Oxford, Connecticut, advancing to the final round of qualifying round on June 6. This year’s U.S. Open is at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts from June 16-19.

Manuel isn’t the only Maine golfer experiencing success at the collegiate level.

Two-time Maine Amateur champion Cole Anderson, a Camden Hills graduate and redshirt sophomore at Florida State, will compete in an NCAA regional in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Seminoles qualified as a team after finishing third at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in Panama City Beach, Florida, on April 24. It’s the 16th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament for the Seminoles.

“I think it just speaks to the program as a whole,” Anderson said. “It starts with the coaches’ ability to evaluate kids. The rules have changed a little (since first being recruited), but my first conversations with Florida State was when I was 15. Their ability to bring in the right players, evaluate talent the right way and just the way we go about the season. It’s not an accident that they consistently find a way to create solid programs and perform when needed. You can see that with this being our 16th straight (trip).”

University of Connecticut golfer Caleb Manuel, right, holds the Big East Conference championship trophy with co-champion Gregor Tait of Seton Hall. Manuel was the first medalist for the Huskies at the event since 1994. Contributed photo/UConn Athletics

Anderson has been steady for Florida State this season, with a 73.05 scoring average over seven tournaments. His best outing came at the All American Intercollegiate tournament last month in Humble, Texas. Anderson tied for third overall, shooting a 2-under 142, and the Seminoles won the team title.

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“I’ve feel like I’ve played well in spots,” Anderson said. “I’ve had a couple of hiccups, but it’s sort of to be expected. I think we’re all just kind of focused on fine-tuning the little details that you need to fine-tune going into the postseason. At this point in the season, anything can happen. You just sort of let it go. You do as much preparation as you can and just get after it.”

Like Anderson, Manuel said he’s played well at different points throughout the season.

The reigning Maine Amateur champion, Manuel has a 71.09 scoring average and eight top-10 finishes this season. He won the UConn Invitational in October. He finished 61st at the Craft Farms Intercollegiate in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in March, followed by a 51st-place finish at The Rutherford in State College, Pennsylvania.

Manuel credited his swing coach, Paul Piveronas of the Woodlands Club in Falmouth, with helping him get back on track before the conference tournament.

Success has been building for Manuel.

As a true freshman last year, he earned first-team All-Big East honors and was the Big East Freshman of the Year while leading the Huskies in scoring average (72.5). Manuel was also a PING Division I All-Northeast Regional selection.

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“It was pretty smooth for me,” Manuel said. “We didn’t play the fall of my freshman year, just because of COVID. But we played in the spring. Golf-wise, it’s a big leap because high school golf in Maine is a lot different than the top level in college. But I played a lot of summer events and amateur events in the summer (to get ready), so it wasn’t that big a difference playing with people.

“The big difference my freshman year was finding out if I belonged, playing in my first couple of tournaments. Once I got that out of the way and realized I’m just as good as these guys and I can beat these guys week in and week out, it just kind of gave me confidence.”

Anderson, meanwhile, has Florida State regain its footing after struggling in the fall.

A year ago, the Seminoles finished sixth at the NCAA Division I Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Cole Anderson, a Camden Hills Regional High School graduate, is enjoying another strong season at Florida State, helping the Seminoles to their 16th consecutive NCAA postseason berth. Contributed photo/Florida State Athletics

“Last year, we spent most of the year ranked No. 1 in the country,” Anderson said. “This year, at the end of the fall, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. I think we started the spring ranked 53rd or something. I think we’re now up to 17th or 18th. We just sort of played the whole spring with a chip on our shoulder … . It was going from everybody expecting you to be the team to beat. Now, we’re not necessarily the underdog, but it’s a different dynamic, where I think there’s a little more passion (among the team) to prove people wrong that have you ranked in a position that you don’t really feel evaluates your team. It’s been pretty cool to be a part of that.”

Both Manuel and Anderson said they plan to compete in some Maine tournament after the college season.

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“I’ll play in the Maine Am this summer,” said Manuel, who won last year’s event by one shot over Will Kannegieser at Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor. “I’ll be up there in the summer.”

DATES ARE already set for some of Maine’s biggest golf tournaments of the summer.

The Maine Event, featuring both professional and amateur golfers, will be played June 27 at Augusta Country Club. Two weeks later, the Maine Amateur will be played at the Webhannet Golf in Kennebunk.

In late July, the Dutch Elm Golf Club in Arundel will host the Maine Junior Championship (July 26-27).

Falmouth Country Club will serve as host site for the Match Play Invitational August 1-3, and the men’s Senior Amateur Championship is August 23-24 at the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth.

The Maine Women’s Amateur is July 19-21 at Portland Country Club in Falmouth, and the Senior Women’s Amateur is September 13-14 at Riverside Golf Course in Portland.


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