That’s all it took to derail Winthrop High School’s quest at completing a perfect season.
A missed putt, a bad chip, a missed fairway. All those moments magnified after the Ramblers saw the Class C state golf championship slip through their fingers by a single stroke. Instead, the title went to St. Dominic Academy, taking the state title for the fourth straight season. But you don’t have to remind Winthrop of last year’s result. The Ramblers remember vividly.
“We’ve talked about it since the first day,” Winthrop coach Lonney Steeves said. “It’s one shot. If it was eight or nine shots, it would have been easier to accept because every one of the five guys that played, all of them could think of one shot. Whether it was a missed putt or a bad chip, everybody thought it was their fault that we lost and that’s the hard part. I’ve been coaching a long time and have seen a lot of different things. Watching 16-, 17-, 18-year old boys cry over coming in second place was mighty tough.”
The feelings of disappointment following the second-place finish only further motivated the Ramblers. Instead of letting last year’s result fester, Winthrop again rolled through the regular season unblemished and topped it off with another MVC championship on Monday. The Ramblers shot a season-best 152 in their semifinal victory over St. Dom’s and defeated Madison, 5-2, in the championship match.
“Hardwork’s going to pay off,” Winthrop senior Adam Hachey said. “We’ve all been working really hard, and I think that if we play the way we’ve been playing, we’ll have a good shot at (winning state).”
Winthrop’s top three of seniors Taylor Morang and Hachey and junior Anthony Owens finished with the top three scoring averages in the MVC. Morang led the way with a 38.63 average round, followed by Owens (41.13) and Hachey (42.50). All three won both their matches during the MVC playoffs. Zac Robertson (47.29) is Winthrop’s No. 4.
“We’ve been really successful so far this season,” Morang said. “Our number three guy (Owens) has been really strong, probably the strongest three guy in the league.”
While the Ramblers have dominated match play this season, winning 47 out of a possible 56 points, the state tournament is a different beast. Nine-hole match play is replaced by an 18-hole stroke play format, which, according to Steeves, takes another level of focus.
“I tell them to take a point at the 12th, 13th,14th hole and stop,” Steeves said. “I always tell them to put some food in your bag. Stop, have it, put your bag down, walk away from your bag for just a minute or two and refocus. We play nine holes almost every day. That last six, seven, eight holes can be where they lose their focus or run out of energy.
“They’re pumped up to play in the state championship for nine holes and then all the sudden you get to the 13th hole and you hit a bad shot and all the sudden your brain goes away. This game is as much mental as it is physical, especially high school golfers, where one bad shot could change the whole day for them.”
The Ramblers return to Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro on Saturday, looking to capture that elusive state tournament crown. Last year, Morang shot a 2-under 70, while Owens and Hachey carded an 84 and 85, respectively. Winthrop hasn’t won a state title in golf since 1995.
“Last year was devastating,” Owens said. “You always think what could I have done better. That one putt, that one chip. This year we’re going to make that one putt, make that one chip.”
St. Dom’s playing underdog role once again
A fifth straight Class C state golf championship may seem like a bit of a stretch this season for St. Dominic Academy, but that was the thought process last year, too.
The Saints were considered underdogs at last year’s state tournament before taking the crown by a single stroke over Winthrop, considered by many to be the favorite. A year later and St. Dom’s is once again playing the role of the underdog at Saturday’s state golf championship at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.
St. Dom’s finished the regular season fourth in the MVC at 3-3. The Saints defeated Telstar in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Winthrop in the semifinals. They grabbed the final state-qualifying spot with a 6-1 victory over Dirigo.
As expected, the Saints are led by seniors Mike Bryant and Mitch Lorenz, the only two on the roster with more than a year of varsity experience. Lorenz (43.43) and Bryant (44.67) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in average scoring in the MVC.
Oxford Hills among Class A field
Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School shot a 323 at the KVAC qualifier on Tuesday to finish two strokes behind winner Mt. Ararat. The Vikings were one of five teams to qualify out of the KVAC, along with Oceanside, Bangor, Mt. Ararat and Messalonskee.
Defending Class A co-champion Cam Letourneau carded the lowest round of the day with a 71 to qualify for the state individual tournament. Teammates Chris Burns (78) and Mac Kim (79) also qualified for the state individual tournament.
Despite having just five players on the roster, Oxford Hills managed to finish the regular season undefeated on the strength of its top three golfers. Letourneau, Burns and Kim have shouldered the load this season for the Vikings, but will need a solid outing by Trey Dekutoski if the Vikings want to move up the leaderboard come Saturday.
Oxford Hills finished fifth at last year’s state tournament.