GRAY – Tyler Rollins was never what you might call a golf prodigy.

As a freshman on the golf team at Gray-New Gloucester High School in 2005, Rollins regularly hit 50 for nine holes.

“My handicap was about a 25 last year,” said the sophomore golfer. “It wasn’t all that great.”

Rollins played in “one or two matches” last year as the Patriots went 7-3 in the Western Maine Conference in just their fourth year as a varsity program.

This year, Rollins is in much better golf shape.

“I’m around a nine this year,” said Rollins. “I worked hard all summer.”

Blue-collar work from Rollins – and from the rest of the Patriots – over the summer has the team in a position to potentially dominate the WMC this season.

“They have high expectations of themselves, but they’ve worked hard,” said coach Aaron Talon, who has been with the program since it began.

“Some of them have already played 18 today, and we don’t practice for another hour. They’re all members here, they’re really competitive with each other, which really helps us, and they want to get to the state championship as a team this year. That’s the goal.”

One of the mainstays on the team for three years, senior captain T.J. Mooney lowered his handicap this summer to under three.

“People just started playing, so we started developing,” said Mooney. “We started doing all right sophomore year, going 5-5. Last year, we felt that we were pretty solid in a different division, but everybody practiced, everybody played, worked on their games so that we could be a solid team, and this year’s like the peak of that effort.”

Mooney himself has been a big part of the program’s development over the last two years, helping the younger players to learn the game and get better.

“Our team got a lot better, just from T.J. helping out the freshmen and sophomores,” said Rollins.

The team plays out of Spring Meadows Golf Course in Gray. There, head professional Nick Glicos has also lent a hand to the team, allowing the players to demo clubs, and even lending a hand with a free lesson or two here and there.

“I don’t know how many pros would be able to do what he’s done to help us,” said Talon. “He’s great with them.”

Mooney, fellow senior Mike Morrone and Rollins will likely form the top three of this year’s team, followed by another sophomore in Orrin Googins.

The strength in this team, though, may lie in its depth.

“Those 5-6 spots in matches, that’s where you win and lose the matches,” said Talon. “The top four will finish, and it’s still a coin flip as to who’s going to win, and it comes down to them. Knowing I’m going to have upper-classmen with two years of golf experience playing in that spot is great.”

Matt Moberg is one of those upper-classmen. As a freshman, he joined the team at the behest of his buddies, Mooney and Morrone. Now, he has a spot among the top golfers, with a new role attached.

Prime motivation for the Patriots also came last season. Rival Poland High School ran away with the conference last year, qualified for states and nearly won the Class B title.

“Our courses are 10 minutes apart,” said Talon. “They knew last year that Poland was good. They kept saying, we want to be that good. We want to go 10-0 in the regular season, we want to do this, we want to do that. The great thing, too, is that they’re all friends with the Poland kids, they play in the junior events for the MSGA with them, and I think that helps push them a little bit, too.”

“Poland last year just absolutely dominated the division,” said Mooney. “They just shut everybody out. This year, we’re a big senior group, and we want to follow those footsteps.”

The team agrees the base is there, but it will take more blue-collar work and some solid golfing in the clutch for the dream to become a reality.

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