There were several local connections at the 2017 men’s NCAA Division III Golf Championship at the Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, this May.

St. Joesph’s College and Husson University earned their invitations as a team by winning their respective conferences. The Monks won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, and the Eagles won the North Atlantic Conference. Both teams had players from the tri-county area on their roster for the tournament, with Winthrop’s Adam Hachey and Hebron’s Cam Letourneau (Oxford Hills) representing St. Joe’s, while Winthrop’s Taylor Morong competed for Husson.

The local connections didn’t stop there, as Minot’s Will Kannegieser took part, helping Williams College earn an invite by winning the NESCAC Championship.

There was a sense of state pride for everyone.

“We definitely had something to prove that the guys up north can play well and we can post scores like the guys that are playing year-round are posting,” Morang said.

Williams was the only team from New England to make the cut in the team tournament. Kannegieser shot a four-day total of 318. He was cut after the first two rounds from the individual tournament, but his last two rounds went to to the team tournament, where Williams finished 16th.

“We played well,” Kannegieser said. “Going into the weekend, I hadn’t played great, and I played pretty poorly on the weekend, so did a couple of my teammates. All-in-all, though, we made sure we grinded out there; it was a pretty tough course. I think at the end of the day, you have to put it all in perspective, just be happy we made the cut. We had the opportunity to play the whole tournament and we got the full experience. That was really our goal. We aren’t worried how an individual does, but do well as a team.” 

St. Joe’s and Husson both missed the cut in the team tournament. Husson had a two day total of 657; Morang shot a a pair of 85s. The Monks shot a two-day total of 664. Hachey shot an 89 on the first day but bounced back to shoot a 78 the second day. Letourneau shot an 89-87. Just like Kannegieser, all three missed the cut in the individual tournament.

While they didn’t shoot the scores they were hoping for, they had a sense of pride for fellow Mainer Gavin Dugas (Pittsfield) of Husson, who made the cut of the individual tournament to finish in a tie for 16th place, shooting a plus-8, nine shots off the winning score posted by Josh Gibson of Hope College, who shot a minus-1 over four days.

“Gavin Dugas of Husson represented very well,” Letourneau said. “I think he finished in the top 20, he played really well all four days. Seeing Will down there — Will and I have been good buddies growing up — so it was cool to reconnect with him. I’ve known Will a long time. It was cool to see us Mainers finally representing on a a national stage like that. That was pretty cool.”

Kannegieser said the two first met playing baseball together ten years ago. They run into each other every so often — Kannegieser works at Martindale Country Club and Letourneau works at Fox Ridge, both Auburn golf courses.

It was the second year in a row Husson made to the NCAAs. They finished tied in 33rd place in 2016. Morang shot a 82-84 last year. For the Monks, this year’s trip was redemption of sorts after they fell short in 2016.

They enjoyed being one of the new kids on the block at the NCAA Tournament.

“For St. Joe’s, it’s the first national championship that our golf team has ever been to,” Hachey said. “It’s pretty special. I talked to some of the people I played against and told them this is our school’s first time being here. They were super surprised because most of these teams are down there are playing in this tournament every year.”

Former teammates meet again

The tournament was special for Hachey and Morang. They were teammates and led the Winthrop Ramblers to a Class C Championship in 2014, and were runners-up in 2013.

“Taylor is one of my good friends,” Hachey said. “It’s been really awesome to play against him in college tournaments going from playing on the same team in high school…You don’t see that a lot.”

Morong has been following Hachey’s progress at St. Joe’s.

“It was awesome, I was real happy for him when his team won their conference,” Morang said. “It was nice to see him when we got down there. It was good for all of us.”

Playing in unfamiliar conditions

Mother Nature wasn’t kind to the New England teams this spring as they tried to prepare for the national tournament with unseasonably cold temperatures. When they got down to Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, 45 minutes northwest of Orlando, the temperatures were the opposite — the first day of the tournament was a 100-plus degrees.

“It was definitely crazy, all of us packed shorts and t-shirts anyway,” Letourneau said. “We didn’t pack enough sun screen, we couldn’t keep applying it enough it seemed like. Yeah, it was brutal. I don’t think I have ever been that hot playing a round of golf in my life. It was brutal out there.”

Williams and St. Joe’s were able to go down Mission Inn Resort to get a few practice rounds in during spring break.

“We’ve been down to Mission Inn during spring break to get adjusted to the course and the climate,” Kannegieser said. “I am no stranger to extremes, extreme temperature and extreme conditions, with ski racing in the winter and stuff. You kind of get use to making adjustments as I go and do my best not to waste any energy.”

“It was different than what we are use to,” Morang said. “Going from practicing in long sleeves and coats to shorts and short sleeves was definitely different. Once you get use to (the weather) during the practice rounds, you really don’t have much control over it.  So you just have to get use to it and play your game.”

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