The Mt. Abram golf team poses for a photo at Sugarloaf Golf Club on Aug. 29. From left to right: Indiana Jones (coach), Ben Debiase, Teddy Forsley, Abi Wilcox, Ethan Cockerham, Cade Tooker, Zach Zondlo (coach). Not pictured: Cooper Anderson and Tyler Jensen. Submitted Photo

It’s been a couple of years in the works, but everything was signed, sealed and delivered two weeks ago as Mt. Abram officially has a golf team for the fall.

It all started when the son of Sugarloaf Golf Club Director of Golf John Debiase entered high school two years ago.

When the Roadrunners got Brian Desilets as athletic director a year ago, things really started to pick up to get a team in place.

“There wasn’t much traction until last year when Mt. Abram got the new AD, Brian Desilets,” Zach Zondlo, Mt. Abram’s head coach and Sugarloaf’s head golf pro, said. “Brian, he’s a golf guy, he coached where he was previously (Massabesic). He pitched the idea of hosting the golf team at Sugarloaf and (us) help coaching. There (was) some issues with budgets and making it work financially. … What we decided to do is waive all golf course fees and dues associated with golfing. Kids can play here, practice here as much as they want here for free. We don’t charge anything being the host golf course.”

Sugarloaf, one of the state’s most scenic and challenging golf courses, decided to look at the big picture when it came to waiving green fees to Mt. Abram, even though the high school golf season in Maine falls during the most picturesque part of the year for golf, which is the late summer and fall.

“There are some days we have to work around to make it work,” Zondlo said. “Luckily for us, typically Mondays, Tuesdays there wasn’t too much going on in terms of golf. We have twilight leagues and we do get a fair amount of golfers, but we realized even on Wednesdays and Fridays, when we do get a lot of golfers, we realized that we would rather not gain any revenue and provide these kids an opportunity to play golf than to fill four or five tee times and make $260 per tee time.”

As one of the most challenging golf courses in the state, and ranked the fourth-best golf course in the state for this season by Golf Digest, Zondlo hopes the course can be a destination for golfers at other schools in the Mountain Valley Conference to play during the summer with their families to get some practices rounds in prior to the high school season, knowing the course is now on the schedule.

The Roadrunners team is made of mostly inexperienced golfers, with junior Ben Debiase — John’s son — and senior Teddy Forsley having the most experience. The other golfers on the team are Cade Tooker, Ethan Cockerham, Abi Wilcox, Cooper Anderson and Tyler Jensen.

“We are still working with the kids,” Zondlo said. “If they can play this golf course well, once they go to other golf courses, they are now going to be able to have a lot more confidence playing golf, knowing if they go out play Sugarloaf they can play anywhere.”

While they lost their first match at home against Dirigo, the players saw what Zondlo is saying.

“For our team, we only lost by four (in team strokes), so it gave our team a lot of confidence, ‘You know what, we can compete with some of these teams,'” Zondlo said. “We could see it in the next practice, they practiced harder and were more focused.”

The challenge that Sugarloaf provides all golfers has been a great equalizer for the inexperienced Roadrunners team against their opponents so far.

Dirigo won the match on Aug. 30, winning 4.5 to 2.5, with the team strokes being 225 for Dirigo and 229 for Mt. Abram.

Since then, they have won on the road against Mountain Valley on Thursday and Madison on Friday.

It also made sense to host high school golf, as the course runs a summer program that nearly tripled in size this summer from 12 to 34. Zondlo is pleased with that growth, which will only help keep the golf team alive for the foreseeable future, as there were eight players that were in the summer program this year that are currently in high school. They have 12 kids from eight to 11 years old, who are in middle school, and another 14 ages five to seven.

Sugarloaf is a tour stop for the American Junior Golf Association, one of top junior golf tours in the country, and can invite three players as exemptions into the tournament. Zondlo’s goal one day is to have a Roadrunner play in that tournament, or a player from the MVC.

“Having three exemptions, I will be able now to look at golfers that come use this golf course in matches that we are playing,” Zondlo said. “We can start offering exemptions to local kids who thought they may never play something like that.”

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