Will Cassidy, a senior at Edward Little High School, warms up for driving practice at Fox Ridge Golf Club on Tuesday by swinging two clubs. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

By the time high school golf teams tee it up this season, not only are they dealing with a shortened season, but less daylight than normal for the regular season.

Depending on who you talk to, that may or may not be an issue for the upcoming season.

“The problem comes, it gets dark, most high school matches start at 3:30, you can’t just get in your matches before darkness comes along,” Mt. Blue coach Mark Cyr said last week, before his school district decided Tuesday to not offer interscholastic sports. “If you have other kids playing besides the six that count, you will have trouble getting these matches in.”

When the season gets underway next week, the sunset on Monday when some teams start the season will be at 6:41 p.m. By the time the regular season ends in early October, nearly 30 minutes of daylight will be lost. The dwindling daylight will play a factor in the Mountain Valley Conference, where some schools have asked that matches start no earlier than 4 p.m.

“Some schools are saying we don’t want the kids getting out of school early on the days when they are actually in-person in school,” Winthrop coach Lonney Steeves said. “They don’t want to lose that time with the kids face-to-face on the days they have it. They’re requesting we do the best as we can with it. As coaches, we all agreed when we get there, we will all do the best we can to get off as quickly as we can to get the matches going.”

Steeves said another reason for the late start is some schools may have transportation issues.

For Lewiston coach Tom LeBlond, he doesn’t see darkness to be much of an issue for the Kennebec Valley Conference, despite the much later start to the season.

“I see all our matches for the most part are starting around 3:30, that gives plenty of time,” LeBlond said. “It gives us plenty of time to get in all the matches. If we do have playoffs, those are things that usually kids are getting out of school early and you are teeing it up at 1 p.m. or something like that.”

Edward Little coach Chris Merrill said he usually gets matches started earlier than the scheduled match start time to begin with.

The time crunch comes down to the final matches involving the fifth and sixth golfers in the rotation, who may not be as experienced and their rounds might go a little longer than the more-experienced golfers on the team.

“We usually try to get going a little earlier than our scheduled time,” Merrill said. “We usually get scheduled at 3:30. If we can get started by 3:15, our last group usually comes in at 6:15, 6:30. It will start getting dark, but I think we will still make it.”

The Western Maine Conference is doing away with tri-matches this season, according to Poland coach Gregg Rose. In a tri-match, WMC teams needed six tee times, and in dual matches, they just need three tee times.

Rose said another issue may come up by starting the season this late in the year.

“When we played (two other) teams at a match, it made it a little longer as it was six tee times, now it’s three times.” Rose said. “That’s going to be a little better for us, as darkness will be a concern. Also, courses like to punch their greens and do some maintenance before the winter time, so some of the courses might not be in as good of shape as they were earlier in the year.”

Rose said he wouldn’t be surprised if some matches will start at 3 p.m. this season.

Neil LaRochelle of Lisbon drives the ball during practice on Tuesday evening at Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Merrill has been preaching pace of play to his team this season.

“Your (fifth) and (sixth) are usually your younger kids,” Merrill said. “Some of them we talked about pace of play, especially the season starting a little late and the darkness falling in. Pace of play has been a big priority for us. We are making sure (players) are walking to their ball a little quicker, make sure you are ready to hit your ball, helping someone else out finding their ball so we aren’t spending five or six minutes in the woods looking for it.”

What also may help high school golf teams is courses may be less crowded as the season in general starts to wind down.

“Luckily golf courses this time of the year, there’s a little less public play going,” St. Dom’s coach Chris Whitney said. “So, you can spread the kids out and squeeze some stuff in.”

WMC QUALIFIER NEXT WEEK

The Western Maine Conference will have the conference championship  which acts as a qualifier for the state championships  on Sept. 24, and teams might only have one competitive round in before the qualifier at Natanis in Vassalboro.

Lisbon senior Neil LaRochelle, who plays on the St. Dom’s golf team as the schools co-op, believes that will be a tough spot for the inexperienced players.

“We only have one real match (before the conference championships),” LaRochelle said. “We have a couple of other kids from Lisbon that never really have played competitive golf, and it’s good to play some matches when you have pressure and you have something to play for. Now that we only have (that one match) warming up before the conference championship, that’s going to be tough.”

Poland was able to have its first official practice Tuesday and Rose said the Knights will only be hitting the course a few times, including one match before the qualifier at Natanis. While he thinks the kids will be OK, it will be a challenge as he has a lot of new kids playing for the first time.

“It’s going to be hard on us (as coaches) because I have a lot of new kids trying out,” Rose said. “I don’t know what my team is going to look like just yet. I only have a few days to figure that out to set the lineup for the qualifier. It’s going to be difficult for them and it’s going to be difficult for me as a coach.”

Wayne Martin, the coach at Gray-New Gloucester, was hoping the qualifier would be pushed back.

“I totally understand why it didn’t,” Martin said. “With all the logistics reserving the course and getting all those teams in you have to keep that and honor that. So, I get it. It can play as an advantage or a disadvantage (having the qualifier this early).”

The qualifier will be light this season as compared to years past, with the member schools in York county not being able to attend. Those schools haven’t been able to practice yet as the county is designated yellow for the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment for schools.

WMC teams will have regular season matches in between the WMC qualifier and the state championships, which may cause players losing interest if they don’t qualify at the state championships, which are October 9-10 at Natanis.

“If you have those teams that don’t qualify for the state championship, as a coach you are going to do what you can to get those kids interested in competing after that,” Whitney said.

Rose believes the interest will remain because it’s been a while since most of these kids have competed in sports.

“I think it will be a little difficult, but they just want to be out there and play golf,” Rose said. “I think that will be the saving grace, that they will want to be out there to play because it’s a short season anyways and they haven’t been able to do sports for a long time.”

Having the WMC qualifier earlier may be a benefit.

“With that qualifier being right off the bat, it’s like if you don’t qualify for the states it may take a lot of pressure off the kids,” Martin said. “They might be able to play and have fun. That might be a positive, where before you had to qualify at the end of the season, kids are feeling the pressure. It can work both ways. They can go in and surprise everyone or it could be one of those things of we are doing this too soon.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.