Cape Elizabeth’s Austin Legge putts during the Maine high school golf championships. (John Ewing/Portland Press Herald)
VASSALBORO — Caleb Manuel appreciated what his golfing best buddy, Cole Anderson, was trying to accomplish. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try to beat him.
Anderson, a senior from Camden Hills High, was seeking an unprecedented fourth Class A state championship.
But it was Manuel, a junior from Mt. Ararat who often has been overshadowed by Anderson, who started fast and finished strong, holding off Anderson by one stroke as he shot a 3-under 69 in damp and chilly conditions on the Tomahawk course at Natanis Golf Course.
“It was like the last battle between the two of us at this tournament, so yeah, I wanted it bad,” said Manuel, who also led Mt. Ararat to the Class A team title on Oct. 6.
“Props to Caleb. He deserved to win. He played better than I did,” Anderson said. “We’re best friends so it makes it a little easier to deal with, but … I’m feeling it right now. I set a goal freshman year to win all four, and to come up one short, not just one championship but one shot, it stings.”
Austin Legge, a senior at Cape Elizabeth, defended his title in Class B with a 3-under 69, three strokes ahead of Connor Paine of Erskine Academy.
Mitchell Tarrio of Kents Hill and Nick Brewer of Houlton tied for top honors in Class C with 3-over 75s.k.
In Class A boys, Anthony Burnham of Scarborough, the 2017 co-champion, finished third at 1-over 73. Armand Ouellette of Thornton Academy was fourth (74), and Tom Higgins of Cheverus and Ethan Mason of Scarborough tied for fifth with 76s.
Manuel started fast with a birdie on his first hole of the day, the 18th, followed by an eagle on his third hole. He was 4 under after seven holes with a three-stroke lead over Anderson.
“Over the last two years I’ve always had this one blow-up hole where I’ve found myself trailing Cole by three or four shots,” Manuel said. “This year I told myself, get off hot and stay right with him.”
Anderson tied the match after a pair of three-putt bogeys by Manuel, and appeared to have wrested momentum when he chipped in for birdie on the par-3 13th, eliciting a roar from a gallery of more than 50 people. Manuel then rolled in a 20-footer for a birdie of his own, drawing an even louder crowd reaction.
“That was the most fun of the round. It was something special to do that,” Manuel said.
Manuel retook the lead when Anderson bogeyed the 15th hole after a wayward drive was lost in the woods. Both players parred their final two holes.
“That was really the only bad tee shot I hit. The rest was all iron play,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t get anything close. Luckily my putter kind of showed up to keep me in it.”
In Class B, Legge trailed Paine by a stroke after 11 holes but played his final seven holes in 5 under, with an eagle at No. 1, and birdies at 2, 4, and 7.
“I hit a couple good shots on the first hole and made the eagle putt, and that was a huge momentum boost, and then I started making a bunch of putts from then on out,” Legge said. “(Paine) was very, very steady, and I had kind of a rocky start, so I knew I needed to make some birdies.”
Justin Browne of Erskine Academy and Kent Johnson Jr. of Hermon tied for third with 77s. Kyle Nicholson of MDI was fifth at 78.
Legge said he doesn’t plan on playing college golf.
“I’m kind of undecided but probably not. So it’s nice to go out with a bang,” Legge said.