KENNEBUNK — The final round of the Maine Amateur didn’t go according to plan for Caleb Manuel. Instead, it turned into another character-building test.

The result, though, was a second straight championship for the 20-year-old from Topsham.

Manuel, who began the final round with a two-stroke lead, ended up with a four-shot win Thursday at Webhannet Golf Club, a first-time host of the state’s premier amateur golf event. But the path to victory was far from simple.

After scorching Webhannet for an 8-under 63 on Wednesday, Manuel was 4 over on the front nine Thursday. A bogey on the 10th hole dropped him to 2 under for the tournament, and he trailed Mike Arsenault by two strokes.

The turning point was the 12th hole. Manuel sank a birdie putt while Arsenault, 28, made a three-putt bogey, and suddenly the deficit was gone.

“I was kind of doubting a little bit if I could still win this thing. Then once I saw one (putt) go in on 12, that was a big hole for me, and then I made four more (birdies) after that, ” said Manuel, who plays out of Brunswick Golf Club.


Indeed, Manuel pulled away with birdies at 13, 14, 16 and 18 for a 1-over 72 and a three-day total of 6 under, with a Maine-appropriate cumulative score of 207.

“I think it shows a lot more character that you can be 5 over at one point and finish 1 over and win a tournament by four, rather than shoot 4 under, bogey free, and win it by eight,” Manuel said. “I mean, that’s good, too. That was the plan. But when you get something thrown at you like that, it’s part of golf, and you just have to battle and be a competitor.”

Arsenault, who plays out of Val Halla in Cumberland, was in the final group for the second time in three years. He finished alone in second at 2 under, closing with a 3-over 74.

“I felt a lot more prepared this time,” to be in the final group, Arsenault said. “I was happy with how I played, but the last two days, I just couldn’t make anything.”

Ron Kelton of Purpoodock Club, the third member of the final group, shot an even-par 71 and tied for third at 1 under with 2015 champion John Hayes IV of Purpoodock. Hayes matched the day’s low round with a 69.

Manuel’s win continued an eventful run over recent months that has included the Big East individual championship, qualifying for the U.S. Open, playing in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Live and Work in Maine Open for a second straight year, and making the decision to transfer from UConn to Georgia for his junior season in college.


Manuel also extended a trend of young players winning the Maine Amateur. Only one champion in the last 18 years has been 30 or older (Ricky Jones in 2013 at age 41). And Manuel joined Jack Wyman (2017, 2018) and Cole Anderson (2019, 2020) as recent back-to-back champions. Wyman has since turned pro, and Anderson did not compete this week.

Manuel said he felt the pressure of trying to repeat during Tuesday’s opening round, when he shot a 1-over 72.

“It’s hard to defend a title, and especially when you’re the favorite, it’s hard to do that,” Manuel said. “When all eyes are on you, it’s a little different, and it was new to me a little bit in the first round, and then I just kind of reset and played my normal aggressive golf.”

Arsenault, the 2010 Class A champion from Gorham High, moved into a share of the lead when Manuel bogeyed the fifth and sixth holes. Then, an approach that was just a bit too long on No. 7 took a big bounce and landed inches out of bounds beyond the green, leading to a double-bogey that gave Arsenault a two-stroke lead.

While Manuel was struggling to find the fairway on drives and hit the correct distance on his approaches, Arsenault failed to take full advantage. He just missed birdie chances on 5, 6 and 7, and like Manuel had a three-putt bogey on 9.

NOTES: The 104th Maine Amateur is scheduled to be held next July at Samoset Resort in Rockland. … Only three of the 41 players who made the cut broke par in the final round. Hayes, Armand Ouellette of Biddeford-Saco, and James Frost of Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn shot 2-under 69. … Will Kannegeiser, the 2021 runner-up, and Jace Pearson, both of Martindale Country Club, tied for fifth at 1 over.

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