Edward Little High School golf coach, Chris Merrill, center, and his team are having a strong season. From left: Nate McBride, Colin Merritt, Aaron Perkins, Ethan Brown, Merrill, Nate Farnsworth, Ben Cassidy, Will Cassidy and Chris Frey. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — The Edward Little golf team had some work to do after finishing in last place at last year’s Class A team state championships. 

With a team score of 83-over-par, the Red Eddies were 30 shots behind the 10th-place team, rival Lewiston, and were 66 shots behind state champion Scarborough.

It was a good learning experience for the Red Eddies, though, since four players whose scores were recorded on that October afternoon were underclassmen — Aaron Perkins, Colin Merritt and Will and Ben Cassidy.

“This year, we are trying to make it and make a run,” Ben Cassidy, a senior, said. “I feel like we had a few of these guys in the lineup for a few years, so we got more experience this year. I am trying to bring more of the (mental) side to the team to get us to focus. Obviously, on the physical side, but also (the) mental (side), bouncing back after bad shots and whatever to keep us (going).”

The Red Eddies have bounced back in 2018. They finished the regular season with a 8-2 record and earned the No. 2 seed in the Class A KVAC South. They return to the course Monday, after a week off from competition, for their first playoff match against Lewiston.

Individually, the Edward Little golfers have gone low this year. Colin Merritt has shot in the 30s twice this season, a 34 against Oxford Hills on Sept. 12 and a 38 on Sept. 6 against Skowhegan. Ben Cassidy shot a 36 on Sept. 4. All three scores were good enough to earn the low medalist honors on those days.

In all, five of the six Red Eddies who compete in matches have been individual medalists this season. Joining Merritt and Ben Cassidy are Ethan Brown, Aaron Perkins and Will Cassidy.

“It’s really good to have that depth,” Perkins said. “Even if me and Ben lose, like the other day, it helps to have those guys win behind us in, which they did. We had some help the other day against Brunswick. That was good.”

Ben Cassidy and Perkins are the No. 1 and No. 2 players on the roster.

“They get us off to a good start in most matches, coming in with good scores,” Red Eddies coach Chris Merrill said.

This season, Edward Little is playing at a true home course, Fox Ridge, after years at Prospect Hill. Half of the team is members at the more difficult 5,822-yard par-72 layout from the white tees at Fox Ridge, so they’re quite familiar with playing golf on Penley Corner Road.

“We have practiced here since April,” Perkins said. “Having home-course advantage really helps our success.”

At Fox Ridge, the Eddies know where to miss their shots to have easier layups when they do get into trouble, and they know the undulations of the fairways and greens. Opponents this season have been asking about the course more often during matches than in past years.

Merrill believes that having a bigger practice area with a bigger practice green and a driving range has also been helpful this season.

“We’ve been able to break down swings a little bit more compared to years past, where we would kind of just go on the course and play — teach as we went,” Merrill said. “Being able to have a driving-range practice benefits the kids, and being able to break things down, it has helped tremendously.”

Merrill said the relationship with St. Dom’s, which also calls Fox Ridge home, has been good. Merrill and Saints coach Chris Whitney have been in contact throughout the season, letting each other know when their teams’ matches and practices are.

Not only have the Red Eddies played several rounds at Fox Ridge before and during the season, they have also gone to some of the other courses that they play during the season.

“A lot of kids have played courses we go to,” Merrill said. “I think the familiarity with the courses helps. A lot of the kids play those courses in the summer. Seeing the courses, they know their a way around. I think the grouping we’ve had this year has been a big help. I’ve got two seniors at the top (of the lineup) that work really well together. I think being able to feed off one another helps drive them towards each other and put better scores on the cards.”

When the best American and European golfers face off in the Ryder Cup, starting Friday, there will be a lot of talk about the chemistry among the players in both “team rooms” — like a locker room — where the players hang out with each other and each other’s families.

The Red Eddies believe they can have that kind of chemistry in their run for to return to the state championship, and believe it has been key to the success they are having so far this season.

“I feel all six of us are really close on and off the golf course,” Cassidy said. “I feel every day we come with good energy and we are ready to work, so when we come out, we just carry that into the match.”

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