Coach Butch McKenna with the Dirigo golf team, from left, Sam Skibitsky, Tucker Olsen, Wyatt Lufkin, Chandler Redmond, Nolan DeGroot, Jacob Gaudin and Samuel Holmes at the Oakdale Country Club in Mexico.
MEXICO — Butch McKenna has one goal in his first season as Dirigo’s golf coach, and it doesn’t involve wins and losses.
“They needed a coach and I said, ‘Well, if they couldn’t find anybody willing to do it, I would be willing to do it,’” McKenna said. “I spend most of my days up here (at Oakdale Country Club), so it didn’t really affect me. They couldn’t find anyone else to do it or who were interested in doing it. We want to keep (the team) going because we want these kids to keep playing at Oakdale (after high school).”
Oakdale is like a second home to McKenna. He served as treasurer for five years and was the club’s president for three years. He took over the Dirigo coaching duties from Mike Kersey Sr., who had coached the team the previous three seasons.
McKenna hopes in the future he can get younger students and girls involved in the team. One of the main things he has done early in the season is work with some of the newcomers who don’t have much experience in the game.
“That’s our plan today, I am going out with (Jacob Gauvin) and Sam (Skitbitsky) is to see what their troubles are,” McKenna said last week. “We have three non-golfers, and most of the practice time is watching those guys and developing those guys. The other four go on their own. I don’t see what they are doing right and what they aren’t doing right. Today will give me a chance to see what’s going on out there.”
While no coach likes to see his players struggle, if there’s a time for their games to be slightly off it’s in September and not October.
One thing McKenna won’t do is change their swings, just get the kinks out of them.
Gauvin and Skitbitsky are the team’s top two golfers and represent both ends the spectrum. Gauvin, a senior, has been apart of the Cougars teams that have made it to the team state championships the past two seasons. He has moved up the depth chart after the graduations of Greta Friburger, Mason Corriveau and Mike Kersey Jr.
He believes the transition has gone well with his uncle taking over the coaching duties.
“It’s been good, we have had some pretty big shoes to fill from last year,” Gauvin said. “We lost a lot of guys, but a lot of guys have stepped up.”
He mentions Skitbitsky and Chandler Redmond as two players who have played a big role this season.
Skitbitsky, meanwhile, is a self-described competitor who has enjoyed the challenge of stepping right in and contributing to the team. His goal season as freshman is to shoot a 45 or lower for nine holes.
He doesn’t put too much pressure on himself.
“It’s just playing the game of golf,” Skitbitsky said. “I just like it so much. I just have to hit good shots.”
McKenna took over a team that went 12-0 in the regular season in 2016 while finishing third at the MVC championship and fourth at the state championship. The Cougars are currently 4-0 this season. While a MVC title and getting back to the state championships are still goals, McKenna wants to make sure each player is making strides.
“I hope they do; obviously, that’s the goal,” McKenna said of championship aspirations. “My goal is to see them get better. It’s always been my goal to watch them progress and get better. I am looking at the long-term; I want them to come back to play golf after high school.”
Gauvin said there’s some unfinished business left from 2016, when Dirigo let a chance to win the MVC championship slip away, and Winthrop came away with the title.
“We will be settled down and ready to win this year,” Gauvin said. “It’s my last year and I really want to win.”
One thing the Cougars are noticing in the early part of the year is other teams have a lot of new golfers.
“We always worry about competition. You never know what day you are going to play golf and what day you aren’t going to play golf,” McKenna said. “Looking at the MVC, anyway, they are really weak this year only because (schools) lost golfers from last year and picked up new kids. Like we picked up four, other teams have picked up at least that many. Again, it’s a work in progress. Hopefully they will do well and we will do well.”
Both Gauvin and Skitbitsky said there’s plenty of team chemistry.
“We have fun, we joke around together and we like play rounds together,” Skitbitsky said.