Caleb Manuel’s impressive golf career reached new heights Monday afternoon.

The Topsham native shot a 3-under 137 in a 36-hole golf tournament in Harrison, New York, to qualify for next week’s U.S. Open, one of the sport’s four major championships.

Manuel, 20, a graduate of Mt. Ararat High and the defending Maine Amateur champion, shot a first-round 69 in the morning at Old Oaks Country Club and then came back with a 2-under 68 at nearby Century Country Club in the afternoon to seal his spot. Manuel finished in a two-way tie for first in the qualifier, with the top five golfers earning a spot in the U.S. Open on June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

“It doesn’t really feel real right now,” Manuel said. “(There’s) a little relief, especially after watching the scores the last hour. But I’m definitely proud that my game can get me to this level, and that I get to play against the actual best in the world next week, and all the names you read about.

“It might surprise some people. I’m a little shocked, but I knew I had it in me.”

More than 90 golfers – and more than 50 professionals – competed at Old Oaks, one of several U.S. Open qualifiers held around the country on Monday. Manuel, an amateur, fired a 1-under 69 in the first 18, and knew he had a shot to qualify as he prepared to head back out for the final round.


“(I wasn’t) going there just to play in it, I’m going there to try to make it,” Manuel said. “After I shot 69, I knew I had a good chance. The goal kind of reset from there. ‘Let’s go, let’s do this thing.’ ”

Manuel was steady with four birdies and two bogeys in the afternoon round. Starting on the 10th hole, he was 1 under at the turn, and then made back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes – his 11th and 12th played – to climb above the cutline.

“When I rolled in the birdie on 12, it kind of hit me,” Manuel said. “I had a chance to get in this thing.”

Manuel gave a shot back with a bogey on his 13th hole, but parred the final five to hold position. He was between clubs but hit a solid approach on his 17th hole, and then finished his round with a six-footer for par, pumping his fist as the putt fell in. The clutch putt was the difference between a tie for first and a nine-way tie for second, which would have meant a playoff.

Despite his Open chances hinging on each swing, Manuel stayed focused.

“I was a little nervous, but something I’m working on with my swing is you’ve got to rip through the ball,” he said. “When I’m nervous, I tend not to rip through the ball. That was kind of my mantra out there. Rip through it, and good things happen.”

The U.S. Open qualification continues a swift rise for Manuel. After winning back-to-back Class A high school titles in 2018 and ’19, Manuel went on to win the Maine Amateur title last summer by one stroke at Kebo Valley Golf Course. He was also the runner-up for the New England Amateur title at Great River Golf Club in Milford, Connecticut, last year. A rising junior at the University of Connecticut, he earned a share of the Big East Conference tournament title this spring.

Manuel will be the second golfer from Maine to play in one of golf’s four major tournaments in 2022. Shawn Warren, a teaching pro at Falmouth Country Club, played last month in the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Warren was in the Old Oaks field Monday and finished 12 over to miss the cut.

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