PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After many years of being able to compete for conference championships and have teams qualify for the state tournament, the Wildcat golf team finds itself in a new situation this season.
With many key individuals graduating last spring, along with the team’s top returnee sitting out the first several matches while recovering from an injury, the Presque Isle program has taken a step back in 2014.
In fact, only two Wildcat golfers will be making the trip to Lincoln’s JaTo Highlands Thursday for the Penobscot Valley Conference championship, which also serves as the state tourney qualifier. The league has asked teams to send only players averaging 100 or better for 18 holes, and senior Jenna Hallett and sophomore Hunter Flynn are the only Wildcats to do so. As a result, the lack of a complete team will prevent Presque Isle from making it into the state team tournament, which is Oct. 11, 2014 at Natanis Country Club in Vassalboro.
Hallett and Flynn do have a chance, however, to make the individual tourney. The 20 best boys’ scores of 90 or better and girls who shoot a 110 or better will get to move on. The state individual event is scheduled the following Saturday, Oct. 18, also at Natanis.
Hallett was the co-champion at last year’s schoolgirl state tourney. However, two days after that victory, she underwent knee surgery and is still recovering. After sitting out the first few matches this season, Hallett has worked her way back onto the course over the past couple weeks. She shot a medalist round of 37 at a home meet played Sept. 17 — five days after making her season debut in a dual match against Houlton.
“She was cleared to start her full swing in late-August, but we limited her swing counts early to help her slowly work back into competitive golf,” said PI second-year head coach Daren Hunter.
“Jenna has very high standards for her golf game and really pushes herself to play as well as she can,” he added.
Flynn, the No. 7 player on last year’s team while averaging a 48, was the leader in Hallett’s absence and “has been a very solid player,” according to Hunter, averaging in the low 40s and improving greatly from last year while working at Presque Isle Country Club and playing frequently there during the summer.
Many of the remaining players are new to the game. Sophomore John Saucier and junior Gannon Therrien were reserves on last year’s squad, but both have shown improvement.
“They have had some very good practice rounds and I hope those scores translate into matches as they become more experienced with competitive golf,” Hunter said.
Sophomores Grant Stewart, Ian Tuttle and Aaron Swanson and freshman Isaac Madore are all rookies with little prior experience in the game.
“They have been working hard and have no shortage of enthusiasm when it comes to learning,” the coach added.
Presque Isle hit a milestone Thursday when it won its first match of the year, against 10 losses, topping John Bapst of Bangor in a match played at JaTo. The Wildcats had a score of 182, their lowest of the campaign.